Want Your Brand Talked About? Take Social Media to a Party!

Talking about brands is not something Millennials are inclined to do without good reason. Marketers who want to engage Gen Y in social media need to be more creative than just running ads.

To activate influencers to talk about your brand, 9 times out of 10, the most effective means is through relevant content, not ads.  According to a Pace University study, 81% of Millennials say social network advertising is ‘not relevant’.  That’s why so many brands have found success by associating with worthy causes, or highlighting their support of environmental or humanitarian initiatives.

Tying social media marketing to a social event is also a smart way to ensure relevance.

After all, what could be more relevant than a party you are attending? It’s real, it’s in the moment and it represents the strongest form of social currency – first hand information.  Little wonder Facebook pages are filled with news of upcoming parties and photos from past parties.

Three marketers who have recently proven to be particularly effective at integrating social media with events are Ford Fiesta and MTV.

Ford Fiesta: (Marketing Daily)

Ford is leveraging the connection between music lovers and its Fiesta with partnerships and activities that mirror the Fiesta Movement social media campaigns that have been running for a year.  It placed the 2011 model in the 10th annual “Movement: Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival” last weekend in Detroit, and on June 10-13, Ford will highlight the Fiesta as part of its exclusive automotive partnership with the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.  Bonnaroo takes place on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, TN, is one of the two biggest (with Coachella) rock, jazz, folk and pop music festivals in the U.S., with some 100,000 attendees.

The target consumers for Fiesta are huge music fans, and our goal is to connect with that community in a fun and meaningful way. We want Fiesta to be a natural part of the scene so that it can be understood. The Fiesta Movement enabled people to discover the car in a natural way while having fun with their friends. We [are doing] the same thing at these music festivals — give people an opportunity to interact with the new Fiesta and let them spread the word to their family and friends.” — Jeff Eggen, Ford Fiesta experiential marketing manager

At the Detroit event, Ford had a venue called “Fiesta Lounge” with music piped live from the main stage and local artists painting Fiestas. At Bonnaroo, Ford will have the “Fiesta Garage,” a ’70s-themed space where performers will hold forth about their processes. The Bonnaroo element is tied to Ford’s Fiesta Movement program. One of the bands that will be at the Garage is the winner of a second-phase Fiesta Movement program, where the “Fiesta Agents” had to choose a musician, DJ and/or band to host concerts in their local community. Ford will also have a fleet of Fiestas at Bonnaroo that will transport staff, VIPs and artists.

MTV 2010 Movie Awards (MMA): (Adweek)

The 2010 MMA Awards promises to get a little “Raaaaaaaandy.” [Orbit will be] reprising its role as the official sponsor of the Best WTF Moment — the award honors the most jaw-dropping scene from a recent theatrical — the Wrigley gum brand will be incorporated into banter between presenters Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick. In keeping with Orbit’s tag (“Dirty mouth? Clean it up!”), the actresses will present the WTF hardware with a requisite smattering of bleeped-out profanities. As the bit plays out, both network and sponsor hope viewers will take it to the tweets, providing a real-time metacommentary on the event, the brand and the WTF honoree.

Social media is the telephone and we’re the conversation. Not only do we translate the conversation for our clients, but we’re also finding new ways to leverage these social media tools to further engage with our viewers.”–  Dan Lovinger, svp, MTV sales and integrated marketing

The smart money’s on Ken Jeong for his naked crowbar assault in The Hangover.  Hosted by Aziz Ansari (the comedian stole Judd Apatow’s 2009 flick Funny People with his portrayal of potty-mouth standup Raaaaaaaandy), this year’s MMAs are pumping up the volume on social media. First rolled out for last September’s Video Music Awards, version 2.0 of MTV’s Twitter Visualization platform will allow viewers to monitor tweet activity related to the telecast and the individual performers. For example, should singing pinup girl Katy Perry choose to engage in some particularly outrageous on-screen behavior with her oversexed Brit BF Russell Brand, the site’s graphic interface would reflect the concomitant surge in Perry/Brand-targeted discourse.

While memorable moments aren’t always planned (see Kanye West’s ill-advised cameo during last year’s VMAs), fans generally don’t have to wait long for the first OMFG moment. “A quick strike is critical,” said Stephen Friedman, gm, MTV. “Last year we saw an immediate uptick in Twitter activity after the Brüno moment, and that informed the rest of the night. Our audience is always looking for that galvanizing moment.” As viewers LOL’d over the seemingly unrehearsed meeting between Sacha Baron Cohen’s unswaddled rump and Eminem’s scowling mug, ratings soared. Viewers 12-34 were up 92 percent versus the 2008 show and total viewers improved 78 percent to 5.28 million.

Take for instance the long reach of Coca-Cola’s MMAs commitment. In the spring, Coke partnered with MTV to find an on-air correspondent to act as a liaison between the stars and the audience. The Coca-Cola Movie Awards Insider will prowl the red carpet in search of celeb scoops and posing queries culled from viewer tweets“This partnership allows us to integrate ‘big event’  TV with social media and event marketing to provide young people access to compelling content,” said Linda Cronin, director, media and interactive, Coca-Cola North America. “Social media helps shape the experience.”

What makes these event meets social media examples so smart is how well they integrate into the event experience, enhancing the moment by making it easy to share it.  In a previous post, “The Benefits of Social Friction” I observed that “social media is not just a way to communicate — communication is only the beginning. Social media is a form of entertainment that offers consumers new ways to literally be together online and even to enhance their analog experiences.”  The reason enhancing social friction is important was pointed out in an even earlier post, “Reconciling Our Digital and Analog Lives“, Gen Y understands that their online personality is just an extension and reflection of their authentic, ‘real’, lives.

Of course, just adding a social media component to an event is no guarantee of positive word of mouth.

The ability to have a discussion during a shared viewing event enhances the viewing, for better and for worse… An attempt by Fox last Fall to integrate tweets into a recast of the pilot episode of Glee was a failure. Likewise, TIME reported with more than a little irony, that an interview with Twitter founder Evan Williams at South By Southwest was wrecked by criticism on Twitter.

“Festival goers were unimpressed with the questions posed to Williams by moderator Umair Haque of the Harvard Business Review and tweeted their displeasure before leaving the interview en masse. In a blog post later, Haque said he wished he had been monitoring the Twitter conversation from on stage.”