Amongst Google Glasses and smart watches, I found myself in a #SXSW hashtag epicentre during the festival this month in Austin, Texas. Basically, handles and hashtags make people come together in the virtual reality called Twitter. Judging by the lack of handles on business cards, a lot of sales reps didn’t get that memo – but the big brands did.
The sky-is-the-budget-limit consumer brands like Chevrolet and Samsung build their event presence around the promotion of branded hashtags. Tapping into the basic Maslovian needs of the SXSW-goer in a tumult of events around the downtown area of Austin – battery recharges and rapid transportation – these two brands successfully made it on the hashtag radar. If you tweeted your location followed by #ChevySXSW, you could expect to be picked up by one of the many Chevy promo cars and be driven to the next open bar event. Tweeting #PowerUp and your location would trigger a Samsung rep to find you and refuel your Samsung phone. If only Starbucks had implemented the same concept.
As a SXSW attendant, I can only appreciate these brands’ promotion efforts, it’s almost like we’re exploiting their position in a saturated market nurturing this blatantly obvious push promotion. As a marketing professional, I’m left to wonder if it’s all worth while – can this sort of keyword promotion actually improve a brand’s position by mere Pavlovian measures? The first thing that comes to mind, are the intelligence-insulting posts like “Retweet this if you like puppies and ice cream” – it’s impossible to disagree, but then, from a content and community strategy perspective, what is really the point?
Virtual brand experience IRL
The way the SXSW hashtag campaigns differed, was that the virtual brand interaction was combined with a one-to-one human interaction IRL, which makes the hashtag campaigns rather powerful, because they connect the low-level consumer experience with an overall brand message, though not flawlessly. Firstly, it can be problematic to have freelance promotion staff as front line brand reps on such a grand scale and, secondly, the sheer number of tweets and messages pose an incredible social media management challenge.
Hashtag handling horror
Real-time hashtag campaigns demand the right tooling that can pull in all the data as well as assist and automate routing of messages for timely and knowing responses. This technology has mostly been marketed as a social media customer service tool, but Chevrolet and Samsung showed at this year’s SXSW that these tools will prove necessary in PR as well, calling for a platform that supports and facilitates cross-departmental collaboration. As my colleague, Joe Bertino, points out in his open letter to CMOs, a social media strategy doesn’t only live within marketing, SMM tools need to embrace the needs of the entire organization and enable a corporate social media strategy.