How Big Brands Keep Their Social Media Audiences Engaged

social media how toLooking for ideas to spark conversation with your fans?

Want them to pay attention to your updates?

Big brands know how to engage people on a regular basis.

In this article I’ll show you five ways nationally known companies keep their audiences coming back for more and how you can too.

#1: Host a Video Contest

For the last seven years, Doritos has run its “Crash the Super Bowl” contest asking customers to create commercials for its crunchy treats. The incentive that really caught attention? The winner gets his or her commercial aired during the Super Bowl.

The response is huge. Hundreds of commercials are submitted. The company narrows it down to a pool of five, and then asks everyone to vote for their favorite.

The result is a viral campaign driven by finalists sharing their entry with friends and encouraging them to vote, as well as customers and fans who want to see the best videos (which are usually the funniest).

In 2013, Doritos brought the video contest to Facebook (they had previously used a microsite) and went beyond the success of all previous years.

doritos facebook post

Facebook increased entries for Doritos’ yearly video contest.

If you take a look at the Doritos Facebook page, this contest supplied content for months and generated a lot of conversation. Customers started watching videos, commenting on the commercials and asking about the rules.

This one post alone has almost 50,000 likes, 1,800+ comments and about 3,000 shares.

doritos facebook contest entry

Doritos drums up votes for its video contest.

Use this idea: Create a video contest with a public voting aspect to draw people to your page. You can cull the entries down, and then ask the public to vote for the final winner.

While you may not be able to pay to showcase a video during the biggest sporting event of the year, do make the prize as appealing as possible.

Creating a video is a lot of work. If you ask customers to put in the time, they’ll need a reason to do so. You don’t have to go overboard, but the bigger the incentive, the more participants you’ll have.

#2: Share Customer Stories

Dunkin’ Donuts asked its Twitter audience to tell a story about how the company’s popular coffee fit into their everyday lives. The catch, of course, was that the story had to fit into 131 characters (entries had to include #mydunkin and that took up nine characters).

After combing through tens of thousands of stories, the company selected several winners and asked the tweeters to star in their own Dunkin’ commercial. The company shot the commercials, uploaded them to YouTube, shared them on Twitter and then asked for more stories.

dunkin donuts #mydunkin video post

Winners of the #mydunkin stories on Twitter got their own commercials.

Use this idea: Learn how customers use your product by asking them to share their story on Twitter (using a hashtag so you can easily track the entries).

It’s a challenge to tell a story in 140 characters, but the results are fun and usually witty. Since people love entertaining content, you’re likely to reach even more people who want to join in or comment.

Incentives always increase engagement, but the prize doesn’t have to be huge in this case. Offer a prize related to your business or something a little quirky to catch attention.

#3: Add an Element of Fun

You don’t always have to offer a prize in exchange for comments. Coca-Cola hosts a trivia question of the day to boost interaction. There are no prizes, but the tactic works.

General trivia questions work fine, but Coke uses out-of-the-box questions like, “Which of the following is worth the most Scrabble points?”

The company takes advantage of their fans’ curiosity by posting two updates: one with the trivia question and one with the answer.

coca-cola question post

Coke entices engagement with fun questions.

The result is that fans comment with their guesses on the first update, then come back to find out the answer and comment on the second update as well. The more fans interact with a page, the more likely it is to show up in their news feed.

With each trivia update, Coke is subtly promoting their product, getting double engagement and showing up more in their fans’ news feed.

Use this idea: Use trivia questions to share a little about your product or service. For instance, ask customers to guess what year your business started or what your top-selling product is. Be sure to give the answer in a separate update to bring them back!

#4: Ask for Customer Ideas

Nissan recently asked customers to tweet ideas about what kind of technology should be in the special version of the Juke NISMO (using #Jukeride). Since people love to share their opinions, suggestions started rolling in.

To keep the momentum going, Nissan uploaded behind-the-scenes videos showing customers how the company was using their suggestions.

nissanuk #jukeride video post

Nissan asked fans for input, listened and showed the results.

Use this idea: Ask your customers and fans to help you improve one of your products, share ideas about products they’d like to see or come up with a name for a new product you’re about to roll out.

Nissan used Twitter, but the idea works on any social platform. Wherever your fans are most active, that’s where you want to start.

#5: Provide Recurring Content

Remember when your favorite journalist had a weekly column? Estée Lauder adapted that idea as a social media tactic.

Every Tuesday, the company’s creative makeup director, Tom Pecheux, offers a makeup tip on Facebook. The #TomsTuesdayTip campaign offers advice, features a picture of a related beauty product and links to a purchase page or blog article about recent trends.

estée lauder #tomstuesdaytip post

Estée Lauder consistently offers makeup tips.

Estée Lauder created their own hashtag, but there are established hashtags that achieve similar engagement.

The weekly column receives a lot of comments and questions and the company responds to them as quickly as possible. The weekly tip format, along with company interaction, gives fans confidence that the company is listening to them, which results in more conversation.

estée lauder #tomstuesdaytip post comment response

Estée Lauder talks to fans who comment.

Use this idea: Come up with a weekly feature using a consistent hashtag. You can create your own or ride the wave of an existing hashtag to get things started.

#TBT (Throwback Thursday) is a popular one. Just post a picture of the early days of your company, product or a related topic. Funny pictures tend to have the most comments and shares.

Whichever option you choose, be consistent and offer valuable content on a regular basis. If you set the expectation of a weekly share and don’t come through, fans lose interest.

To make it easier, use an editorial calendar to gather ideas, then use a tool like HootSuite or Facebook’s scheduling option to post updates automatically.

If you start a weekly topic, begin by posting on your most popular social profile. When the feature is established, use it to push fans to another platform where you’re offering a new weekly feature. You can grow your conversation and fan base on each social channel.

Adapt and Engage

Big brands may be able to spend more money on big prizes, but your small business can adapt these tactics to fit your audience.

Try one option and see how it goes over with your followers and customers. If it’s a hit, add another one, perhaps on one of your other social media profiles. Most new features aren’t a success in one or two weeks, so give it time to take off.

Many of the tactics in this article rely on consistency. When fans know exactly what to expect from you, they come back to see the next installment. That leads to fan loyalty and more discussion. You keep your social media audiences engaged.

What do you think? Have you used any of these tactics to start conversations? Which worked best for you? We’d love to hear your experiences and ideas. Let us know about them in the comment section below.

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About the Author, Lisa Furgison

Lisa Furgison is a freelance journalist and social media manager with McEwen’s Media. She has a knack for creating must-read content and killer social media strategies for clients. Other posts by »




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  • Jitendra Padmashali

    Nice one Lisa, Here’s the most important part: each time your audience engages with you on social media it creates an opportunity to increase your social visibility.

  • Lisa Furgison

    Thanks, Jitendra. I agree. Engagement is key.

  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    I think a common theme in your tips is involving customer generated content. Which is crucial today.

  • Lisa Furgison

    I agree, Scott. Getting customers to contribute content can be extremely beneficial to a company.

  • http://www.fullstopcc.com Arnaud d’Haen

    B2C products and services are always on when presenting social media engagement. Curious to find out if similar techniques apply in B2B environments.

  • http://www.likebulbs.com/ Eugene Than

    Thanks for sharing : ) , I personally like customer ideas, it helps to move forward to build something they need. Most important, the brand have to take further actions on customer ideas although it take resources to compile and analyze the priority. #Bigdata









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