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How traditional companies are using social media in unexpected ways

I hear it all the time: Social media makes sense for hot, edgy and risk-averse lifestyle brands with loyal followers. Brands that have an established reputation like Nike and RedBull use tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to extend their brands and excite their audiences.

No one was surprised, for example, when RedBull released the point-of-video Stratos Jump that garnered more than four million views within a week. Or when Colgate-Palmolive erected ice climbing walls in key locations across Canada. By encouraging fans to share video and photos of their experience, they were able to zero in on their target demographic (20- to 30-year-old males).

But for more traditional, business-to-business (B2B) brands or those that deliver a more utilitarian product or service to customers, is there still an opportunity? Absolutely. And in fact, if done right, unexpected social media magic can happen.

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Turn up the heat

Duracell Canada recently released a 'social experiment" video, which encouraged commuters to hold hands as a way to power up a heated bus station in Montreal. The video captured Duracell taking over the bus stops and the reaction of strangers who were lucky enough to experience a little warmth during the polar vortex. The Moments of Warmth video was viewed more than 400,000 in a week, leading to thousands of conversations around a battery company that wouldn't have happened without the support of social media.

Create the conversation

Danish container shipping giant Maersk Line is a fairly traditional company that has taken advantage of social media. After numerous 'container spotters' started posting photos of the ships on the Inernet, Maersk Line jumped on board with this phenomenon using the hashtag #maerskline and uploaded the photos to the Maersk Facebook page helping grow it to 400,000 fans in just 11 months. The company quickly added Instagram and Pinterest and the photos are making waves with more than 25,000 followers on Instagram alone.

Stay socially consistent

General Electric is a good example of a company that is not doing anything out of the ordinary but rather perfecting the art of consistency. In addition to posting fresh content, GE regularly taps into already trending conversations like Throwback Thursday (#TBT) by posting photos on their social feeds that date back to the 60s. Everyone loves nostalgia and the recent Pi-Day Instagram post, which celebrated the 'circles of life,' garnered 1,500 likes. GE is consistently owning conversations by finding ways to integrate its brand into the current news cycle.

The opportunities on social are endless. Every brand, regardless of size or status, has an opportunity to engage fans with smart, creative campaigns. It can be as simple as a smart post that leverages a trending conversation, to a large integrated campaign that encompasses everything from paid, experiential and earned. While it may not always make sense at first glance, a creative and strategic approach can make magic on these platforms.

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Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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