Building Community Engagement Around Key Events

It’s the new year and, like every year, I find the one work resolution that seems to always end up at the top of my list is to do more proactive planning – especially to take full advantage of marketing opportunities around key events, sponsorships, and holidays. Depending on your brand, the importance of one event or holiday over another may vary based on your brand positioning or investment, but the key in 2012 will be to own it in terms of building and engaging your community in a unique way. To do that will require some brainstorming as well as lots of planning. Whether it’s events/sponsorships (back to school, an NFL sponsorship, etc.) or holidays (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc.), building a unique experience is paramount to driving engagement. So with that in mind, here are a few helpful tips.

Invest in unique content. The key with building and engaging any community is to offer something truly unique or exclusive. This can be as simple or sophisticated as your budget allows and expand over time. Content may include a blog infused with “personality,” tips and/or an original perspective, exclusive behind-the-scenes photos, wallpaper/screensavers, digital giveaways, apps, widgets, and more. But remember to make it shareable and don’t stop there – think of how you can truly “own” the event. One of the best examples of this may be what Castrol USA is doing with the MLS Player Index. Launched last year, The Castrol Index is a proprietary ranking of the top soccer players in the U.S. based on an algorithm that measures each player’s performance. While still relatively new and evolving, the program was created to support a sponsorship as well as Castrol’s expanding efforts to build a community around a shared passion – soccer. In its first year, the program not only generated conversations among soccer fans within Castrol’s social communities and beyond, but the Index is also found on the MLS website, offering greater visibility and opportunities for the brand to connect with its target consumers.

Aggregate and curate. Not everyone has a huge budget, but creating a unique experience may be easier and more cost efficient than you think thanks to technology. The enormous volume of content across the social web provides brands with enormous opportunities – including the ability to filter and curate key conversations around specific topics or events. In fact, consumers who are increasingly overloaded with the influx of content are actively looking for help in filtering that content based on their specific needs and interests. Why not have your brand do it for them? Take for example what the Oscars are doing this year on its Oscar Buzz page. By offering curated content and conversation around the Oscars, Oscar Buzz is offering movie fans the opportunity to not only see what insiders and actors are talking about, but it is also encouraging visitors/fans/the community to join the conversation to share their favorite movie moments. In addition, by aggregating and tracking the actors, Oscar Buzz is also a helpful one-stop destination to see who’s trending and what they are saying.

Prepare and promote. Whether you choose to build unique content or aggregate/curate content, proper, proactive planning requires that you know exactly what you’re getting into. The struggles of launching a blog and then straining to maintain it with fresh content are legendary. Understand fully the details involved in supporting an individual effort around the chosen event and support accordingly with the appropriate staffing, content refreshes, maintenance and communication, and training for internal constituents who may be affected. In addition, success can often be tied to your ability to support such programs by getting the word out. That requires lots of pre-planning and coordination with your agencies, marketing partners, and marketing teams so your effort is integrated and tagged in existing marketing communications. Consider leveraging traditional channels like direct mail and statement inserts as well as digital channels like email, search, display, mobile, and social to build awareness and participation. In addition, work with existing partners to cross-promote and consider retargeting programs to get visitors back and engaged.

Measure, rinse, and repeat. Last but not least, make sure you set up key KPI in order to assess the success and impact of your investment. Measuring, whether it be impressions, buzz, or engagement, will also allow you to dial up/down key content areas and expand your opportunity for years to come. For more on establishing a measurement framework see “Five Post-Holiday Must-Do’s.”

The new year requires new approaches, so for all those interested in bringing something fresh to your communities to ignite engagement, take a look at building a program around key events aligned or associated with your brand. Identifying and then owning a key event is a huge opportunity from a social, viral, and community/engagement perspective. To do it well requires a significant investment in time, money, resources, creative, technology, and innovative thinking – however, your brand will be rewarded handsomely.

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