Beating Back the Boredom: How your social media marketing campaign can outlast your fans’ short attention spans

Posted by Clayton Smith on September 7, 2011

Tick TockBad news: Social media is killing your attention span. In fact, you’ve probably stopped reading this post already. If you’re still going, I applaud your strength and perseverance. You are truly an inspiration to us all.

How often do you log on to Facebook? Once every day? Once every hour? Once every seven seconds? I admit, I’m closer to the latter, and a lot of you probably are too. I check in on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ like a hyperactive six year old switches between Saturday morning cartoons, and when I do, I expect to see something new and exciting happening. Every single time.

That may be a little unreasonable (and it puts a heck of a lot of pressure on my friends), but it’s what social media has trained us to expect. It’s true for me, it’s probably true for you, and I can almost guarantee it’s true for your customer base. With the ever-shrinking attention span of the social media public, I can’t help but wonder—what’s the reasonable lifespan of a social media marketing strategy?

In the traditional advertising world, a single ad campaign can carry your company for years, sometimes decades. Take Absolut, for example. The oh-so-popular “Absolut _______” campaign has been around since 1980. It’s older than most people I know. Talk about staying power.

That type of thing wouldn’t fly as a social media strategy. Mostly because it’s not exactly a “social” strategy, but more to the point of this blog, it doesn’t change. It doesn’t evolve. If I see the same, stagnant strategy on Facebook three days in a row, I’ve lost complete interest in the product, not to mention some faith in the creativity of the company. Is that fair? No, of course not. But is it how it is? Yep.

One of the trickiest aspects about creating a social media campaign is that it has to be not only engaging, but constantly engaging. How long can you hold a Facebook contest before your fans get mad that you haven’t awarded the prize? How many times can you expect your Twitter followers to retweet a special message in an attempt for you to snag new followers from their networks? How long can you sustain any single social media marketing push?

In my experience, unless they really go viral, social media tactics really only hold a significant amount of attention for 36 hours or less. If you haven’t captured your audience by day two, you’re back to square one.

What is a marketing department to do? You can’t hold Facebook contests every twelve hours, you’d run out of inventory (while seriously devaluing your product in the process). Is it possible to stretch your social campaign for three or four weeks?

The good news is, yes you can. The bad news is, it’s going to take a little work.

The key to extending the lifespan of your social campaign is quick evolution. Your social media fans want to see something new every time they check in, and if you don’t deliver, they’ll lose interest in a heartbeat. When designing your social media strategies, plot out a detailed evolution for your plan, something that becomes more involved and more engaging as it goes. Your strategy should shift every three days or so to really keep the public interested.

For example, let’s say you decide to hold a Facebook contest for your skateboard company.

Day 1: You post photos of three skateboards and tell people to like their favorite board for a chance to win it.

Day 3: You post a surprise photo of your most expensive and highly sought-after skateboard and throw it into the mix, telling people it’s okay if they already liked another board, they can like this one for a shot at winning it for free, too.

Day 6: You reveal that you’ve selected five finalist names for each skateboard, and your Facebook fans will choose the winner of each board. You tag each photo with the five names of the finalists and ask your Facebook fans to comment on the photo with the name of the person they think should win the board.

Day 10: You name the top two finalists from each photo and announce that they will go head-to-head for the free board. You ask each of the eight total finalists to tag your company in a photo of them in action on their skateboards.

Day 13: You share those photos through your own page and open them up to votes by liking.

Day 17: You up the stakes; the winner of each board will now also get a $50 gift certificate to use at your online store.

Day 20: You notify the finalists that they have 24 hours left to rally their friends to vote before the contest ends.

Day 21: You announce the winner of each board.

When you boil it down, this is just one long promotional giveaway, but by escalating the strategy every few days, you not only maintain interest in the contest, but you also encourage your fans to become advocates of your page. They want the most votes, so they direct their family and friends to your page with instructions to interact. You’ve taken a product giveaway and turned it into a major audience-growing like-fest.

They key to an extended social media strategy is evolution. Examples of this kind of escalated strategy success are everywhere, from the wild popularity of the Old Spice Guy to Vitaminwater’s “create your own flavor” campaign. What are some of your favorite, long-running social media campaigns?

Topics: Business, business, education, facebook, google+, google plus, gremlin, gremln, Marketing, ROI, social media, strategy, twitter

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