Client, in this case a Co-op: “We sell some great local products in our stores. We want to increase consumer awareness and appreciation of our supplier’s food products. We’re thinking of some sort of people’s choice award.”
Social Media Saboteur: “Building awareness eh? Well social media is huge right now so let’s run a contest using Facebook. We’ll ask people on Facebook to vote in a contest.”
Co-op: “Great, we already have a Facebook page, so I guess they vote with some kind of status updates maybe?”
SM Saboteur: “Well we could do that, but we’re going to use the Like button, that way we can trick people into receiving product updates.”
Co-op: “I see, well we do love the people who already Like our supplier’s products.”
SM Saboteur: “The real fans? We don’t want them to vote.”
Co-op: “er… what?”
SM Saboteur: “Nope, don’t need ’em.”
Co-op: “Well er… oh I get it, you’re suggesting we should focus on new audiences in other channels.”
SM Saboteur: [chuckles] “Of course not, why waste effort on an unknown entity? Everyone is on Facebook.”
Co-op: “So let me see if I’ve got this straight? We’ll run a contest for mildly engaged customers on Facebook. When they vote we’ll subscribe them to product updates. They’ll start loving the product and buy more?”
SM Saboteur: “Bingo!” [fires two imaginary pistols in the air and blows smoke from the barrels]
Sounds far fetched doesn’t it? Well this is exactly the perception I get when I looked at the Co-op’s Eat Atlantic Food product of the year award, One of a number of Co-op campaign initiatives currently running on the Canadian east coast.
The award component is being run as a public vote. And as is so often the case these days, the strategist appears to have defaulted to Facebook as the platform to run the competition. I’m not saying Facebook isn’t suitable for social marketing. If the product(s) and the goals align with the platform then it can be a match made in heaven, and in this case the products are actually better suited to Facebook than most, but in this case the goals and implementation fall far short of their potential.
I’ll explain and, acknowledging that just picking holes in something doesn’t really advance anyone’s knowledge, I’ll provide some ways the campaign elements might have been improved.
The saboteur’s aims:
To limit the reach:
In a news article in the Times and Transcript, Romeo Cormier, manager of public affairs at the Co-Op explains the Award are part of a campaign to:
“…raise consumer awareness and appreciation for the world-class food products made here in Atlantic Canada.”
A competitive vote is a perfectly acceptable way to motivate fans to spread the word, but the nominated products were solicited from existing Facebook fans and Facebook is used as the voting mechanism. In effect this is severely limiting the reach by only targeting existing fans on one platform.
Alternate strategy: Expand the reach of the contest. Provide each nominated supplier with a suite of tools and simple solutions to encourage them to get votes from their customers. Tweet badges for websites, suggested email copy for mailing lists, incentivise voters with a decent prize for a random voter for the winning product. Send sample packs of nominated products to influential East coast food bloggers. There’s a whole world beyond Facebook.
To exclude most of the voters:
To vote, you have to Like the product on Facebook. This seems like a great way to increase engagement by subscribing people to future updates, but there’s a huge failing here. Fans can’t vote if they’ve previously Liked the product. This is a huge mistake! It excludes brand ambassadors from voting. The very people who are going to wave the flag for you are the ones you want to activate and encourage.
An alternate strategy: If you’re targeting Facebook then the status update mechanism will allow anyone on Facebook to vote, existing fan or otherwise. More importantly, allow people to vote with the tools they’re comfortable with. A lot of people are on Facebook sure, but your biggest fans might not be. Make it easy for them and allow votes to be submitted from different platforms. There may be duplicate votes, but this can only expand reach which ultimately is the goal.
To give the favourites a head start.
The contest rules suggest that the winner will be decided by the most likes. The current contest leader had approx 700 Likes at the start of the contest. They can quite comfortably ignore the competition, go on holiday and still win by a landslide. Even more troubling is that the landing page always displays the nominees in the same order. Guess who is in the favored top spot on the page? Yup, the runaway favorite.
Alternate strategy: Level the playing field. You’re not going to build a competitive spirit by giving Michael Phelps a 90m head-start in the 100m freestyle. Set all the competitors at zero votes and introduce a way to track votes within the timeline of the competition, e.g. subject lines in email votes, SMS shortcodes, hashtags in tweets etc. This gives the smaller suppliers a chance in one arena that they can compete with the big boys; community engagement, and energising ambassadors with one-to-one communication.
When displaying the nominees, randomise the list for each site visitor, ensuring everyone get’s a chance to appear at the top.
To ignore the original goal
The voting page displays each nominee, a logo and the infamous Like button… and that’s it. Looking back at the original goal, the execution falls way short on the aims.
Address the goal of promoting “appreciation for the world-class food products” right on the vote landing page. Alongside each product display customer testimonials, celebrate the local ingredients, get some product insight from the farmer/manufacturer. This is going to expose voters to a broader range of products and help fulfill the aim of raising consumer awareness.
Ultimately every aspect of the competition should be checked against the goals.