Last week the Triangle Social Media Club had two guest speakers, Karlie Justus (@karliej) and Jason Peck (@jasonpeck). I’ve had the pleasure of meeting both the speakers and interacting with them on Twitter over the past several months. I was glad to see Karlie speak about the NC State Fair since I had been trying to catch up with her to find out how effective social media was in promoting the State Fair. I have written two blog posts about the NC State Fair and Deep Fried Tweetup in the past few weeks so was interested to see how the campaign went for the NC Department of Agriculture (NCDA) that manages the Fair.

The goals of the social media campaign were to reach new audiences as well as reach media in a new way. The campaign started in July of 2008 and ran for a full 16 months. The team began with a new web site design and created a blog that communicated interesting facts about the Fair as well as announcing entertainment acts and other announcements. Other social media sites that were created included Facebook group, MySpace page, Twitter account, Flickr photos and YouTube channel. Some of the more interesting stats were:

  • 70,000 unique blog views with 27,000 unique visitors in October
  • Facebook page had 5,000 friends, 420 fans and over 1,400 photos tagged
  • Twitter account had over 2,331 followers with 1,828 updates and 422 direct messages. Many of the direct messages were from local media that supplemented the PR plan.
  • YouTube channel hosted 37 videos and had 58,000 unique views with 55 subscribers.
  • MySpace page had 928 friends with 8,000 blog views and 99,000 page views.

Other social media tactics included having a Deep Fried Ambassador contest among local bloggers, inviting bloggers to the press conference and hosting the Deep Fried Tweetup on the Thursday night of the Fair. The Tweetup attracted over 150 attendees and further extended the Deep Fried brand. One interesting note was that Thursday traffic spiked with 2000 unique visits to the blog and average of 60 tweets per hour. The event was also streamed and attracted 43 views.

 Overall the NCDA team achieved success by incorporating social networks to further establish relationships with fair attendees, media representatives and other audiences. Also social networks facilitated customer service by responding to questions from the general public and directing them to specific information on the web. Karlie also pointed out that it was a team effort and that her coworkers contributed to the effort (Jen Nixon (@jennix5), Natalie Alford (@joynatalie), Brian Long (@brian_long66), Andrea Ashby (@aasbhy) and Paul Marshall Jones (@pmarshalljones). Great work by this group!

Whew, that’s a whole blog post, but wait there’s more! Jason Peck had a tough act to follow but did a fantastic job speaking about branded communities. Jason’s company eWayDirect takes features of social networks and brings them into a single platform. The goal is to bring people together while having full control of the look and fell, content, ads and metrics. I have a dream and that is what eWayDirect offers…a single platform with control, basically a branded community.

Some of the great advantages to their approach include:
  • Protection: no random Facebook ads, your community is spared from junk and spam
  • Exclusivity: you may not want everyone, just certain people that are your customers and prospects
  • Research: polls, metrics and other tools to gather information from your community.
  • Business metrics: the ability to determine revenue per member. Mmmm, ROI is that something everyone keeps talking about regarding social media?
One of the biggest advantages is the ability to aggregate existing content into a single location. My job requires me to try and automate all the outbound communication including social media. I have been able to use tools like RSS and other data exports to cross reference all the sites. But in order to aggregate all the RSS feeds and sites content I would have to create another site, basically a portal. Hence one more site to design, configure and maintain.
Jason gave a few examples of how his customers have employed their technology. One great example was ELF (Eyes, Lips and Face) beauty network. Their goal was to identify brand advocates and deepen relationships as well as acquire new customers. The campaign started with a personal invitation to the network and also has a desktop announcement feature that I want to find out more about.
ELF had some great results three months into the campaign including:
  • 4,500 new members
  • 56,000 visits
  • 5,000 unique visits, increase of 75%
  • 9% of members opted to received the desktop notifications and reminders
  • Average revenue per member increased 270% more than non-members
Again social media ROI can be achieved with the right strategy, platform and planning. Jason closed his presentation with some great lessons learned:
  •  Have a purpose for your community, give people a reason to join
  • Make people feel welcome, it’s important
  • Establish measurable goals ahead of time will drive you towards them during execution
  • Make sure the community does not exist in a silo
Many thanks to Jeremy (@jeremysaid) and Brian (@unravelthetwine) of Twine Interactive for hosting the event and Our Hashtag (Wayne, Jeff and Ryan) for organizing the best social media series in the Triangle. I met another great group of people whom I’ve followed and chatted with on Twitter and other networks so it’s always great to attach a person to an avatar!

Brian McDonald

Brian McDonald started Square Jaw Media to document strategies and techniques he had used over his experience working in marketing and communications since 1990. During this time Brian wrote about many of the exciting Raleigh social media events where great knowledge was being shared and tries to share some of the tips and tricks. . Read Brian's full bio.