As many of you know, Mullen and Radian6 just finished a pretty cool project/experiment. On Superbowl Sunday we invited everyone and anyone on Twitter to join us on critiquing the always-anticipated ads. We drew from all of Twitter’s 40 million users to capture real time conversation so we could track each brand’s performance. And, by early Monday, we’d posted results, including volume of tweets, sentiment and overall rankings.
It took us weeks of development time to code and build Brandbowl, most of it at night long after the “regular” workday had ended. We didn’t generate any revenue since we were too busy getting it done to sell a sponsorship (though we did get a couple of inquiries at the last minute). In fact a bunch of us had to forego enjoying the game or even the ads (the few worthy of enjoying) as we were consumed with managing the site, responding to requests or simply interacting with the thousands of folks who joined us.
So why did we do it? What was in it for Mullen? How are we measuring ROI? Why would we go to the trouble? I got asked these questions a number of times; mostly from reporters, but also from industry colleagues and college professors. So here’s the answer, according to Christian Madden, Mullen’s director of digital production. “We did it because we can. We did it because the digital tools are available. We did it because in the age of social media you have to give to get. And we did it because doing is better than talking.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
As for the ROI, well there’s this: learning, listening, conversation, press coverage, industry buzz, media impressions, awareness, community enthusiasm, employee pride and new business inquiries. All the same things we tell brands and marketers they can enjoy if they do social media right. In the case of Brandbowl2010 the ROI beat even our most optimistic expectations.
But the real reason we did Brandbowl is this: it reflects much of what we believe about marketing, advertising and social media.
Create utility not messages
Many marketers, advertisers and even agencies continue to think we’re in the business of creating messages. Messages interrupt. Isn’t it better to conceive experiences, utility and platforms? Content that sparks engagement, interaction,conversation and even relationships? We think yes. No message, press release or ad could have connected with as many people as Brandbowl did.
Share your content
In this case we shared our idea with Radian6. They shared their tools with us. We both shared the experience with everyone and anyone; it was open to peers, colleagues, even rivals. (Note in the ad business we’re friends with our rivals and compete with our sister companies.) And, of course, we’re sharing the results, willingly offering data to some of the brands that have come to us after the fact and requested it. (New business is a long dance and it starts with that first conversation.) Remember what Chris Anderson tell us in Free: you have to give stuff away if you want to get anything back.
Invite participation and co-creation
Brandbowl may have been informative if all we’d done was capture the chatter and data from the Twittersphere. But it wouldn’t have been as much fun. People want to join in, play along, participate. Being able to tweet from the site, reply to others, and be part of a bigger conversation was our version of CNN/Facebook’s Inauguration mashup. Nearly 8,000 people joined us in the conversation and in the process gave us insight, ideas and tips for making our own efforts even better.
Build a community that will help spread the word
If we had no friends or followers on Twitter, Brandbowl would have been invisible. But if you have a community with whom you engage, share, converse and interact on a regular basis, chances are they’ll lend their support (presuming they genuinely believe in what you’re up to). I was fortunate that @bbhlabs, @bigspaceship, @schwartzie14, @eproulx, @thebeancast and others thought this idea was worth a shout out. No doubt they know I’d do the same for them.
It doesn’t matter whether you do it for yourself as an individual (blog, video, website) for your company or for a client. If you’re making an investment of time and money to create something you should measure it. Impressions, engagement, response, traffic, reaction. Obviously Brandbowl was all about measuring. Not only do we have stats and data about the success of all the brands that advertised on the game (now in high demand by the brands themselves) we have numbers that tell us whether this little project was worth it as well.
Suffice it to say we’ll be back next year. What’s your next social media project going to be?