The Anatomy of a Real-Time Social Media Marketing Campaign

How SingTel staged Singapore’s first Twitter-Youtube real-time marketing campaign to promote its 4G services

The @SingTel Twitter handle was handed over to Hossan Leong at 9am on 14 March 2013.

On 14 March 2013, SingTel staged its most ambitious social media marketing campaign yet. The campaign was part of the “When You Need Speed Now” campaign that began in local print ads weeks earlier. The campaign made use of real life situations to illustrate the advantages of having access to a high-speed mobile connection at your fingertips.

"When You Need Speed Now" 4G print ad campaign
“When You Need Speed Now” 4G print ad campaign

For the social media part of the campaign, SingTel partnered with multi-talented funnyman Hossan Leong for a day and invited consumers to provide (through Twitter using the hashtag #need4gspeed) their own situations when having a high-speed 4G connection comes in handy. Shortly after the campaign kicked off at 9am, the suggestions flooded in by the hundreds from ordinary consumers, influential bloggers and even traditional news media. Hossan would then take the best ideas, turn them into improvised comedy skits and publish them on Youtube within minutes. Some 23 videos were uploaded within an eight-hour window, accompanied by many more tweets and images to keep the dialogue with consumers moving.

Watch the Best Videos from SingTel’s #Need4GSpeed campaign here.

The discussions were overwhelmingly positive and, more than 24 hours after the campaign ended, the #need4gspeed hashtag was still trending in Singapore on Twitter as more consumers discovered the hilarious – and sometimes outrageous – videos published on SingTel’s Youtube channel.

But getting there wasn’t as easy as it looked. The execution took weeks of planning between Singtel’s Digital Marketing team, media agency MEC and digital agency OgilvyOne. Here are some tips for marketers with real-time marketing ambitions of their own …

Plan it like a military campaign

Map the activities of the day down to the minute. Plan the rollout from the first tweet at midnight to the first call-to-action tweet at 9am to the closing video at 6pm. Produce whatever materials you will need ahead of time (video end credits, still images for memes, etc). Decide on a target frequency of uploads. (This will help you make hard decisions such as whether you have time to record a third take or not.) Discuss beforehand how to fill the “airtime” in between video uploads.

Editing and uploading videos within minutes
Editing and uploading videos within minutes

Make sure everyone understands their role on the day itself, down to where everyone physically sits. In any improvisation scenario, you are sure to have creative disagreements. It’s important to determine who makes the creative decisions and who has the final say. We had people assigned to production in the studio with Hossan and his acting team. In the next room, there were two editors who put the clips together as they were being shot. There was a work station (with the fastest connection) assigned only to uploading.

Monitoring the discussions
Monitoring the discussions

Finally, in another room, you had the team that monitored the discussions, posted responses and short listed the best #need4gspeed suggestions for Hossan to review. Discussions between teams were done on instant messenger and information shared via Google Docs to minimize having to move from one room to another and ensure the fastest possible turnaround time. (The campaign was a demonstration of “4G speed” after all.)

Have your Plan B scenarios ready

And your Plan C and Plan D, etc. Choosing to run your campaign in social media means accepting that you can’t control all the variables. First, you won’t know exactly the volume of tweets that will come in. Second, you have to anticipate that the rate of production may not go as quickly as planned. So beforehand, we shot a number of stills of Hossan to use as responses to tweets in between video uploads. This ensured the discussion kept moving forward and followers stayed engaged.

The monitoring team also identified the influencers who joined the conversations, whether they were industry observers, bloggers or journalists.

Cnet Asia joins the conversation
Cnet Asia joins the conversation

For example, once the team realized that Cnet Asia’s editorial team was following the campaign (“we watch cat videos so we need #Need4GSpeed”) we not only responded with tweets but also produced  this video in response.

Inevitably you also need to prepare for “trolls”, members of the public who dislike your brand and will take the opportunity to throw a spanner into the works, such as use your handle to attack the brand while the campaign is running.

Defusing detractors and keeping conversations on track
Defusing detractors and keeping conversations on track

This is where you make the most of working with a well-loved celebrity like Hossan with messages that defuse the situation while staying entirely “in character”.

Take creative risks

Finally, running a real-time campaign also means not having the usual checks & balances that a marketing campaign would normally have. You won’t have the luxury of determining with senior management whether or not a piece of creative is “on” or “off brand” or goes “too far”. It means taking a small group of people in the organization and empowering them to make decisions on the spot.

The decision to work with Hossan Leong was not only because of his popularity but also because of the edge and irreverence that he brings to the table. The last thing you want to do is hold back that creativity in any way.

Empowering the team to take creative risks
Empowering the team to take creative risks

Big brands and large corporate organizations will always lean towards a more conservative path, especially when it comes to the uncharted territories of social media. (After all, this kind of campaign had never been attempted before, by SingTel or any other Singapore brand.) But if you believe in the campaign strongly enough, you are also willing to stake your reputation on it. And if that makes people in your company nervous, that just means you are on the right track.

 Read What makes great Social? here.  

Watch The Story Behind SingTel’s #Need4GSpeed Social Media campaign here.


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