How to Run a Twitter Campaign the Right Way (#JayZSyncShow)

by Corey Eridon

Date

March 14, 2012 at 9:00 AM

twitter hashtagintermediate

You've probably heard about SXSW, currently in full swing in Austin, TX. But did you hear about Jay-Z's South by Southwest Amex Sync Show? It was an interactive, 90-minute event hosted Monday night that was broadcast live in Austin, live on YouTube, on the Vevo mobile and tablet platform, and now on-demand until March 19th on Xbox Live and the American Express Twitter account and YouTube channel.

The event was free to attend in Austin for American Express cardholders, and fans who couldn't attend in person and wanted to interact were invited to tweet song requests to Jay-Z using the hashtag #JayZSyncShow.

So what was all this hoopla for? And who cares?

About the #JayZSyncShow Campaign

It was a campaign to promote the new American Express and Twitter relationship that lets you "sync" (it's all coming together now, right?) your Amex card and Twitter account, tweet special hashtags, and then redeem couponless offers from the participating companies. This Jay-Z concert was the official launch of the cardholder's program, and one of the 25,000 tickets to the show was offered to every cardholder, for free, who synced their Amex card and Twitter account.

Okay, I still haven't answered the second question -- who cares? Aside from what a great idea the Twitter and Amex couponless offer relationship is, marketers should care because this is an example of not just one brand, but many brands coming together and actually executing a large scale Twitter campaign correctly. Whether you've tried one yourself in the past or have just seen other brands fall flat, you probably know that's not so easy to do. If you're a marketer looking for new ways to use Twitter other than posting new content, then this case study is the place to look for inspiration. Let's break down exactly why this Twitter campaign was successful, and the best practices marketers should extract from it to transfer to their own.

How to Run a Successful Twitter Campaign

Don't talk about yourself directly.

Okay, calling this a Jay-Z campaign is a little misleading...but it's one of the reasons the campaign was so effective. This campaign isn't actually about Jay-Z at all. It's about American Express and the brands participating in its new program. But Amex understood that no one really cares about yet another credit card discount program. After all, how unsexy is that?

So hey, all you "unsexy" industries out there (I work at a SaaS company, so I know a thing or two about the subject): this is proof that social media campaigns can work for you, too. The trick is, you can't talk directly about yourself. In fact, no matter how sexy your industry is, it's probably wise not to talk about yourself too directly when launching a Twitter campaign (more about that in the next section). Using a hashtag or campaign name that highlighed American Express is unremarkable. Free tickets to a Jay-Z concert and the ability to request the next song he performs? That's way more interesting, and it spreads like wildfire.

Don't let negativity be an option.

Lots of brands have suffered the wrath of negative Twitter backlash on what was supposed to be a positive campaign. Remember the McDonald's campaign in February, better known as the #McDStories fiasco? Twitter users were asked to share fun stories about their experiences at McDonald's. Maybe hindsight is 20/20, but how could they not have envisioned a barrage of tweets like this one?

The sentiment behind #McDStories was positive, but it was so vague and too closely associated with the brand to prevent the PR nightmare. In short...it was too easy to make fun of them, and poking fun is something tweeters love to do.

But it's pretty hard to be negative -- or even emotional -- about the Amex campaign's hashtag, #JayZSyncShow. The only allusion to American Express is the word 'Sync,' but tweeters would only know this association if they'd already gotten engaged in the campaign and realized it supported the syncing of Twitter accounts and American Express cards. Plus, it's hard to be negative about a very helpful campaign -- helping consumers get discounts for popular companies like Best Buy, Zappos.com, and Whole Foods Market in a fast, paper-free way.

This campaign was able to find something that brings people together -- music -- as the focus of the campaign instead of something polarizing -- credit card companies -- that could cause a PR backlash and hashtag hijacking.

Give people a reason to participate.

Access to the content of your campaign should be simple but still provide value for your business. American Express had a compelling enough offer -- simply sync your Twitter account with your credit card, and get a free ticket to a Jay-Z concert. And for remote viewers, all they had to do was give the hashtag some visibility, and in return they got to request a song from Jay-Z. These are both pretty low barriers to entry, but provide appropriate value for all parties.

Launch at the right time, at the right place, to the right people.

Finding the right audience to get your campaign off the ground is crucial. American Express launched the promotion at SXSW on Twitter -- a congregation of a highly engaged audience of influencers who are Twitter power users. Just take a look at this graph from Topsy that shows the huge spike in mentions of the hashtag #JayZSyncShow.

topsy mentions

This SXSW group alone would not have made the campaign as successful as it was, but their discussion of and excitement over the campaign is what spread it to the rest of the country who was not in Austin, TX, causing the spike in hashtag mentions you see represented in the Topsy graph.

The timing of the launch is also crucial to the event's success -- timing it for the evening ensures people are at home, able to watch the live stream of the concert, actively tweet song requests to get the hashtag more mentions, and wait to see if their request is performed -- Jay-Z songs actually showed up in the Top 10 Trending Topics on Twitter many times as a result. This timing provided for optimum engagement with the campaign nationwide, not just at SXSW.

Make sure there's something in it for everyone.

Not only did remote and live viewers get something -- entertainment and, for some of them, access to coupons -- the brands participating in the campaign received coverage that incentivized them to leverage their large social networks to bolster the campaign's success. Jay-Z ended up in the trending topics. American Express synced thousands upon thousands of cardholders' Twitter accounts to their credit card. The brands partnering with American Express to offer coupons to synced Amex cardholders received press and will soon receive countless sales from members redeeming their paperless coupons. Making your campaign beneficial for all gives each participating party a vested interest in the success of the campaign, which means you have more people working actively toward a common goal.

Even Twitter and American Express get something out of the deal, other than the publicity, of course. Amex has successfully launched a customer loyalty program that gives customers something truly useful for their everyday lives -- coupons for groceries, not airline miles many will never redeem. And Twitter offers their users one more reason to return to its platform on a regular basis, not to mention they will likely reawaken some inactive users, and generate brand new ones.

Distribute campaign content far and wide.

Like all of your best content, it should be easy for people to consume. The content of this campaign -- both in real time and afterwards -- was so easily accessible. To recap, you could watch this concert live in Austin, live on YouTube, and on the Vevo mobile and tablet platform while the performance was occurring. Or, if you missed it, you have until March 19th to watch on Xbox Live, on the American Express Twitter account, or on its YouTube channel. By making it available even after the fact, Amex is giving people the opportunity to learn more about the campaign and keep the buzz going.

Have you used Twitter to run a marketing campaign? Share what you learned -- good and bad -- with us in the comments!

Image credit: simonwheatley

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