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May the Fourth be with You: Two Social Media Lessons from Star Wars

Modern Marketing

May 4, 2016

download-11.jpegEvery May fourth, the calendar offers the perfect pun for Star Wars fans. It’s #StarWarsDay today and we’re taking the opportunity to review a couple social media learnings from the most recent Star Wars release.

Star Wars released the highly anticipated seventh installment in the galaxy’s favourite “trilogy” on December 14, 2015. It was a marketing juggernaut for filmmaker Disney, their partners, and numerous other brands. As you can imagine, their social media strategy employed many tactics but they powerfully leveraged their brand partners, and [global] social media network (aka. fan base), to gain major traction on social media. Using Star Wars as the backdrop, the focus of our conversation will be how you can leverage (a) your social media network and (b) social media trending topics to gain additional social media traction.

Perhaps you don’t have Disney backing (you don’t?!), or an enterprise like Star Wars, to spread the word of your brand, product or service on social media. Perhaps you’re just starting out; you only have 200 Instagram followers, are still figuring out how to swipe your way around Snapchat and office inspiration is limited to an exchange between you and your goldfish (goldfish magnet, not even a real fish). Leveraging your network, and trending events, is still a tactic you can employ to expose more people to whatever it is you do.

Let’s begin by acknowledging the social media success surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s staggering so I’ll just note that there were 2.8 million tweets using the #StarWars hashtag during the opening month alone (December 2015) and 88 million views of the teaser in the first 24 hours. I think we can agree on the flurry of digital conversations that the movie generated (1).

Leverage Your Social Network

As a fashion-magazine-reading woman (rare, I know), I was very familiar with the Star Wars x Covergirl collaboration, which represents only one of the many many partnerships including Hewlett Packard, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Coffee-Mate, Target and, Google (2). The Google partnership is worth noting, for our purposes because of the digital context. They created a #ChooseYourSide campaign, asking users to choose either the “dark side” or the “light side” as customized themes for their Google apps. This was a clever way to engage fans online and become involved in the greater Star Wars conversation. For an example, closer to our Canadian roots, note what the Alberta NDP government didto celebrate with fans on May 4th, then remind them to vote on May 5th. What social relationships, business or personal, can you work with to create mutually beneficial results? Which fans of your product, or you, can help raise awareness of your offer, and how can you, in turn, support theirs? Think of approaching someone with a larger audience than yours, an audience where a synergy exists, and createsome sort of mutually beneficial exchange for exposure. Is it just a kind ‘ask’? Come prepared with suggested wording, and imagery, to make it very easy for them to support you. Asking your network to create the content for you may create time barriers to being involved or result in miscommunication. On the flip side, remember to remain flexible and allow for them to edit the message so it aligns with their brand or voice.

Leverage Trending Topics

What if you’re not a “formal strategic partner” but you want to capitalize on the hype surrounding a trending event, topic or hashtag? As a form of genuine expression, or genuine synergy between your personal brand or company, this presents a great social media opportunity for your brand. Fans jumped on the chance to share their personal Star Wars stories using a range of hashtag’s relevant in the moment (#StarWarsDay, #MayThe4thBeWithYou, #ForceAwakens, #ForceFriday, are some) to connect with other fans (and brands). Let’s use a different, less colossal example. Let’s say you own a restaurant, or a micro brewery or you have a personal affinity for smoothie recipes, then relish that tomorrow, May 5th, is National Beverage Day (3); plenty of ways to internet the word “beverage” and get creative and create social media conversations. If the conversation is owned by a corporation, for example the International Olympic Committee and The Olympics, then you are stepping into the arena of ambush marketing which is most prolific in, you guessed it, large sporting events. With Rio 2016 fast approaching, watch how brands around you try to do this and which succeed and which fail. At our level of our conversation, indirect ambush marketing is more likely to be relevant than full on direct ambush marketing. “Indirect ambush marketing involves a non-sponsor making use of imagery and themes similar to what the event and campaigns from official sponsors express, either positively or negatively, and without making specific references to the event itself or its trademarks. In essence, the advertiser markets itself using content that evokes a mental association with the event, and as a result, appeals to those who are aware of the event. Advertisers may use a well-known generic nickname for the event that is not a trademark, such as “the big game” “. (4) I’ve collected a few examples below (5).

The social media galaxy is a major force to be reckoned with and we’ve reviewed, using the example of Star Wars, how you can leverage your social network and social trends to harness some of that force for your personal brand or company. Give this a try…no, wait, do or do not, there is no try (6), and let us now know how it goes.

(3) National Day Calendar
(4) Wikipedia
(6) Yoda