July 6th, 2009.
I attended the Online Marketing show at Olympia on Tuesday and listened to “How to implement a social media campaign” By Amelia Torcode, Partner and Head of Digital Strategy, VCCP.
VCCP and Amelia are now the darlings of the social media world following their successful Compare the Market/ Compare the Meerkat campaign. Anna picked up an NMA award last week for the campaign.
I’ve got to say that I was a little disappointed by the presentation, especially on behalf of the delegates who had actually gone along in order to learn about Social Media Marketing. All they got was a self indulgent “aren’t we wonderful” lecture on the Meerkat experience, along with a repeat of some of the adverts just in case you hadn’t quite got the message yet. The talk cost £40 to attend so you would hope to learn something in return apart from how wonderful VCCP are.
But my main beef with the whole thing was actually the question of whether this was in fact a successful Social Media Campaign at all. At its simplest VCCP came up with a cute idea, paid a huge amount to advertise it, set up a Twitter account and Facebook page and then encouraged the banter on these and other sites. This has created incredible awareness and has kept a lot of people happy. Site traffic has gone up 80%, but still way below Confused.com. Succesful quotes have gone up 20%.
But was this really a social media campaign in its truest sense? Could they have achieved a better result at a fraction of the price? Did they essentially miss the point of social marketing?
Social media is a method of generating discussion about your product or service within social network platforms seemingly without any effort being made by yourself. In short you start a story, others pick it up and pass it around because its either funny, interesting or useful If you get the story right you don’t need to spend any money because the “network” does the work for you. In VCCP’s case they (must have) spent a fortune on the development of a separate www.comparethemeerkat.com website and on the TV campaign, and in the process killing the average cost per conversion, although Anna claimed that this had come down by 21% but it was not clear that this took into account VCCP cost.
The point and beauty of social media is that you don’t need a TV campaign, the network does the work for you. The message is passed on because people feel the need to. And the number of people who link to your site ultimately help the Google rankings. The actual spike in traffic is an irrelevance compared to the long term effect on Google rankings
On the point of search engine rankings, in her talk Anna started off by saying that Google was the benchmark around which the whole campaign was based but then did not mention Google from that moment in. When I questioned her about the traffic from Google she was unable to answer as she had no stats and there was a separate agency altogether dealing with natural SEO. In fact any discussion about Google rankings or PPC had her flummoxed. I found this astounding.
I don’t want to knock Anna or the the meerkat campaign but it’s really interesting seeing the different approach that an Advertising agency can have to Social Media compared to a proper Online Marketing company. Advertising is all about brand awareness. SEO is all about driving sales via the website. As an SEO consultant myself I could not imagine implementing a campaign without keeping Google and other search stats at the forefront of any analysis of the campaign’s success.
Also I would have questioned a totally separate site, comparethemeerkat.com to be the backbone of the campaign. Any self respecting SEO will tell you that for a social media campaign to be successful is to get people to link to your client site voluntarily which in turns helps rankings and therefore sales. In this campaign as the majority of the new links will be pointed at the stand-alone Meerkat website. In my opinion this is a huge miss of the campaign. 1000’s of lovely links all going to the wrong website – how depressing!
The only solution would be to 301 the meerkat website one day when no one is looking, though this is a huge social media faux-pas and could potentially lose them a lot of trust and goodwill. Undoubtedly VCCP have been successful in raising awareness of CompareTheMarket but I am unconvinced about the benefits of the long term online presence.
If I was new to social media I would certainly have left none the wiser after this talk. If I had been giving the talk I would have attempted to reveal the theory behind succesful social media marketing, explained how stories got picked up and spun about the web, how a traffic spike in itself is not important but the links that it brings, how the ultimate prize is rankings. In short I would have talked less about myself and more about how to help others, especially if I was charging £40!