How a bad social media post become one of our most successful campaigns

By Michael Grierson

Would you believe that we went from this on to left to this on the right?

Looking at this image it’s pretty hard to see the correlation between these two things. One a very kind of mundane social media post that was shared by, well… nobody. The other a powerful tool to help Australians maximise their annual leave and was shared by the likes of Huffington Post, Mamamia and Mashable.

So how did this journey come about? The answer lies in validation of concepts and making decisions based on data

Rewind to October last year. Skyscanner Australia’s Oceania Squad was planning to do an amazing Christmas campaign to get Aussie travellers all excited for the festival season.

If you had asked us why were we doing a Christmas campaign? Our answer would be something like “Well it’s good marketing practice to do a Christmas campaign, as everyone likes to buy things at Christmas, and we could help share the Christmas spirit”. Note: these are all the total wrong reasons to do a campaign. What we did do right though was come up with three different campaign concepts that we thought would get people excited about Christmas and Skyscanner. At that point it was time to test which one would work best. This was the start of our three step journey to campaign success.

1. Validate the idea

Enter social media. With our large and engaged audience we could quickly and easily test which concept would resonate with our audience best and our answer came to us very fast — none of them! Despite the fact we loved these ideas, our audience clearly didn’t, with lacklustre response rates despite high reach across multiple tests.

Even though we believed in our concepts and were emotionally invested that these ideas would work, we always trust the data and so went back to the drawing board.

Speaking of data, we looked at our internal data for more inspiration, and along with market trends found it to be a quieter months for people searching travel. Why? It’s a peak travelling period especially for visiting friends and relatives and so most of travellers have already booked! January on the other hand is our peak period, with many looking to be inspired just after the New Year’s break.

The decision was made to scrap a potential Christmas campaign and put that effort into making the most of January as a peak travel planning period where searches on Skyscanner increase as people look to make their annual bucket-list. A couple quick validation tests later our Bucket-List Calendar was born, with the power promise of turning 17 days annual leave into 43 days off! The next question was: who should we target this at?

2. Validate who to talk to

With Facebook’s powerful ad targeting, combined with their Audience Insights tool, we could show our concept to two different audiences of the same size and see which one responded best to the idea. Some third party ad managers will even have validation tools built in making it extra simple, so there’s no excuses not to do this.

This step may cost $200 or so, but that’s a small price to pay to ensure success when you’re spending tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

3. Start small then scale up big

Our idea of a planning calendar was well received. But creating one for the whole year along with suggested itineraries for each month of the year was going to be a significant effort, and we wanted to ensure we got a good return before we devoted so much time and money.

So check out our MVP. This isn’t the same as your Lebron James NBA superstar MVP. This MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. Literally a proof of concept that’s quick to make but of high enough quality to go public with. Using an MVP, you can test that your idea will be successful without the expense or effort of creating a fully-fledged wiz-bang product.

Our MVP was released and was extremely successful. This not only validated our concept but gave us data that our PR team could use when pitching this idea as an exclusive scoop to media. Next thing we know we had an ‘exclusive’ locked away with one of the giants in online publishing; The Huffington Post.
Reflecting back while writing this, what would have happened if we hadn’t validated any of our ideas? If we stuck to our guns and pushed forward with the Christmas concept that we loved while remaining ignorant to the data that could help us succeed?

I’m sure it wouldn’t have been pretty.

After this first success, now we validate even our smallest ideas, and look to our data to guide our decision making. This approach is like illuminating a pathway to success. Without data and validation, you are really just taking a stab in the dark.

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About the author

Hi, I am Skyscanner’s social media manager for Australia and New Zealand. I am responsible for developing and implementing the social media strategy for the Oceania region and is based in Singapore. I believe that social channels are integral in building trust and strong connections with users and continues to integrate social media campaigns with the wider Growth team. While you may find me often championing user-generated content over glossy stock images, I also care about the impact of influencer advocacy and how they can also help brands build relationships with users.

Michael works in our Skyscanner office in Singapore!