Online Marketing Lessons From an American Idol

February 18, 2009

Last night I greatly enjoyed watching fellow Tar Heel and my friend Anoop Desai perform on American Idol. He did a great job and I think it looks like he should probably move on to the next round of twelve.

I must admit, though, that I would have most likely missed the broadcast of the performance if it weren't for online marketing efforts on behalf of Anoop. I'd never watched the show outside of his previous appearances, so I was completely clueless in regard to when it aired and the voting process. However, the online marketing made me aware of his appearance and educated me on the overall process.

A quick Facebook search demonstrates this Idol's online prowess. His fan page and Anoop Desai: American Idol group have more than 15,000 supporters total.

These presences don't simply stand alone but are part of an integrated online marketing campaign. The groups were leveraged to reach out to members and organize "watch parties" around the country, send messages to members, provide resources for members to pass along to their friends, and more. Furthermore, the IOMC leveraged other services such as Twitter, e-mail marketing, and online video.

The campaign spread so virally that my grandma even got an email urging her to use her AT&T phone to vote for Anoop.

Watching this all unfold got me incredibly excited for Anoop but also caused me to think about some of the online marketing lessons that are prevalent in the campaign to get him to the Top 12. Here are some takeaways that I think can apply to organizations marketing online:

  • Use a variety of online services. This campaign featured elements ranging from Twitter to Facebook to classic e-mail. Each included aspect has the potential to reach new people.  Don't just limit yourself to one message medium, as you're probably missing a large portion of your target audience.
  • Leverage the support of those close to you. For Anoop, this meant his college friends that built the initial groups and organized the meetups. For your brand it means your current customers, friends, and employees. They will already be the most passionate about your success and brand, anyway.
  • Have your online efforts translate to offline mobilization. There's still little that can replace actual interaction with other people, so use your online marketing as a spark for people to galvanize around your brand in real life. For Anoop, this meant organizing meetups. For your brand, it means hosting conferences, events, etc. for your online "fans." This is specifically important to online marketing for political campaigns as they translate web support into boots on the ground.
  • Make it so easy to participate that people can't say no. The different groups and emails gave you all of the necessary information to forward along to friends to push them to vote - it took no extra effort other than copying and pasting and typing in their e-mail addresses. If you require too much effort people will resist helping spread your message; take the little bit of extra time to have everything set up for them and it will pay off exponentially as your message spreads virally.
  • Don't shove your message down people's throats; let it happen naturally. I wasn't subjected to dozens of emails or SPAM Twitter messages, because the message was allowed to spread on its own, which made me much more eager to participate. For your brand, this means not SPAMMINGblogs with comments or projecting much more noise than signal in social networks. If people trust you and your motives, they'll be much happier to spread your message on their own, which will pay off in the long run.

Are there other successful online marketing techniques from this case that I left out? Have you seen other "celebrities" successfully leverage online marketing campaigns?

Hope that you found this helpful and that you also voted for Anoop last night!

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