Social Media Success Stories

In our first “From the Cockpit interview” with Steve Lee, chief pathfinder, Quicksilver Interactive Group, we discussed
the criticality of alignment between social media and the company’s strategic direction. So, I went in search of success stories on
companies that have implemented creative social media strategies to support
their overall business objectives. I found these great examples on one of Steve’s favorite “go-to” resources – These are 10 great
examples of Smooth Landings through alignment of their social media

1. Blendtec

Blendtec used the “Will It Blend” series on
YouTube. George Write, the marketing director of Blendtec, created the series. The campaign
was low-cost and instantly became a hit. In the video, Tom Dickson, the CEO of
Blendtec, attempts to blend objects in their blender. This simple idea led to a
five-fold increase in sales. Blendtec leveraged YouTube’s subscriber base and
tried something fun and original. The campaign was a success and continues to
entertain and sell.

Alignment Point: Social media marketing doesn’t always
need to cost a lot of money. Creating funny, original content and leveraging an
already-large user base can be used to increase sales.

2. Burger King

Burger King has really been pushing the envelope with
their marketing. They first started with, and then entered
the social space with the “sacrifice 10 friends” Facebook
application. The campaign quickly went viral and was adopted by over 20,000
users, who “sacrificed” 200,000 friends for free whoppers. Sadly, the
application was shut down as quickly as it started by Facebook, citing privacy concerns.
Regardless, the application was beautifully built and the idea was perfect. Burger
King built in the ability to share it, the incentive to use it, and added just
enough humor to make the campaign a hit.

Alignment Point: Successful and viral campaigns don’t
just test out social media; they jump in it. Pushing the envelope can create
the buzz that makes your campaign memorable.

3. Starbucks

Social media isn’t only about using existing websites,
but sometimes creating your own. To get a better handle on consumer feedback,
Starbucks did just that with “My Starbucks Idea.”The site allows
users to submit suggestions to be voted on by Starbucks consumers, and the most
popular suggestions are highlighted and reviewed. Starbucks then took it a step
further and added an “Ideas in Action” blog that gives updates to
users on the status of changes suggested. By empowering their exceptionally
web-savvy consumer, Starbucks strengthens their campaign to add a personal
touch to coffee.

Alignment Point: Thinking of ways to build your company is
great, but directly asking your consumers what they want is better. Acting on
that information and doing it publicly is key to the success of this campaign.

4. Sun Microsystems

Want your blog to really make a splash? You could learn a
lot from Sun Microsystem’s CEO blog. Jonathan Scwartz’s blog received about
400,000 hits a month in 2006. (yes, a bit dated – yet the point is still
relevant). It’s not the number of hits that make his blog a social media
success, but its openness. Positive and negative comments are allowed, and even
the most inane are approved. Transparency from the highest position in a
company trickles down and increases trust from consumers.

Alignment Point:
Social media is a culture of transparency and honesty that must be embraced;
leading by example is one of the best ways to introduce it to a company. Few
things are better than a CEO that blogs or uses twitter.

5. IBM

When IBM decided they wanted to start using blogs, they
didn’t just create one; they created an entire network. IBM developed a way to
allow their employees to write about their experiences, what they’re working
on, or any other topic of choice. IBM capitalizes on the intelligence of their
employees to give consumers insight into what happens behind the scenes and
highlight the people behind its products. Users get to see how IBM operates,
and are given a direct connection with IBM employees.

Alignment Point: Having a
CEO that blogs is great, but increase the number of participants and you
increase the number of connections. Leveraging your employees to write about
what they love conveys the corporation’s dedication to the industry.

6. Zappos

The most obvious of companies to make Twitter work is
Zappos, an online retailer that has really led the way in corporate Twitter
use. The idea of micro-blogging and the sense of exceptional customer service
are ingrained in the corporate culture. Most Zappos employees have an active
account, and the Zappos site has a page that aggregates all the streams. The
reason why Zappos stands out on Twitter is because of their ability to bring
the company to life. The Zappos CEO has lent his personality to the company
brand, a personality that is friendly, helpful, funny, and trustworthy. They
use Twitter to highlight interesting facts, and to talk to their consumers.
Talking to Zappos is like talking to a friend that happens to sell shoes.

Point: Take a CEO that twitters, add in a great personality and you have a recipe
for social success. Ingraining social media into the culture of a corporation means
that every consumer interaction is personal.

7. Comcast

Frank Eliason is the man behind @comcastcares, a Twitter
account set up to help Comcast users in need. Comcast has found a way to offer
exceptional customer service to their consumers, but the thing that really
makes them stand out is how well they monitor discontent. Complain about
Comcast and you can bet you’ll hear from @comcastcares to see if they can help.

Alignment Point: Being active on Twitter is great but tracking and seeing who’s
mentioning you is the next step. Social media allows for the possibility of
great customer service, and with it, better brand loyalty.

8. Ford

The basic success story of Ford’s social media use is
that there was an internal gaffe where Ford’s legal department sent out cease
and desist letters to forum owners using Ford trademarks. Obviously the story
was twisted and changed, and in the end people were really miffed. What makes
this a success story for social media is that Scott Monty (Ford’s community manager)
was quick to find out what happened and let us know the true story. Not only that,
but as things were being fixed and a compromise was ironed out, the public was informed
every step of the way. Although we don’t know if social media has shown a
direct return on investment for Ford, the public relations fiasco it helped
avert should help make the case for more funding for social media.

Point: Social media can be used to inform consumers in real-time of how a corporation
is reacting to events that affect the customer. Transparency in the process and
access to constant information can help stop a negative story from going viral.

9. Graco

Social media is about sharing all types of content,
including photos. Facilitating the sharing is easy, but gaining something from
it requires a sound strategy. Graco did just that, by building a community
around their product using Flickr reviews. Flickr isn’t the center of their
campaign, but they promote it heavily with the Graco blog, which also creates
an incentive for others to submit pictures. The photographs help highlight the people
behind Graco and the consumers using their products. Graco takes their strategy
one step further by introducing offline marketing in the form of community
gatherings. The pictures from these meet-ups are posted to the Flickr page, further
humanizing the community around the product.

Alignment Point: Social media
doesn’t have to exist wholly online. Blending offline marketing with online
efforts can build a community around a brand.

10. Dell

Embracing social media is a huge undertaking, and
involves a large investment. Dell didn’t shy away from these obstacles;
instead, they’ve gone above and beyond, truly cultivating a cross-platform
community. They’ve created multiple Twitter handles, a network of blogs, and
are a very active presence on Facebook. Dell is also one of the few companies to publicly state
that they created a return on investment from Twitter. Apparently, Dell’s
social media efforts help create over $1 million in incremental revenue.

Point: Social media isn’t all about ROI, but it is possible to measure. Creating
cross-platform strategies can lead to the most success, especially when your demographic
is already Internet and technologically savvy.

Do you know of other companies or organizations that are
using social media creatively? We would love to hear from you! Please share with us at or