Activating and managing a social community is a proven tactic to drive brand awareness and engagement. I’ll be sharing insights from giffgaff’s social media strategy, and stories from our high-profile work around popular TV shows, such as The Voice UK, Crystal Maze and The Circle – discussing how we create buzz and then manage customer experience.

At giffgaff, we think the story of how we came to be is a great one. Our founders decided things could be done differently, and so they pitched an idea to Telefonica who funded the initial launch – but we are an independent business.

We love that we’re small and online only, it means we can keep costs down which we then transfer to our members. (Members is what we like to call our customers). Our members manage our community forum, they submit new product or proposition ideas, they support our social agents for help queries.

‘giffgaff: the mobile network run by you’ is the most recognisable tagline for UK telcos. And, as you can see, we embody that in everything we do.

This year, our focus is on harnessing the power of people, challenging the established way – and then improving it. We’re an agile, collaborative bunch – so we can make changes or try new ideas very quickly.

A key goal for us this year is to create iconic experiences together, in ways worth sharing. Social naturally lends itself to this. After all, you only have the make one typo in a tweet and shared before you realise it. We’ve all been there. So we strive to ensure our shareable experiences are positive.

But what’s the opportunity for sponsorships?

Our very first TV sponsorship was The Big Bang Theory in 2012 on Channel 4. We wanted to do this in a way true to giffgaff – mutual and collaborative. So, our ads showed things blowing up. And what we blew up was decided on by our Facebook community. It became the most recalled ad spot at the time.

We decided to extend this community-led approach to all future sponsorships. Between 2015 and 2017, we sponsored approx 15 shows on E4. We watched the show alongside fans and tweeted along. For the first year, we did all of that ourselves. We had no lives, and we watched a lot of TV. We did then enlist the help of an agency in 2016 to lighten the load. The E4 community fully embraced us, using the hashtag #giffgaffE4 whenever they were watching, and the hashtag was even used by the writer of The 100 too.

Sponsorship does more than raise awareness, it built consideration and influenced sales. Econometrics and our attribution studies also showed sponsorships helped contribute to Phone and SIM sales too. Hence us going bigger and sponsoring shows like The Voice in 2018 and again in 2019.

Whilst The Voice UK was a big, bold risk for us, we knew that we had a winning strategy using social media to continue and develop.

For every sponsorship, we:

  • Connect with communities and fans who watch the show with relevant content
  • Watch the show alongside fans live – reacting and enjoying the action on the night as it airs

For some sponsorships, we have access to shows ahead of time. We use this to plan our content, but we have a strict guideline of being ‘one of the fans’ when live tweeting. We never appear as if we know more than the fans we’re watching with.

In ‘run by you’ style, we like to hero members or fans of a show in our sponsorship ads. But we’re also careful to never just be doing the same thing every time. We’re big on optimising.

Between The Voice last year compared to this year (to date), we’re posting less on social media, and spending less too – but we’re seeing more impressions, more engagement and more share of voice.

On the paid side, this is down to better targeting and improved content, but it’s mostly because we chose to prioritise differentiating our brand through conversation – rather than compete with paid content.

We do this several ways, the most common one is using fans own tweets in our ads.

And people absolutely love to have their moment of fame. This year, we even have gifs of the TV ads to hand so that we can respond to each of these people with their own bespoke gif.

The impact of what we do on social media revolves around the real relationships we build with fans throughout a show run. So much so that fans of one show will start watching another purely because they have seen we’re sponsoring it. Fans of The Voice UK and The Crystal Maze joined us to chat about The Circle last year.

There are also moments where we truly realise the impact we’re having. We had a DM from a fan after the finale of Crystal Maze who told us how chatting to us each week helped her cope through some dark patches of depression. One fan lost her mum, and sent us a message apologising that she wouldn’t be there to live tweet as a result. We sent her a card to let her know we were thinking of her, and she was overwhelmed.

So, how are we building on iconic experiences worth sharing for The Voice this year? We took 4 fans on their own photoshoot – so that we could hero them and their words on Twitter and Instagram. Lynn, seen below, was especially overwhelmed by the experience. It’s been over a month, and she is still posting about how much the experience meant to her over a month later.

Early March, we took 2 competition winners (and their plus ones) on an exclusive experience at the filming of the Knockout rounds. They traveled from their (paid for) hotel to the studio in a ‘Party Bus’, had an exclusive backstage area to themselves before going in, and then got to enjoy their favourite show from some of the best seats in the house.

But we wanted every stage of the journey to be magical for them, so when we posted their prize (a Sony Xperia XZ3), we included a host of other goodies – including sweeties, party canon, a karaoke mix.

So what’s the outcome of sponsorship on social media?

  • We’re chatting to hundreds of people throughout each show, as well as during the Sunday rerun and throughout the week. I once had a One Direction pun-off with a fan for a full 30 minutes.
  • During broadcast, we have an average of 20% share of voice with the official The Voice UK Twitter.
  • Our live tweets and conversations are purely organic, but they’re shareable. This approach significantly drives up our impressions – without costing us a penny more.

Positive sentiment! Fans love chatting to us – in fact they’re often starting the conversations.

And it’s always great to end on a positive – so thanks for reading.

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