Tearing Apart Killer Marketing Tactics From Shark Week

Shark Week, a smash-hit marketing initiative by the Discovery Channel, pulled in nearly 30.8 unique viewers last year, making 2010 a record breaker.

GetGlue Shark Week StickerShark Week started way back in 1987 and last year, and many celebrities have hosted the event since, including the guys from American Chopper, Mythbusters, Les Stroud, and Craig Ferguson. This year, Andy Samberg will host the event as the first ever “Chief Shark Officer.

Will Discovery’s 2011 week-long event gain more viewers than 2010? Can social media’s growth transfer over well into TV viewership and web views?

Time to try and tear apart some of their marketing tactics.

Online Awareness of Shark Week

As you can see, this year, social mentions of “Shark Week” have skyrocketed already in July, which is not surprising as the event begins soon. Marketing campaigns are ramping up.

Shark Week social mentions tracked via Topsy

Greatest search volumes for “Shark Week” happened in July until 2009, when August started becoming the most popular time for the search query. Perhaps social media’s real-time feature has something to do with that since it has almost always aired in August or the last few days in July.

Searches for Shark Week plotted on Google Trends

Did Shark Week Create A Killer Social Campaign?

Let’s face facts, marketing Sharks may be about the coolest project a marketing team can be tasked with. Discovery has had over a two decades to get the hang of promoting the week-long event, so they should be old pro’s by now. Lets look at some of their marketing strategies for 2011.

  1. iPad and iPhone apps and special web viewing.
  2. Shark games, quizzes, and interactive’s.
  3. Partnered with GetGlue for Digital Sticker Campaign featuring Lady Gaga’s “Teeth” song.
  4. UGC (User Generated Content) – Fan videos, photo sharing, live tweets, and comments.
  5. Episodes will be available in iTunes.
  6. “Upload Your Photo” campaign on the official Facebook page.
  7. Full line of “Shark Week” apparel, skateboard decks, USB drives, and more.
  8. More shark-related news on News.Discovery.Com.
  9. Not only tweets directed to @Discovery, but also @SharkWeek, an official dedication Twitter profile for the event, highlighting their #Keyword (hashtag) #SharkWeek.
  10. Partnered with ThisMoment to host the custom Facebook application.

Shark Week Facebook Page

I was not able to find any Facebook ads regarding Shark Week. Facebook ads are good at hooking loyal fans, and so a topic like Discovery’s Shark Week could have been very effective. Not a great start.

Shark Week on FacebookChecking the credentials of the page, I found the About/Bio section lacking any real meat. It simply said, “Welcome to the official Shark Week Facebook page! The content on this page is primarily focused to our US network.”

OK. I suspect most users already guessed that bit, so why not re-iterate what are we supposed to do here?

Clearly, the main thing to do is photo sharing through the Facebook app. We all know incentives are an age old marketing tactic. Discovery is offering the vague promise of “prizes” for the best user submitted photos. Although this strategy is better than nothing, it does not easily enable a substantial portion of the US to enter without them having to really go the extra mile. In Minnesota, I would have to go to a toy store to find anything with a shark!

Further digging around reveals that users who submit photos receive a 20% off discount from the Shark Week apparel store, but this is a secret bonus. An incentive like this could be made to more upfront and used to encourage more Likes at entry level of the page. Far less complex than a custom application and probably far more effective. All in all, the opportunity to bait a lot of Facebook Likes seems to have swum right by them.

The app is hosted on a non-discovery.com domain (sharkweek.thismoment.com), and the app doesn’t seem to be custom from the ground up. Comparing the Facebook Page App against the official “America’s Got Talent” Facebook Page App, will show the difference between a custom application and a re-purposed application.

Also, the photo rating system does not seem to be working. If it is, then there is no verification that your rating was recorded. Perhaps a recent Facebook update or an overeager Facebook app developer bit off more than he/she could chew?

In summary, if I had to rate how streamlined Discovery’s Facebook strategy for the user, I would have to say it is a bit of a dog(fish).

An easier strategy would have been free Twitter backgrounds, desktop backgrounds, shark-themed profile images for fans to display proudly for shark week. I think they could have used an interactive game as a custom tab. This of course, would tap into many of the social-based actions that have came out of mobile gaming in the past two years. High scores, sharing, friend invites, and so forth.

Shark Week Twitter Page

By contrast, the Twitter campaign is a lot sharper.

Shark Week on Twitter

Razor-sharp tactics include:

  1. The bio is leaps and bounds better than the Facebook page. A #SharkWeek hashtag is branded in the bio and there is a link to the main microsite.
  2. A very cool ‘easter egg’ on the Twitter page is that a shark is hidden to the very far right of the background graphics. A user may not notice it unless they maximize their browser window to the screen’s full width. My only criticism is that a second mention of the hashtag might have been useful to re-iterate graphically.
  3. The tweets largely consist of @mentions, shark-related news updates, and specifics regarding their campaign (taken from “Quizzes” on their site and news.discovery.com) – this is a good example of spreading content on Twitter!
  4. It is unclear whether or not @SharkWeek mentions are being featured on the Discovery Channel, Discovery.com, or the Discovery Facebook Page, but if i was Chief Shark Office that is exactly what would demand to increase engagement.
  5. The link to official promo video for Shark Week 2011 “Show Me Your Teeth” includes an iTunes logo, but no Twitter or Facebook logos.
  6. The Brand Channel Box on the Discovery Networks YouTube channel to promote engagement and sharing across both channels.

Overall, the social media campaign is doing all of the basics well, but just not exceptionally enough to make it win any awards this year. Top marks to Twitter and a ‘could do better’ to Facebook.

Will you be watching?

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