Word is out that 30 second spots during this year's SuperBowl are going for a cool $3 million. That's unattainable cash for most small businesses. Even still, I have to wonder if it's a worthwhile investment for the companies that CAN afford it. Surely there's a better way to leverage $3 million to deliver a solid return and ongoing return.

That's the line of thinking Spike Jones over at Brains on Fire was using when he issued a challenge asking how you would spend $3 million to gain a better return than companies will get from those thirty second SuperBowl spots.

So what would you do with $3+ million? Hire a community manager and give them something to manage? Invest in surprising and delighting your biggest fans? Create a sustainable word of mouth movement? Create a customer advisory board? Put it back into engaging your employees (especially customer service)? Do some product sampling? Create avenues to have an authentic, open, two-way conversation with your customers? In other words, create something that will last. That has legs. That is, dare I say it, sustainable.

Mack Collier comes back with a pretty good response.

Mack outlines his cash outlay for community managers, bloggers, evangelists and some offline events designed to draw in a passionate user base. It's a good plan, but too long to summarize here (so go read his whole post.)

He ends up with $600K laying around not doing much of anything, so I'm going to piggy back off of his idea. With $600k, you can still get loads done. Off the top of my head I'd drop $200K on producing some top notch viral quality videos playing off the campaign Mack outlined. I'd then upload them to sites like Google Video and YouTube. I'd use my last $400k on a ginormous paid search advertising campaign to capture some of those post game searches for Superbowl commercials and would feed them into the social community I'd built specifically around these videos.

After all, everyone in search know the real push of Superbowl commercials comes after the game when folks log on and start hunting for videos of the clips online. Why pay the $3 million for that one thirty second spot when you could instead leverage the search interest the event will generate?

The greater point here is how much you can accomplish via social media without spending anywhere near as much as you would on traditional media. While it's true that large companies often drop hundreds of thousands or even millions on complex viral marketing campaigns, there are many companies that succeed on pocket change. Learning how to use techniques like blogging and social media can allow you to stretch your budget and your reach far beyond some of the more traditional outlets you might be used to.

January 22, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


Excellent post Jennifer! Reminds me to start doing some work and get at least one piece prepared for post Super Bowl searching.

I think social media, done right, can do wonders for a small business or any business for that matter.

Nice post and so true! Social media strategies can be relatively low cost in comparison to other channels and the results can be more effective!

Jennifer, I agree that social media can give you the best bang for your marketng buck. One point I'd like to highlight though is this: "I'd drop $200K on producing some top notch viral quality videos playing off the campaign Mack outlined. I'd then upload them to sites like Google Video and YouTube."

Don't be forgetting the most important part of the work. I've seen too many people putting good money into great videos, only to find nobody watches. In this case, Teddy Roosevelt's "if you build it, they will come" doesn't work.

The real place to put your efforts into getting people to actually watch the video. The "pocket change" successes you mention are often based on people recording themselves on $20 webcams!

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Social Media Can Be a Great Way to Stretch Your Ad Budget