mkhmarketing/Flickr Creative Commons

Companies that Use Social Media to Create a Better Ad Experience

Social media is the way into the hearts, minds, stomachs and pocketbooks of millennials. Or, at least, that’s what many companies and struggling advertising agencies believe.

As millennials, we are attached to our phones and spend much of our day on social media. According to an article on eMarketer.com, Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 spend an average of 233.6 minutes on social media per day (which averages to be about 16% of the day).

It might also be one of the most lucrative options, according to Kevan Lee for Search Engine Journal:

If you’re spending money to advertise online, social media ads may very well earn you the biggest returns. In some cases, it’s the cheapest way to reach people.

Apparently, this is not new to companies who are trying to get more people to view their ads. Using social media to promote specials and sales has really taken off, especially with the continually high interest and participation in social media.

According to Ilya Pozin’s article on Forbes.com, the most popular companies to follow on social media find a way to engage their followers in entertaining and different ways, while still selling their product.

For example, Cranium (with almost 250,000 likes on their Facebook page), the company who makes brainy board games for children, engages their audience by polling them and quizzing them on what questions would be good to add to their games.

Starbucks (with 10.3 million followers on Twitter) includes recipes of their favorite drinks, stereotypical jokes about the typical Starbucks drinker and promotional ads. They also involve other social media sites, such as Pinterest, in their tweets.

Pizza Hut (with 1.3 million followers on Twitter) has also embraced social media as part of their weekly promotions. They post quizzes on which pizza is best for you based on your personality, as well as partnering with ESPN to encourage the purchase of a pizza every game weekend. According to Pozin, one of their sample tweets was, ‘“Bye week. Hi pizza.’”

These companies seem to understand the ways to get into the hearts of those who use social media. Whether or not hardcore journalists and others who protect the idea of “Iron Core” journalism want to admit it, most people enjoy opening up their Twitter or Instagram accounts and seeing one of their favorite snack food companies making fun of a celebrity or referencing a major event of the week, and somehow managing to connect it to one of their products.

One of the most impressive examples of this was in 2013 when there was a power outage during the Super Bowl.

With 6,605 favorites and 15,499 retweets, the Oreo Cookie Twitter account got a lot of positive attention because who doesn’t love an innocent cookie company making fun of one of the most important sports event of the year?

This is just one of many instances where one of the most-noticed advertisements used humor to connect to their audience.

Increasingly, companies are attempting to connect with the millennial generation by using terminology that they believe we use frequently and that they believe we find funny.

Unfortunately, some companies, such as IHOP, strike the wrong chord when they try to involve social media too much with their promotions. Earlier this month and in September, IHOP tweeted a few promotions for pancakes and mini sausages that attempted to poke fun at certain parts of the human anatomy.

As usual, some found it funny and thought it truly did help IHOP to increase their sales. However, as is normally the case with online “controversies”, the people who found it offensive had the loudest voice and IHOP took down the tweets after only a few hours of being live.

According to Jordan Valinsky’s article on Digiday.com, “IHOP has…emulated a quippy and ‘youthful’ tone on its Twitter account over the past year. For example, a tweet that said ‘pancakes on fleek’ collected 27,000 retweets and 19,000 [favorites].”

While I do think it is important for companies to continue to try to connect with younger generations to ensure their popularity stays the same, if not increases, caution must be used because, most likely, those who thought it was funniest are not the ones paying the bills.

Chris Lott/Flickr Creative Commons

So, while several companies have correctly begun using different social media outlets to promote their product, they still have a lot to learn. Since the Internet and social media are so new, however, this is understandable and a learning curve is needed.

But, maybe they shouldn’t publish such questionable things on the Internet until they’ve tested it out because, as is evident by the IHOP controversy, even though they deleted the tweets, they continue to live on online and it will never be forgotten, which is again a new mindset for the Internet age.

Companies that use social media are still trying to find that happy medium between being a serious business and being regarded as another friend for users to follow and keep track of online. I have faith, however, that they will figure out what works for their company and connect somehow with our generation.