Overcoming Skepticism On Social Campaigns And Vine

Applebee's latest campaign integrates traditional and social nicely

by Jason Falls |

Lots of brands pitch us at Social Media Explorer to talk about the nifty social media campaigns they’re launching. Most pitches make me sick to my stomach for a variety of reasons. The majority because your plan doesn’t interest me. Your success does. Pitch me after the thing is over and you can share some success metrics.

Sometimes its because the campaign premise is disingenuous or just a spin on advertising applied in the social space. And yes, sometimes its because the PR person or firm in question is spam-tastic or pitches me something I’d never write about in the first place.

Applebee's So I sat Sunday looking over material about Applebee’s new social media-driven campaign around it’s new 550 Calories Menu, trying to find a reason to write about it. The pitch was relevant and handled nicely, I happen to know Jill McFarland, Applebee’s Director of Social Media (though she wasn’t the person who pitched me), and I’ve always liked Applebee’s because a local franchisee was a big sponsor of a college athletics program I worked for once. On the surface, I thought, “It’s just another plan, not success,” but the more I looked at it, the more I realized Applebee’s was doing something neat.

The whole premise of social media, at least from a marketing perspective, is to engage and empower your customers or fans to help fuel a word-of-mouth passion for your brand. By listening to the conversation, engaging your online voices and empowering them to contribute in ways, small and large, you become a “social” brand. Applebee’s 550 Calorie Campaign is set to do all of that in a compelling, integrated way.

Before I go any further, I’m issuing a demand to Applebee’s right now: We want to see success metrics on the back-end of this. Within three months, I want to be able to share what this effort did with the SME audience. I’m going out on a limb with this post and am writing against my standing attitude toward social media campaigns, but I’ll trust that you’ll understand that and feed us some measures of success soon! (My audience expects it by now.)

The campaign is simple, but smart. During the Golden Globes, the restaurant chain will air a television commercial (with relevant support and buzz-building on social channels in tow) that will ask fans to submit Vine videos about the 550 Calorie Menu using the hashtag #BeeFamous. Two winners will have their Vines featured in Applebee’s commercials that will air in February. So they’re leveraging traditional media to drive people to social channels, encouraging participation and engagement in an activity that fuels future traditional media while rewarding fans with opportunities for exposure.

As you may know from my first and only Vine, I’ve not been high on the channel much.

There are already a couple of interesting submissions. This one’s my favorite so far.

No, this type of contest isn’t new. Leveraging Vine in clever ways isn’t either. But the coordination of it all, plus the front- and back-end integration of traditional advertising makes it music to my ears. Most brands would launch a Vine contest like this and only tell people about it on Vine or perhaps its Twitter and Facebook channels. Applebee’s knows social media isn’t a place where if you build it, they will come. It’s a place where if you build it, then promote the living crap out of it, they might. Kudos to them for getting that

Having run a video/commercial contest before, I can at least throw out some level of expectation. For a 30- to 60-second commercial contest, you can expect between 500 and 1000 entries, depending on the size of your audience, the appeal of the prize and how much you’re willing to spend to promote it. For Vine? I’m guessing about the same, if not a bit more. While the 6-second format makes it far easier, to come up with a submission-worthy Vine, you’ve got to be fairly creative. More importantly, however, is the online buzz generated by the effort. I’d be happy with 250 entries if 10X the normal amount of online buzz about the restaurant happens as a result of people talking about it.

Either way, I’m confident we’ll know how it goes at some point. If not, I know where Jill lives. Heh.

What do you think about the effort? Cheesy? Effective? As always, the comments are yours.


About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).