Hybrid events may be a new concept but they are already getting an upgrade as marketers mix the timeliness of one-off microsites with the stickiness of social media to form a one-stop branded engagement “platform” that’s always on, always evolving and never out of touch.
With a platform, you don’t have to push consumers to a corporate website, a microsite that’s outdated once the event’s over or out to other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, where the engagement can be strong, but the ability to create custom tools is limited. (Not to mention all the traffic being driven away from your website and directly to someone else’s.) The branded platform brings it all together in one location.
Pepsi uses its social engagement platform to drive worthy causes. Best Buy has one that crowd sources for ideas. And Southwest Airlines uses its platform to create a vibrant and active community. Best of all, these digital footprints can be brought to life as part of the event experience, and afterwards transition attendees back online effortlessly to extend the value of the live engagement.
Check out how Pepsi, Southwest Airlines and Best Buy are using their digital platforms to engage with consumers 24/7.
Throughout Pepsi’s new logo launch and Refresh Everything campaign last year, the brand executed a series of live interactions leading up to the main event on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Out of that campaign grew refresheverything.com, which evolved into a social engagement platform that allows people to submit philanthropic ideas and vie for a chance to receive funding; visitors to the site can vote for their favorite and grants are awarded monthly. There are also social media sharing options, but the initial conversation begins in a fully-customized Pepsi online experience.
The digital footprint also shows up at live events. At this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, the brand brought the online platform to life at the Pepsi Refresh Café where it placed four laptops atop clear cases packed with soda cans and invited attendees to sample product and vote for the social cause of their choice.
“It’s more about creating a digital footprint than it is just about focusing on a destination,” says Bonin Bough, global director-digital and social media at PepsiCo. “It’s about starting a movement and less about a specific moment. Providing not only the sources and funding, but also the tools and guidance for consumers to get the encouragement to continue to bring these great ideas to life and move the community forward.”
These digital platforms are also great because they’re constantly evolving to keep up with the times. Refresheverything.com has upgraded from capturing emails and offering downloadable info to a fully-integrated experience that continues to change as Pepsi’s needs change.
Southwest Airlines’ digital platform nutsaboutsouthwest.com is modeled after a blog and has been evolving since it started four years ago. It’s a place where customers from all over the world can create a profile, enter contests, receive news and event recaps, watch videos and post feedback.
“The blog is great because you can house one conversation,” says Christi Day, emerging media strategy specialist at Southwest Airlines. “It allows us to take a deeper dive into any hot issue that we might have.”
It also helps with web search optimization. If people are googling “traveling with a baby” and that’s a topic on the blog, more eyeballs will land on Southwest’s page. “And you can get analytics on the other side, which show you what stories people are most interested in,” Day says. When the Southwest Porch in New York City’s Bryant Park opened last year, the company extended an invitation to those on its platform before opening day.
“What makes it different from a company website is that you can have a profile and interact with it,” says Day, adding that if you’re thinking of starting a digital platform, remember it’s an around the clock job that requires a dedicated staffer.
Last year, Best Buy started its idea sourcing platform ideax.com, which is now in phase two after a successful beta launch. At first it was a place where customers dumped new ideas, but the new platform will host internal ideas, too, to be posted and later refined after customers have offered their feedback.
“This has an ability to facilitate collaboration and threaded commentary,” says Joshua Kahn, manager-emerging media technology at Best Buy. “Facebook allows some of that stuff, too, but being that this is our own platform we can shape it to deliver the experience however we want to as opposed to Facebook and Twitter where you’re constrained by their features, their platforms and their APIs.”
Kahn plans to execute a number of live experiments in-store to test out the ideas proposed online and engage his readers face-to-face. EM