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A Guerilla's Approach to Social Media Marketing

artwork by Banksy

If you work in marketing or a related industry, it’s likely you’ve heard the term “Guerrilla Marketing” and already know what it means. You may not, however, be familiar with ways you can incorporate guerrilla tactics into your social media campaigns. Read on for an overview, and perhaps garner some inspiration from a few case studies.

A Definition, Just In Case

In the most basic sense, Guerrilla Marketing involves creating unconventional marketing material for conventional gain (i.e. profit or increased exposure). Do not confuse it with other approaches like brand hijacking—Guerrilla Marketing gets its moniker because of the unpredictability of its campaigns. The best guerrilla material tends to pop up in places where you’d least expect, and is often so radically creative in form or message that consumers may not realize what is being promoted until the end of their experience with the content.

Who Is It Good For?

Because Guerrilla marketing material is often created with little to no budget, its tactics are best utilized by small businesses looking for a cheap but effective way to increase their consumer base, OR big businesses looking to personally access potential consumers via a grassroots-type campaign.

How Should It Be Used?

As you might have guessed (or potentially experienced), social media is quite conducive to grassroots guerrilla tactics—though viral material can’t always be characterized as “guerrilla”, most guerrilla content has the potential to go viral, be it on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare. But what, specifically, are the ways in which social media marketing can best benefit the guerrilla marketer (or, alternatively, ways social media marketers may benefit from guerrilla strategies)?

Social Media for Guerrillas in the Field—Guerrilla field ops are typically the most common and varied strategy employed by guerrilla marketers. If you need a good example, just google “flash mob” (or see the above screenshot from ABC's "Modern Family"). On the one hand, social media can and has come in handy when the time comes to organize such events (think of Foursquare’s geolocation benefits). On the other, it can help to quickly generate buzz during and post-campaign. Take Honest Tea’s use of their Twitter and Facebook pages to promote their “Honest City” endeavor, in which passersby were “on the honor code” to pay for beverages they found in empty booths placed strategically throughout major cities. Video footage of activities was posted, as were the “honesty scores” of several cities. A similar campaign was later brought to college campuses.
Social Media for Online Guerrillas—Thanks to the advent of “liking”, “commenting,” and “sharing”, as well as the platform support of different media (photos, movies, etc), there are ways to spread your creative content solely through laptops or mobile phones. Consider last year’s Breast Cancer Facebook campaign, in which Susan G. Komen’s supporters filled news feeds with “I Like it On…” updates—despite the scandalous implications of statements like “I Like it On the beach/kitchen counter”, these “likes” were actually referring to preferred locations for their purse. Doesn’t make sense? Either way, the campaign generated a good bit of buzz—including this piece in Time Magazine.
Social Media to Target Potential Investors—We’ve established a small business attraction to the small budget history of guerrilla marketing. So, guerrillas, why not tap into social media to seek out investors? This advice can be especially useful to tech startups, whose most willing investors are highly “stalkable” on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. Check out this Mashable article outlining social media strategies for SXSW conference attendees for more examples, and use these tips for event specific guerrilla campaigns.

If you have more questions, and/or are still unclear on Guerrilla Marketing’s definition? Take a look at the official Guerrilla Marketing site and peruse the many, many books published on the subject. To see more case studies, take a look at SocialMediaGuerilla.com and CreativeGuerrillaMarketing.com—you’re guaranteed to be amused, impressed and inspired by featured campaigns.