You don't have to be in the market for a Super Bowl ad to learn who the world's biggest marketers are. In fact, as a quick visit to Facebook illustrates, social media has a leveling effect: Whether you're Coca-Cola or Jones Soda, your Facebook page looks pretty much the same. Coke's billions won't buy a dedicated wing on Twitter, either.
With this in mind, the following social media campaigns from marketers big and small are designed to be idea generators. This isn't a ranking of the most effective social media campaigns of the year, but rather the ones that have the most to offer a small-business owner with big ideas and a not-so-big marketing budget.
1. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese's Jinx
Last March, the venerable Kraft brand launched an interesting campaign on Twitter: Whenever two people individually used the phrase "mac & cheese" in a tweet, Kraft sent both a link pointing out the "Mac & Jinx" (as in the childhood game Jinx.) The first one to reply back got five free boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese and a t-shirt.
What you can learn from this: This is a very low-cost way to track down potential fans on Twitter. All you have to do is search a given term and identify two people who tweet the same phrase at (roughly) the same time. In return, you'll gain goodwill, a likely follower and probably some good word-of-mouth buzz on the social network.
2. Ingo's Face Logo
When Swedish ad agencies Grey Stockholm and Ogilvy Stockholm merged last year, they wanted to get social media fans involved. The two agencies asked fans to participate by signing into Facebook to see the new name. Every time new people logged on to the dedicated site, the logo added their profile picture. With every picture, the logo got a little bigger, until 2,890 fan photos comprised the full name, Ingo, over a four-hour period.
What you can learn from this: This is another inexpensive way to get fans literally enmeshed with the brand. Another alternative is to create a real-life mosaic based on pictures of your Facebook fans, a project that Mashable recently completed in its headquarters.
3. BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota's Human Doing
What better way to illustrate the plight of the common man than an actual common man? That was the thinking behind a BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota program last year that put Scott Jorgenson, a St. Paul resident, in a glass apartment in the Mall of America for a month. To demonstrate the recuperative effects of exercise, Jorgenson was put on a workout routine for the month that compelled him to exercise three to five times a day, in 10-minute spurts. In a social media twist, Twitter and Facebook followers dictated the type of exercise for each session.
What you can learn from this: Creating an event, especially one that involves social media fans, is an alternative to launching an ad campaign. Humanizing a problem for which your company provides a solution is also a good idea.
4. GranataPet's Foursquare-Enabled Billboard
Pet food brand GranataPet earned worldwide attention last year for its billboard in Agenta, Germany. This wasn't just any billboard, though. It was rigged so that if a consumer checked in on Foursquare, the billboard would dispense some of the company's dog food. Someone from Granata's ad agency filmed the billboard in action, and the video now has more than 50,000 views on YouTube (in various iterations).
What you can learn from this: In the social media age, a single ad or a single billboard can generate images, press and videos, but only if it's clever enough.
5. Reinert Sausages's Wurst-Face App
Another German brand, Reinert Sausages, transcended its roots with a clever Facebook app that lets users upload their photo and receive a "Wurst Face," a graven image of themselves in cold cuts. The name "Wurst Face" comes from the extra piece of sausage that kids get for free at the butcher.
What you can learn from this: If you can create an app that's social, fun and brand-appropriate, it will function more effectively than even a high-budget ad campaign.
Photo credit: Courtesy Reinert Sausages