Fifty Shades of Social Media Marketing: How to Push Your Boundaries in 2015

February 11, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey, the movie adaptation of the novel by the same name, will debut in theaters across the country on February 14, 2015. With over 100 million copies sold to-date, there is no denying the series’ immense popularity.

Theories abound regarding its success. Do readers wish they could be “swept away from [their] mundane lives and into a world of passion?” Perhaps we’re drawn to the “willingness of the two protagonists to press out the edge of their comfort zone…”

In the same vein, while selling ice cream at Walmart or laundry detergent at Target hardly resembles a night of experimentation, many brands and retailers feel the same trepidation when it comes to experimenting with social media marketing that Ana felt when exploring new personal boundaries of her own. Shockingly enough, in 2015 a good number of brands and retailers still find social media scary and wild.

Let’s address those fears and hopefully make social media experimentation a little less scary and a lot more fun for companies looking to push the envelope this year.

Plan Your Adventure
Communicating with your partner (or partners for you cheeky brands out there) helps to ensure the success of a new activity. Working with online influencers– bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers and Viners—sounds exciting, and while many brands want to try it, they worry before giving it a whirl.

First-timers or those with little experience in social media marketing often assume that working with online influencers requires ceding control over their brand message and core values. Acting out of fear or insecurity, brands want to cherry-pick influencers who match their ideal demographic and then script what the influencer should say. This is the worst way to engage online influencers.

People develop influence online because they know how to communicate to their audiences with an authentic voice. So, first, find influencers passionate about your brand. Next, educate them on what makes your product unique. Then, give them the reigns to create great content. It’s that simple.

Focus (the Reader’s) Senses
Focusing on one or two senses can heighten one’s overall experience, just like dynamic content can increase engagement.

Great stories online inspire, but dazzling images and video grab attention and motivate people to share content brand content across Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. SEO strategies and keyword placements will only get your message so far. Great content gets your shopper excited and keeps them interested in your brand long after they close their browser.

Make It a Safe Experience (for You and Your Influencers)
When two people commit to exploring the edges of their comfort zones, they need to know when one of them has stepped past an acceptable line. Ana and Christian documented their rules with a contract and used safe words to ensure their limits were respected.

Similarly, today’s savvy social influencers understand and value a mutual relationship with the brands they work with. They want to establish a relationship with their favorite brands rather than a one-off campaign. Consequently they’ll look for guidance– not editorial control, but guidelines– on what they should say and, more importantly, not say when writing about brand products. Establish those guidelines clearly upfront, and eliminate the fear-inducing ambiguity that can cause problems after content goes live.

Setting the Scene
Everyone sets an intimate scene differently, but candles, music and chocolates often make appearances, especially when exploring activities à la Christian Grey. Likewise, brands should consider what scene they want to set with social influencers.

For instance, consider these scene-setting questions for food products: Does it make a better snack/appetizer or an entrée? Is it for on-the-go moms and dads or for sitting down with the family for dinner?

Brand marketers should come up with variations of these questions for every product and category. Consider what type of scene you want your product to appear within online and activate campaigns to reflect it.

Trust Your Partner
Many people find it exciting to give up control. Successful brands also understand that giving up some control when it comes to social marketing is critical to success. Influencers produce the best content when they have some freedom to get creative with their story and messaging. They don’t need carte blanche, but they can’t do good work if you tie them down with a ton of restrictions and requirements.

Reward Good Behavior
In Fifty Shades, reward and punishment serve as the currency. Marketers should also reward influencers when they do great work on your behalf, and part ways with those who don’t.

It takes talented influencers valuable time and a lot of hard work to catch a shopper’s attention and get your product on their shopping list. To reward them outside of monetary payments, brands can share their stories on owned social accounts and drive traffic back to their stories. Retweet them and pin their images to branded Pinterest boards. This helps to build their personal brand while creating true loyalty for yours.

Start Slowly and Enjoy the Journey
Despite what people read in Fifty Shades, excitement often takes place as a series of small steps. In the same vein, brands shouldn’t expect to go from zero to sixty when it comes to social media marketing. First, plan a modest social campaign around a single product at a single retailer and measure its effectiveness. From there, add more brands or an entire category at multiple retailers.

In order to push your social media marketing limits this year, organizations should first figure out how social media and influencer marketing works together with the rest of your media mix, and when ready, explore deeper ways to use it in your marketing portfolio. You’ll be glad you did…and you’ll never look at your old “vanilla” marketing methods the same way again.

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