To take your social strategy to the next level, you have to research your customers, your competition, and even yourself to re-strategize your presence on social media.

What most small businesses forget is that you can also learn a lot from researching big brands who don’t operate in your industry. You may not be able to have the same scale of campaigns due to budgetary differences, but you can acquire strategies to apply to your own campaigns.

One of my favorite big brands to look at for this purpose is Coca-Cola. From just the mention of their name, I bet you are imagining a red can with fancy typography – am I right?

That’s because Coke knows a few things about branding and has extended that expertise to social media as that channel has grown over the past decade.

To help your own social presence grow, take these five strategy lessons from Coca-Cola’s social media campaigns.

5. Understand Your Audience
For a social campaign to go viral, your strategy must be both appealing your audience, and easy for them to share. But, you can only come up with that kind idea if you know your audience and what they enjoy.

Ask yourself: Where do customers interact with my product or service?
For Coke, it could be the vending machine. They already brand the machines with their logo and banner, but could they further this idea?

What do my customers enjoy? Do they use my product/service alone or do they use it in conjunction with something (or someone) else?
Coke realized they could add value to the traditional vending machine by providing “extras” to those who order a Coke (based on the social setting where their beverages are often consumed).

Knowing information beyond the demographics of a customer, allows a higher-level knowledge to make informed decisions.

Therefore, Coke produced a series of special vending machines to capitalize on the data they gathered. They added dancing, singing, and friends to reach the goal of purchasing a Coke. The best example is their first vending machine, The Happiness Machine, which delivered everything from flowers to foot-long subs to improve happiness on a college campus in New York.

4. Remember That Social is a Two-Way Conversation
The only way to understand your audience is by first LISTENING to them.

On every social platform there is system in place for comments and replies. It is a platform for brands and customers to have their opinions heard and acknowledged.

In May 2014, it was reported that 83% of Coke’s monthly tweets, despite high volumes of mentions, were direct replies.

Can you say the same for your own Twitter account?

Whether a user mentions your brand with a positive or negative comment, it is essential to respond to their message. It shows visitors you care about your users and actively work to uphold your brand promises. Lack of engagement shows neglect of your profiles and your users; so it is best to stay on top of all communication. After all, you are posting on Facebook, Twitter, and all other social platforms to speak WITH your audience not AT them.

3. Leverage Crowdsourcing
If you have already gotten to know your audience and mastered engaging with them, it’s time to start using this relationship to your benefit.

Crowdsourcing in this scenario means taking advantage of user generated content for your own social profiles.

Obviously, Coke has built quite the foundation of fans over the years and has turned to them many times to produce amazing viral content. The most recent? #ShareACoke.

First, Coca-Cola took their product labels and added “Share a Coke with” the 250 most popular first names amongst American teens and Millennials. Then, Coke asked users to add the hashtag #ShareACoke to tell stories and share photos about their experience with the campaign. The posts with the hashtag were featured on interactive Coke billboards around the country.

According to Simply Measured, 96% of the consumer sentiment toward the campaign was either positive or neutral and Instagram was the biggest hit in sharing the stories.

Simply Measured Instagram Stats on Coke

Coke knew they could count on their audience to engage with a fun social experiment. They had seen it in their vending machine campaigns and decided to add to their successful social media strategy.

If your audience is often willing to participate in your campaigns, you should simply ask them to create fun content through contests and hashtag campaigns. This way, there is incentive for them to participate, and a platform for you to gather content!

2. Dare to Be Different
Back in 1997, AOL launched AIM and took teenagers into a whole new dimension of communication. Email inboxes and chatrooms were new, and no one knew what this would mean for marketing. And in 2003, Coca-Cola took a chance in experimenting with the new technology and created something called

This website was a branded virtual meeting place for teens who loved music, much like a chatroom. Visitors voted on music mixes played in virtual clubs and won “decibels” based on how well their mix was received by other visitors. It was gamification and viral marketing at its best. And it was only discovered by taking a chance on a piece of new technology.

While Coke had the financial backing to take this type of risk, you can still apply it to your own strategies on a smaller scale. Is there a social platform where you have yet to establish a presence? Is there a larger out-of-the-box campaign you have been scared to try?

If you have the loyal audience and creative ideas, you won’t learn if they work or not unless you try. Take the chance on your idea and learn from it.

1. Be True to Who You Are
One of the oldest Coca-Cola campaigns involved lovable polar bears enjoying an ice cold Coke. And no matter how many years have passed, Coke pays homage to this campaign by incorporating the adorable creatures in some of their marketing materials.

The last time they made their appearance was in the mix of 2012 Super Bowl commercials. Two polar bears reacted to the game in real time and viewers could interact through asking questions and posting photos to Facebook and Twitter.

They kept to their core brand marketing tactics and updated them with the integration of social media.

So while you may dare to start that Instagram account, don’t forget who you are on your website, in your store, and to your customers when establishing new ways to engage with them.

See, I told you there was a lot to learn from big brands!

Which Coke campaign inspired you the most? Share with us in the comments!

About the Author: Deanna Zaucha is the Content Marketing Coordinator for Webs and Pagemodo, and also manages our social media presence. She can be found on a dance floor, or on her iPhone keeping up with trends in marketing and tech. Get more from Deanna on Pagemodo’s Blog and Google+.


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