Read through articles and blogs on social media for startups and you're bound to get the same old "interaction equals traffic" formula, most times with no further explanations on how or why this works.
What's more is the people out there writing these blogs expect you to take them at face value, giving no proof that what they're saying holds any more water than a doctor's specimen cup.
So just to have it out there, I want to prove just how effective social media marketing is at boosting your overall inbound traffic to your own websites and blogs.
How a Gnome Reached 355 Million People in Two Days
One of my favorite social media campaigns has to be by Kern & Sohn - who? Exactly why they needed a social boost. This German company makes precision scales and their target demographic is laboratories and the education sectors. Now, I personally don't know anyone who isn't on a successful diet that gets excited about scales, so you can imagine why Kern & Sohn needed something that would pique interest more than a scale would.
They chose to go with a garden gnome that came with a weighing station. Since Kern & Sohn scales are so precise they can measure the tiniest fluctuations in weight at different points on the Earth (thanks, gravity!), the social media team invited worldwide audiences to go onto the site and request a "gnome weighing kit."
The response was explosive, giving people a fun and wacky way to show a little local pride while getting something totally unique in return. Within 2 days of the campaign implementation, 355 million people in 152 countries heard about the gnomes, resulting in 3 requests each minute for the weigh-in stations. Pics of the gnomes at famous landmarks became huge media stories with viral video and pics hitting the social platforms in droves.
In just 30 days, 16,386 websites backlinked to the campaign, creating more weblinks in a month than most startups have in a lifetime. This leapfrogged their site to number one on Google SERPs which added a 21% increase in sales. For all you ROI people, how does a 1042% ROI sound? Gnometastic!
Why Did This Work?
Okay, so let's look at a few reasons why this social media campaign worked so well. For starters, gnomes are funky little creatures that have enjoyed success over multiple platforms - Lord of the Rings, Gnomeo and Juliet, etc. They are iconic and a little quirky so people quickly latched onto them.
So do you need a gnome? No, but having something that creates unique appeal will certainly help. It doesn't have to be a physical freebie, but your social media campaign should be something that people want to be associated with. It's the difference between having tape or Gucci on your glasses - what does your demographic like to be associated with? For Kern it was science and fun.
Local Pride Equals Connection and Interaction
Another big reason this worked was because it gave people the ability to shout out their zip codes like they were rap stars. Local pride in where you live is a fairly universal concept, even if you love/hate it. People love to represent where they're from and then either bad mouth it or build it up.
As others get in the conversation, the one-upsmanship starts and people are interacting, creating in-groups and out-groups, all in the name of competition. Meanwhile, they are using your product or service to do it, hashtagging and tagging people, bringing more and more of their friends into the conversation. This is the type of social interaction that your company should be aiming for.
Think about things that people take pride in which also already have a community built which you could tap into. Sports teams, clubs, favorite movies - all of this is fair game. The secret is just not to alienate any of your fan base by taking sides - let them discuss it, you just be the sounding board.
So Everyone Wants a Scale Now, Right?
But in the end, what really caused this leap in sales? Did the gnomes suddenly make people love precision scales? Did they ride the Breaking Bad science/self-made drug lord wave to fame? Absolutely not. Social media is about expanding avenues to reach people that you wouldn't reach through other inbound marketing efforts.
For example, it's pretty clear that most of the backlinks which were coming in from other websites were science blogs and related sites that picked up on the story. This exposed the Kern scales to their original target demographic which just happens to be people that might not be on Facebook or LinkedIn.
And that's the magic of social media marketing (or maybe gnomes!) - just because it starts out on social media doesn't mean your traffic generates there.