5 Tips to Create Compelling Offline Social Campaigns

Successful social media campaigns aren’t limited to online content. In fact, at Adobe, much of our success comes through what we call social-by-design experiences that bring social media campaigns to life through both offline and online elements. I’m often asked what it takes to create the type of social campaign that goes viral. Although there is no silver bullet to developing a real-world activation with viral appeal, there are some common elements of those that have been the most successful. Here are 5 tips and insights for structuring your next big offline activation.

1. Keep it Simple and Easy to Understand

Successful offline activations are modeled like billboards: the concept needs to be simple and clear enough for someone passing by to get the message. There’s a lot of noise out there today and breakthrough moments need to be smart, but simple enough for anyone to grasp quickly and easily.

2. Tap into Emotions

Genuine emotions—surprise, joy, even empathy—provide context to the type of causes people want to share and become involved in. Remember Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty”? Women everywhere were inspired to think differently about their self-image. An emotional testament to the power of improving self-perception, the video sheds light on the insecurities most women hold and how a simple offline event could create solidarity while showcasing the brand. Not all campaigns are as intrinsically emotive, but behind some of the best, there is a human element.

3. Be Inspired by Now

The opportunity to break through is best when an experience taps culture and trends in real-time. Earlier this year, we watched the Internet explode over a piece of clothing. But just as a tweet about #TheDress next week would have zero cultural significance, offline activations need to be timely to have an impact. First of their kind events are extremely powerful—and with millennials leading the charge, keeping your campaign fresh and relevant is always a good strategy.

4. Integrate Wisely

Many brands drive foot traffic at conferences through offer giveaways and interactive stations. But the focus is often too much on drawing in the audience and not enough on tying engagement back to campaign strategy.

In fall 2014, Adobe launched a campaign to build awareness around a new Adobe Marketing Cloud solution that enables marketers to directly target consumers who abandon online shopping carts. To complement the campaign and drive awareness, the team placed mini shopping carts around the Direct Marketing Association’s Annual Conference & Exhibition . Each cart included statistics on the potential $4 trillion in revenue brands could recapture through targeting abandoned carts, as well as a hashtag and invite to visit the Adobe booth. The creative activation reached more than 1 million Twitter users and was the catalyst driving nearly 40 percent of booth foot traffic.

When developing giveaways, conference activations, or any offline event, tailor the engagement to not only appeal to the right audience, but also support larger strategy. The most compelling activations are tied back to business objectives, and, if faced with choosing between the two, quality always trumps quantity.

5. Make it Participatory with Potential to Spread

In summer 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge drove more than 1.2 million videos on Facebook and 2.2 million mentions on Twitter. Although the campaign met with some skepticism, the physical call to action coupled with call outs on social media raised more than $13.3 million in just a couple of months—more than a 600 percent increase from the same time period the year before.

Two key aspects molded the success of this campaign. One is the involvement of celebrities, which added clout and appeal to consumers. Although not every budget can accommodate partnering with Oprah or Justin Timberlake to kick-start mass adoption, smart brands focus on integrating industry influencers to help spread awareness.

The second was the participatory option. Consumers weren’t asked to view a video and donate, but invited to join in and challenge others to do the same. Giving people the means and a reason to participate has power far beyond asking them to stand by and watch. Look for ways to build activations that appeal to influencers and allow audience participation in a fun and unique way.