June 15, 2010, 12:58 PM

Tons of fun

On a slim budget, Endless Vacation Rentals created a promotion that produced a huge spike in social networking traffic.

Lead Photo

Jessica Kornacki speaks at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

The key to creating an engaging social media campaign isn’t about spending a lot of money, but rather finding a fun way to engage visitors and customers, Endless Vacation Rentals vice president of marketing Jessica Kornacki told workshop attendees Friday at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

On a budget of less than $1,000, Endless Vacation Rentals, a business unit of hotel chain Wyndham Worldwide Corp., created a vacation giveaway promotion for Facebook and other social media sites that produced a huge spike in social networking traffic, a 110% increase in the conversion rate for certain branded paid search terms and the highest ranking on Google search pages for the phrase “vacation contest.”

“We had a tiny marketing budget and kept our goal simple,” said Kornacki, who spoke at an IRCE social media workshop session entitled “Creating a successful social media campaign: What works and what doesn’t.” “We wanted to create a fun avenue for talking about us and we did.”

After brainstorming, Endless Vacation Rentals marketing managers, working with marketing agency iProspect, created a microsite—YourFatChance.com—and a contest called “Turn Your Luck Around” that featured a happy pink hippo called Fat Chance. Consumers could do five things at the site: submit hard luck stories, post shorter instant-win submissions, create “Send Some Lucky Lovin” e-mails that they could customize with their own photos superimposed on the pink hippo, vote on submissions and sign up for e-mail offers. Visitors could also submit their funniest bad luck stories for a chance to win a week-long vacation for four worth up to $2,500 and a $2,000 Visa gift card.

The contest, which launched on St. Patrick’s Day 2009, was aimed at using social media to build up consumer awareness of Endless Vacation Rentals, which lists more than 200,000 rental properties in getaway destinations in more than 100 countries. But the results also demonstrated the power of social media as a new and engaging way to build brand awareness, generate positive and substantial word-of-mouth advertising and make corporate marketing personal, Kornacki said. The key to effective social media marketing is to be both engaging and targeted. “What we did was to be concise and simple,” Kornacki  said. “What we wanted to do was the create a buzz.”

 If other web retailers want to be successful with their own social media campaigns, they need to set realistic goals and define how they want visitors to participate in campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and elsewhere, she said. “Here’s the secret sauce: be concise, linked, achievable and results,” Kornacki said.

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