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Building A Brand With SWAG and Social

Building brand loyalty and earning affordable impressions is a tough business. While there are countless short-term ways to create an impact and drive sales, one of the primary goals of marketing is to create long-term brand evangelists, instead of using marketing spend solely for conversions. As an example, imagine the difference between spending on AdWords and achieving first-page results in Google – while there’s plenty of value in AdWords, having a long-term and cost-effective way to continue reaching new audiences via great SEO is no doubt superior.

Building A Brand With SWAG and Social

Brand Ambassadors

In the same way, swag (promotional materials) can be used in an attempt to earn one new customer, or it can be used to create brand ambassadors who continually add value for your brand by generating buzz and help grow sales, all with minimal direct costs.

The first step to creating brand ambassadors is to discover the individuals who would be both interested in your story and products and who have a following online. This can be done by defining your audience (who you want to reach), and then finding those who influence that audience. Tools like Klout are great for confirming the level of influence an individual has, and for what topic, while Demographics Pro allows you to determine if the user truly influences your target audience (with audience demographics by age, gender, location, and income).

Once you find a demographic segment you’d like to target (such as early-professional millennials), take this information a step further by determining that audience’s interests and ordering swag which meets a need they have. A good choice for early-career millennials, for example, could be branded USB speakers, phone chargers, or headphones. These items are great for the office, and if your solution is tailored to professionals, they are sure to get noticed by other potential customers just by being on a colleagues’ desk.

Social Media

Also, find people who are already excited about your offerings and acting as brand evangelists via social media. Reach out, thank these people, and offer them rewards just for their brand loyalty. It’s an act that they won’t forget, and you can be sure that they’ll be as happy to discuss your company in person as they are online.

James Gibson of Metro Exhibits recommends utilizing the list of contacts of companies attending the show and starting a conversation with those contacts through LinkedIn, which will oftentimes result in scheduling a time to meet at the show. This can provide an automatic ROI and justify the investment made to attend the show before it even starts!

Use Contests

Outside of finding and developing social media influencers to act as evangelists, you can get others involved by creating fun contests which require participation on social media (or in person), with winners earning swag.

Keep in mind, it’s usually better to invest in high quality branded materials than a high-volume of less-expensive promotional products that may not be used. High-quality items will better encourage participation and are more likely to get active use and views by other people. Something as simple as a retweet, like, share or hashtag is something easy for a user to do in order to potentially win a prize of interest to them. The cost of a few promo items to give away can easily be worth the ROI of building awareness and getting visibility on social media platforms.

The best contests are the ones which relate to your brand, growing interest in your market. For example, a food brand or a restaurant might have participants submitting recipe’s or pictures of food they cooked themselves, requiring participants to include both hashtags for your contest and ones targeting the larger “foodie” audience. Drinkware, such as tumblers or wine glasses, are a great prize for this audience.

Video Games

There are also affordable ways to put white-labeled video games on your website, allowing you to give high-score holders (who are now spending free-time willingly being advertised to) free swag.  30% of game players share their scores on social media, so having games available can get players to link back to your site on Facebook and Twitter.

Swag for referrals

You can also include swag as part of a referral package. While discounts or rewards of your own products can encourage sales, they also cut into your bottom line. Instead, create a “swag scale” with better rewards for more referrals, keeping your own products at their high value while still giving clients loyalty incentives.

Sponsor Events

Holding or sponsoring events, such as a charitable 5k road race, allows you to distribute swag and create buzz online, and make a meaningful contribution to your community. They give a great visual at the event itself, where participants are likely to take pictures and share via Instagram and Twitter. Though the effort to make an event a success can be substantial, the payoff can be as well as it will build a loyal team who are excited to work on the next event.

Facebook Likes

And lastly, one of the simplest and most efficient to distribute swag using social media is to exchange promotional materials for a “like” on Facebook and an email address. Not only can this help to bolster your social media following and email list, but will provide a chance to segment and define your audience. Facebook can provide a wealth of information such as the company a user works for, as well as their job title, this can later be used for paid advertising segmentation or remarketing campaigns.

LinkedIn Contacts

LinkedIn can also serve as a great platform to selectively target your core demographic by segmenting users by roles and industries, and offering up promo items they may be interested in return for contact information that can be leveraged down the line to build brand awareness and take them through the purchasing funnel. Companies have done this to great success, allowing them to keep in touch with potential buyers over the long term, building brand awareness, sharing product announcements, and nurturing leads through email, Facebook, and other social media networks.

Whatever you choose to do, just remember that comprehensive approaches will give better payoffs – when it comes to swag, encourage not just wearing, but sharing as well.

Image: “SWAG” made by neon type, vector


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Jason Robbins is the CEO of ePromos Promotional Products, and founded the company in 1998 as one of the first in the promo industry to sell products online. Jason prides himself on helping others achieve their business dreams, and does so by writing about entrepreurship, startups, branding, trade shows and of course, promotional products and how they can be successfully used in business. http://www.epromos.com

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