“#IDo”: What Social Media Marketers can Learn from Weddings

There are lots of posts and articles out there about social media marketing. Some are how-to guides covering technical requirements, some are data-driven theories about what type of content gets the most shares, some are fluff pieces and clickbait.

But what I want to look at today (in a very quick and overview-ish way) is how ‘regular people’ use social networks when they’re talking about weddings (their own and other people’s), and what we as marketers can learn from that about how to engage with our audiences.

image credit: Hugh McLeod, GapingVoid.com

I chose the example of weddings because social media is increasingly a medium through which we experience and share major life events. If we want people to engage with our content, we need to understand how they themselves use each platform we’re working with. Too many marketer-oriented articles get bogged down in technical details such as ‘whether posts with images are more shared than text-only posts on Facebook’ and neglect the bigger picture (no pun intended) motivations for the sharing.

Plus it was a great excuse to look at all the pretty Pinterest wedding boards! (shhh)

NB: Demographics data is taken from the Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update 2013, and is therefore US-specific.

Facebook

Demographics:

  • most popular social network

  • particularly appealing to women (76%),

  • 18-29-year-olds (84%), and

  • those with household income of less than $50,000 per year (76%).

Used for:

  • life story curation

  • friends/family network

  • talking about the past, what’s already happened, and keeping up with people long-distance

  • personal identity focus

  • multimedia, but largely text and photo based content

Facebook is a place where people can curate their life story (and often make it look better than it is). The target audience for this narrative is friends and family, and the platform is primarily used to report on events which have already happened.

So when it comes to weddings, Facebook is the first port of call for engagement announcements, wedding albums, and making your new last name official (and don’t forget the honeymoon pics!).



What this means for us as marketers is that we should be using Facebook to talk about things that people will find appealing on a personal rather than a promotional level. People are more inclined to share things on Facebook when it speaks to a personal cause or interest, and/or tells an interesting story; especially if it allows them to ‘look good’ in front of friends and/or family.

This also makes Facebook a much better B2C channel than B2B.

Buzzfeed does a great job of creating engaging Facebook content. As you can see, their headlines are often strongly tied to personal identity (especially their recent batch of ‘What X are You’ style quizzes):

Another great, campaign-specific example is the Proctor and Gamble “Proud Sponsor of Moms” campaign, which saw the campaign video(s) widely shared on Facebook. The strong positive response to this video was most likely due to the emotional appeal of the video which made it extra shareable on a family/personal network site like Facebook. The campaign also included a Facebook app which allowed users to create their own tribute for their mother.

Pinterest

Demographics:

Used for:

  • aspirational, personal mindset

  • multimedia, but highly visual in content

  • planning and/or collaboration

  • future-focused: things I want to do, not things I have done

  • self-focused: boards are personal; curation for self rather than others

Pinterest is different from the other social networks in that the focus of what you share is really for your own benefit rather than for other people. This is because of the way Pinterest works: you have boards which you add ‘pins’ to, usually to save things for later or to create mood boards for projects, or for inspiration (such as beautiful travel photos or funny/uplifting quotes). It is also a much more collaborative platform than some of the others: boards can have multiple contributors, which makes it very useful for planning purposes.

Pins will then appear on a ‘feed’ broken down by ‘Featured’, ‘Popular’, and categories, but the emphasis is on the individual pin rather than either on the collection (or ‘board’), or on the person sharing. Therefore, unlike Facebook, users ‘follow’ people who curate the sort of content they enjoy seeing, rather than adding ‘friends’ (although many users, especially when first signing up, will follow people they know offline).

When it comes to weddings, Pinterest is perhaps the most integral to the wedding planning process, with ‘Weddings’ featured as a content category.

Pinterest is a sort of one-stop-shop for wedding ideas and mood board creation.

And the collaborative element means that you can include your bridesmaids and mother(/mother-in-law) in the process.

Some women even create wedding boards before they’re actually planning a real wedding:

Because of the aspirational and planning elements of this model, Pinterest works best for businesses with highly visual aspects to their products, especially in entertainment, recreation and leisure industries (especially any industries which fall under the Pinterest top-level categories); or DIY-related industries.

For the same reason, it’s generally a much more B2C focused channel rather than B2B. The main thing we need to remember: Pinterest is a platform for curation of beautiful images rather than for broadcasting a corporate message. If users see your account as a place to discover great visual content, they are much more likely to follow you. You are also likely to see good results if you are able to share content around how to do things, whether it’s home DIY or beauty tips.

A brand that’s really good at understanding how people use Pinterest is Sephora, who believe that ‘women really want to take beauty and make it their own’ and have built their Pinterest presence around the idea that ‘women connect over beauty’ (watch their VP of Interactive Media talk about this in more depth here). And it works; they have over 200,000 followers:

Another great Pinterest brand account (with over 3 million followers) is Lowes, who really succeed at playing into the DIY aspect of Pinterest:

Instagram

Demographics:

  • most popular among 18-29-year-olds (37%)

  • tends to appeal more to urban (22%) and suburban (18%) than rural (6%) respondents.

Used for:

  • life curation: in images

  • visual content

  • art-focused: filters allow anyone with a cameraphone to create beautiful images

Instagram is a great platform for curating wedding albums, especially since using custom hashtags allows all your guests to curate their photos in the same location. (If you don’t believe me, check out these posts on how to hashtag your wedding.)

