Social media has taken an absolute beating in recent months. It’s at the heart of international political dramas, has become a breeding ground for negative comments and controversial takes, and a safe space for “fake news”. But, most of us can’t live without it. Especially marketers.

So, the question is, how can marketers make an impact and gain social media success in today’s world? At the Marketing Association’s last Brainy Breakfast for 2019, we saw how three New Zealand brands are using social media for good and getting results. Here are our top takeaways from the session.

How social can give authenticity and meaning to a campaign

Social Media can encourage conversation around a topic and help to normalise subjects that reticent kiwis tend to shy away from. Simon Hofmann, Acting CMO of Kiwibank, and David Lister, Head of Experience at FUSE OMD, shared how the bank harnessed social for good with the New Zealander of the Year campaign.

When Mike King won New Zealander of the Year for his work with the I AM HOPE mental health charity, Kiwibank wanted to extend the reach and relevance of the award among New Zealanders while helping raise money for the charity.

To do this they asked New Zealanders to add an I AM HOPE frame to their Facebook profile. And for every photo, Kiwibank would donate $1. But let’s face it, it was a big ask from the bank - who likes to mess with a perfectly posed profile pic? And why was a bank wading into mental health anyway – how could they be authentic? So, they followed the five social pillars:

1. Live in social

2. Understand our role as facilitator

3. Let it self-moderate

4. Let Kiwis be the message and the media

5. Have a real proof point

And the activation took hold in a big way. Kiwibank wound up donating $50,000 to I AM HOPE – all thanks to a smart, meaningful social media campaign.

While we’re on the topic – it’s important to note that being real and having passion can go a long way in creating meaningful social conversations. Hofmann was clear that it was Mike King who was the real star of the campaign. His knowledge, passion and openness gave the campaign the authentic feel it needed for success.

How social can give joy – and drive an increase in followers

Social media can be used to share joy. Who doesn’t like a little surprise? For Caitlin Attenburrow, Brand Manager at Whittaker's, this was key to breaking the gifting market last Christmas. With competitors outspending the brand 6 to 1, they knew they needed a winning formula to get the Whittakers Christmas products the reach they deserved.

Luckily, they had all the elements they needed for success - a delicious product, a strong, beloved brand, an engaged following and a marketing team that knew how to work with organic social algorithms.

Knowing that Instagram prioritised live stories, Whittakers went live on Instagram for six hours over three evenings to give away their new Christmas product. Using their marketing team (not Nigella this time) as on-air talent, they asked their audience to tune in and nominate someone who deserved a gift at Christmas via DM. The marketing team announced the winners live from their Christmas studio, then set about wrapping the gifts and writing gift tags – while responding to every DM that came through. This drove virality, as excited Whittakers fans shared the campaign and personal messages with their own following.

The result? They gained 4,600 new followers over the three live gifting nights – and made Christmas a little sweeter for Whittaker’s followers.

Turning social engagement into real-world engagement (and back again)

It’s tough out there for radio – with digital streaming services disrupting the industry, marketers must be extraordinarily creative and resourceful to keep their audience listening times up as well as being engaged with the station.

When The Edge faced this challenge, they looked to their in-house resource, a line-up of much-loved, hilarious radio announcers, and decided that the answer lay in…locking them up in safe houses, forcing them to perform pointless challenges via live-stream, and getting the station’s fans to follow clues to set them free. All in real-time. All in real life.

They asked fans to join a Facebook group and follow a landing page where they dropped clues and posted videos to give the station the engagement they needed. Fans became obsessed with freeing the presenters and made friends within the group – sharing their hunches and setting off to find their local safe house. Who says the internet can’t create real-life connections?

And it paid off. As well as increasing their listening time and reigniting their fans’ interest in the station, The Edge saw a 42% increase in average video streams and a 59% increase in page impressions.

So, all is not lost in social media marketing. In fact, we should probably take inspiration from these brands and work a little harder to make the internet a better place – to spread hope, give some joy, and make our fans laugh every once in a while.