6 innovative and inexpensive Twitter campaigns to emulate

A clever hashtag and attentiveness to customers may be all you need to spark excitement about your brand on Twitter.

You can’t watch television—or TV ads—without seeing a conspicuous hashtag in the lower corner of your screen.

And while Instagram, Facebook and Google+ have incorporated hashtags with different levels of success, for most people hashtags are synonymous with Twitter. While hashtags are the most popular example, a lot of businesses do other creative things on Twitter to engage their customers.

Let’s examine some ways businesses have used hashtags, promoted tweets, javascript buttons, exclusive offers and customer care to create innovative Twitter campaigns for marketing and customer service.

1. Comedy Central’s #trumproast

Before hashtags were prevalent, it was unheard of to display a hashtag on the screen during a television program. To promote the “Roast of Donald Trump,” Comedy Central displayed the hashtag “#trumproast” on-screen. This resulted in 25,000 tweets during the initial transmission and drove Comedy Central’s television viewership higher than it had ever been for that time slot.

Now television shows such as “The X Factor” produce upwards of 100,000 tweets per episode.

Twitter hashtags allow people to find a community with a shared experience, which in turn sparks additional interest in the event. Hashtag use like this is scalable so long as participants use Twitter and the event hashtag is prominently displayed.

2. The Minnesota State Patrol’s #IWantThatHat

Often, trending hashtags will be comical phrases users will creatively riff off. For example, as I write this, #HowToAskAGirlToHomecoming is trending. The Twitterverse is populated with tweets like this:

With this context, the Minnesota State Patrol initiated a social media recruitment campaign around the hashtag “#IWantThatHat.” The results were great. From the interest the campaign produced through frequently scheduled tweets that brandished the nontraditional hashtag, the Minnesota State Patrol got a much more diverse population of applicants, which was one of the campaign’s goals.

It’s unlikely that a traditional hashtag would have produced the same level of interest or enthusiasm.

3. AirBNB’s promoted tweets

AirBNB came to prominence as a business that helps travelers rent rooms, apartments or houses from people in destination cities. It’s a brilliant and well-executed idea. But when AirBNB started to offer sublets, which was very different from its core offering, it had to get the word out. It did so with promoted tweets.

Promoted tweets are paid, targeted tweets that appear in people’s Twitter streams. If you’re curious about why AirBNB would have to pay for tweets, think back to the last conversation you had about sublets, and you may answer your own question.

AirBNB’s engagement rate for the promoted tweets was 4 percent. The standard social response would be 1 percent or less.

4. ESPN’s javascript buttons

ESPN has a rich online offering. On each Web page, ESPN has a conspicuous social-sharing bar and an additional tweet button in the media player (nearly every page has a video associated with it).

In one month, these buttons generate 4,000 tweets. This isn’t overwhelming until you realize that each tweet draws 15 new readers to ESPN’s site, which means these buttons bring in 60,000 additional readers for ESPN every month.

Javascript buttons like this are easy to implement for any business. In fact, Twitter gives them to you here. Note how easy it is customize the message, links and attribution.

5. Bonobos’s exclusive Twitter sale

What is the one thing customers want from businesses on social media? Discounts.

E-retailer Bonobos experimented with an exclusive, one-day Twitter sale. It teased the sale in advance, engaged its audience and tweeted often during the sale. The results included 100 first-time customers and a 1200 percent return on investment.

At the time of the sale, Bonobos had many fewer followers than the 40,000 they have now, and Bonobos products are not inexpensive. Many businesses should able to repeat tactics like this for a low cost.

6. Zappos’s customer service

Shoe retailer Zappos is a customer-centric company. It allows free returns on all shoes, and is known for its committed employees and stellar customer service. A portion of that customer service takes place on Twitter.

If discounts are the No. 1 thing customers want from businesses on social media, guess what they want next?

Customer service.

Zappos not only engages 40-85 customers daily on Twitter, but it embeds customer tweets about its shoes on the TweetWall. Not only can customers resolve their customer service issues on Twitter, but Zappos elevates customer engagement and promotion by giving customer tweets some distinction.

Bonus: Customers can use these tactics, too.

While many of these tactics may seem inexpensive (they are), it’s worth noting that your customers can use the same tools.

Recently, a British Airways passenger, frustrated that British Airways lost his luggage and gave him the runaround, tweeted: “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.”

Not content to simply tweet the message, the passenger paid $1,000 to promote the tweet. The promoted tweet resulted in more than 73,000 additional impressions and multiple media appearances for the disgruntled passenger.

There are plenty of easy ways to further integrate Twitter into your marketing mix. I hope this gives you a sense of what businesses do and what you can do.

Jim Dougherty is a social media marketing expert who writes at LeadersWest and the Vocus Blog. You can read more of his work here. A version of this article originally appeared on the Vocus blog.

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