This makes it the platform of choice for sharing and curating everything from engagement pics and artsy wedding photos to the honeymoon album. It’s also a great collaborative platform, like Pinterest but in real-time, since the hashtag approach allows all your guests to combine their respective photos into one virtual feed (which you can then download and post in your Facebook wedding album for a more permanent feel).

What we can learn from this as marketers is the value of understanding Instagram images as part of a larger story and conversation with our followers. We need to add something besides standard product images if we want to capture users’ imaginations. The images you add to your Instagram feed need to feel artistic and creative.

Some brands who do a great job of this already:

Christian Louboutin have over 2 million followers. They post stunning images of their iconic red-soled shoes in artistic settings (including actual artwork!):

The images are beautiful in their own right and most don’t feel like ‘sales’ product images:

Converse take a similar approach, albeit with a different target audience. They intersperse images of their sneakers with other striking images to appeal to their target audience, such as this graffiti artwork:

The Converse Instagram account:

RedBull are a slightly different example, but like the other two, they intersperse artistic product images (like the one below, for Mardi Gras), with dramatic images of extreme sports and stunning views:



Twitter

Demographics:

  • roughly equal gender split

  • most popular among 18-29-year-olds (31%)

Used for:

  • real-time element: live-tweeting events

  • commentary and curation: this is why you ‘follow’ people rather than adding ‘friends’

  • ephemeral: Facebook curates your whole life story, Twitter is about moments in time

  • text-focused content: 140 character limit

  • virtual group conversion: with hashtags

Ah, Twitter.

Twitter’s a funny one for the purposes of this blog post. In fact, when I was planning the post I was hesitant to include it because I wasn’t sure how (or if) people did use Twitter for weddings.

Then I found this: #MikeProposes

Basically, Mike Duerksen used Twitter to allow people to follow along with his proposal to his girlfriend on the hashtag #MikeProposes.

In the end, more than 700 tweets mentioned the hashtag as other people began to get involved in the conversation. And this, to me, sums up one of the best uses for Twitter from a marketing point of view: the ease with which you can get a conversation started.

And lest we think this was a one off - it’s not. There was even a couple who tweeted their vows. They may be an edge case, granted, but nonetheless what we can learn from these examples is the value of Twitter for real-time updates and allowing virtual engagement with a physical event by those who can’t be present physically.

Because of the character limit and the slightly counterintuitive way that conversation threads are displayed (although this has been improved recently) it can be easy to forget that Twitter is actually a great place to hold virtual events and conversations. It’s not just for customer service or broadcasting information about deals (although these are great ways to use it as well). Twitter is a great platform for engaging with your followers through hashtag-based live chats — text-based versions of the more familiar webinar events — and live-blogging of other presentations and events.

Three brands that currently do this are IBM, Whole Foods and Ryanair.

IBM, for instance, uses their Twitter account @IBMbigdata to host weekly chats on the hashtag #BigDataMgmt. Each week a new group of guest hosts are invited, and IBM keeps things rolling by tweeting questions to be answered by participants. They also share this list of questions on their big data website, www.ibmbigdatahub.com/events, in the days leading up to each chat.

Whole Foods hosts weekly #WFMdish chats on their @wholefoods account, which are centered around healthy foods, recipes, and other tips for the kitchen. And Ryanair use the #AskRyanair hashtag to host a weekly live Q&A on their @Ryanair account.

Youtube

Demographics

NB: YouTube demographics taken from this report.

  • The most popular age demographic on YouTube is 18 to 29.

  • YouTube is fairly split between male and female users.

Used for:

  • video content (audio-visual)

  • humour/shock value/emotional elements

  • visual stories

Youtube is a great platform when it comes to weddings. You can find everything from over-the-top proposals, to gag reel style clips, to creative ways that people celebrated the big  day.

Here’s a handful of my favourites:

I’ll be honest: The main reason I love that one is because, shortly after going viral, it was parodied on the American version of ‘The Office’ tv show:

Here’s a couple Broadway-style tributes:

Fiddler on the Roof

Les Miserables

And a hilariously cute blooper:

What all of these examples have in common is:

  • a surprising/humourous element

  • an audio-visual element

  • an emotional element

This is because Youtube is all about humour, emotional appeal and/or shock value (good or bad), and visual storytelling. As my colleague Phil Nottingham is fond of pointing out, Youtube (like most social media) is a platform for brand awareness, not direct conversions. It’s not a place to stick your 50 most boring product demo videos.

A great example of a brand using Youtube effectively is the P&G ‘Thank You Mom’ campaign which is now running again around the Sochi Olympics (the previous version was launched for the London 2012 Olympics) and Paralympics. This video series has obvious emotional appeal, a strong reason for using an audio-visual format, and a surprising element with the theme of children in what should be adult roles. The Tough Love video alone has over 2 million views:

Bonus: Buzzfeed

Buzzfeed isn’t technically a social media platform but a lot of Buzzfeed content gets shared on social networks, especially Facebook. So there is a tenuous link there!

As a fun bonus for making it all the way to the end, here are some of my favourite wedding-themed Buzzfeed posts for your reading pleasure:

Now it’s your turn. Do you agree that social media marketers should be learning from the way ‘normal people’ use social networks? Do you have any other examples/suggestions to add?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

About the author
Bridget Randolph

Bridget Randolph

Bridget joined Distilled in November 2012. An American born and bred (originally from a small Virginia town), Bridget came to the UK as a grad student in 2010, and didn't want to leave! In September 2012, she completed an M.Sc. in social...   read more