A multi-channel approach pays off

Want to create a no-budget social media campaign with big budget results?

If you are a small/medium sized organisation with minimal marketing budget, social media theoretically offers the potential of reaching a huge online audience without breaking the bank. But I am often asked by busy Marketing staff how to minimise the time required to build social media networks and ensure a profitable return on the time invested.

I thought I would share the process and results of a recent social media campaign I developed and delivered for Northern Print, as it is a good example of how to turbo charge your social media output based around a single event, and then reap the rewards of the ‘so-ball’ effect (think snowball effect but with tweets and likes instead of snowflakes).

Tip 1 – have a big idea

Flaming Prints was the brainchild of Anna Wilkinson, Director of Northern Print in Newcastle. Northern Print is a gallery and studio for the art of printmaking and it supports the work of around 300 printmaking artists in the northeast by providing a fully equipped studio to produce work. Further than that, Northern Print operates internationally through its gallery programme and by delivering the biggest printmaking festival in the world, the International Print Biennale, which in 2011 engaged with over 150,000 audience members.

Northern Print building in Newcastle

Flaming Prints was conceived as a 24 hour round-the-world printmaking relay celebrating the Olympic flame’s arrival in Britain. 8 printmaking studios in America, Canada, China, Korea, Mexico, Poland, South Africa and the UK took part. The studios each consecutively had three hours to create and print original artworks on the theme of the Olympic Flame. After three hours, each studio passed the Flaming Print to the next country, and a creative path was printed right around the globe.

Tip 2 – jump on a bandwagon (or two)

Northern Print was taking part in the annual Late Shows weekend of late night opening of museums, galleries and other cultural venues in Newcastle and Gateshead on 18 and 19 May 2012. This provided a great opportunity to run Flaming Prints and link with the other organisations taking part as well as gaining publicity via the high profile Late Shows campaign. We used the #lateshows hashtag along with our own #flamingprints tag on twitter in order to join new conversations and raise awareness outside our own circle.

Flaming Prints was also included as part of the London 2012 Inspire Programme, which meant it had permission to shout about its connection to the Olympics. During the event we were able to jump into the trending topic of #olympicflame and connect with many thousands of new audience members.

Tip 3 – multi-channel and experiment

Flaming Prints provided a vehicle to use a variety of social media channels. This was experimental stuff, so we didn’t set any hard goals in terms of metrics and this meant we had permission to try out new tech. It was really important to me that the campaign had not just a ‘buzz’ but a legacy, so as well as using existing Facebook and twitter channels, I set up a Flaming Prints Pinterest board as a central repository for images, and also used Youtube for video links. Flickr provided another central repository for images and its slideshow function worked flawlessly throughout two nights of live projection during the Late Shows. A big lesson with Pinterest was that you cannot ‘pin’ images directly from Facebook as it is a private site. Hence Flickr was a lifesaver in this respect.

I used my smartphone constantly during the event to take pictures and instantly upload them to twitter and Facebook. Videos were also easy to film and upload directly to Youtube, and provided even more rich content for audiences to engage with.

me in action!

Tip 4 – educate your audience

Since Flaming Prints was taking place during The Late Shows, and Northern Print was open and expecting over 1,000 people through the doors, we knew it was important to explain to real life visitors (as opposed to virtual ones) what on earth was happening. Posters were hung around the venue and by the live projection with information about the Flaming Prints project and all the links and hashtags to use. This created many mentions and uploads of appropriately tagged images.

Several people even became social media users for the first time due to their wish to take part and visitors were fascinated by the live feed as we added images and tweets from around the world.

Late Shows visitors watching the live feed from facebook, twitter and flickr which was projected onto the Northern Print Gallery wall

Tip 5 – concentrate!

As well as seeding conversations and setting up the various Flaming Print channels in advance of the project, I knew it would be essential to physically attend the Late Shows at Northern Print in order to be there to capture images, project the live feed and react to any unexpected circumstances or unforeseen opportunities. For example we realised we had some artists in the building with connections to the international studios and I was able to make short vox pop videos of them and add these to the campaign. During the event it really was a full time job to monitor and move the campaign forward during those crucial 24 hours.

Anna Wilkinson weilding the social media station on the first night of the Late Shows

Return on Time

So what were the results of this no-cost but labour-intensive campaign?

In the month leading up to Flaming Prints, Northern Print’s ‘True Reach’ score on Klout (measuring Twitter influence) went up 165 points. True Reach is the number of people you influence, both within your immediate network and across their extended networks.

Increase in true reach during the Flaming Prints campaign

Overall Northern Print’s Klout score went up 9 points to 40 during that month.

On Twitter, @northernprint had 103 retweets and 128 mentions in the week of the campaign, and gained at least 150 new followers.

On Facebook, the campaign week was Northern Print’s most popular week, with 54 new likes (a 10% increase) and 331 mentions giving a reach of 2,547.

Crucially, several of the new Facebook connections were international artists with whom Northern Print will actively network.

The Flaming Prints project is visually archived on the Pinterest boards with a growing collection of images from all over the world, which will provide a permanent network between the studios involved, and allow people viewing the images to find those artists easily by clicking the images.

For me the Flaming Prints social media campaign delivered a range of interesting benefits, both quantitative in terms of follows and fans, and qualitative in terms of the conversations and active engagement with a global fraternity of printmaking artists.

Northern Print gained a new level of online profile, but crucially so did the other studios and artists involved. The campaign was designed strategically to compliment the project, and I am happy that it did this, and has paved the way for future international online campaigns.

If you want help with social media strategy, contact me on carogreener@gmail.com.

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