Are you looking for some creative social media marketing ideas from businesses?

Look no further.

This article highlights seven mini case studies of businesses that have stood out by implementing innovative social media marketing practices.

You’ll find inspiration for your social media marketing efforts here.

So let’s dive in!

#1: Sharpie

Sharpie is the permanent marker company. Through social media and other marketing efforts, this company has taken an ordinary commodity and turned it into a common noun.

Sharpie excels on Twitter, but they also make good use of their blog and Instagram and have even formed their own community. Here are some things to learn:

  • Mix up your background images. Notice how Sharpie incorporates various images. Over the last four weeks, they have had at least the following three images on display.

    sharpie twitter profile
    Sharpie rotates their profile images on Twitter frequently.
  • Spotlight your customers. Smart businesses know that satisfied, loyal customers drive their business. One way to increase loyalty and retention is to focus attention on your customers’ creativity. Sharpie does this through sharing samples of customers’ artwork.

    sharpie customers artwork
    Showcase your customers’ artwork.
  • Feature case studies. Sharpie makes a subtle double-play on their blog. First, they tell stories about their customers (and what customer won’t go tell their friends to see them featured online?). Second, they use blog posts to inspire creativity from their fans. It’s as if they’re saying, “Who can top this Sharpie Snow Leopard?”
    snow leopard
    Readers are often looking for inspiration.

    pop that collar
    Practical how-to instruction guides prove to be popular case studies..
  • Start your own online community. This strategy won’t make sense until you reach a certain size, but at some point you may decide to take your audience from the public social networks and create your own unique community. Social Media Examiner recently did this with Networking Clubs. Sharpie invites their community to engage through art challenges where users vote for the best submissions.

    creative invitation
    An invitation to be creative is all it takes for some people to invest hours with your brand.

#2: HubSpot

HubSpot is a leading B2B company that provides inbound marketing tools for small businesses. A key to their explosive growth comes through a strategic content creation plan.

free resources
Notice three different references to free resources just in this snapshot.

HubSpot knows what their audience wants. They write about hot topics (like the post on Pinterest pictured below), they tag their articles based on experience level (see “Introductory” in the illustration above) and they provide a way to listen to their posts through a service called Vocalyze.

hubspot recommendations
Recommendations are an important selling point to site visitors. Notice the prominence given here.

It would be easy to overlook this, but HubSpot also does a great job providing easy access to a variety of social sharing buttons. Notice how prominently those display next to both of the above images.

HubSpot excels at making their brand personal. On their Facebook page, they do this by featuring their employees.

facebook personal side
Letting customers see the personal side of your staff makes them more likely to stay engaged with you.

#3: Weapons Plus Martial Arts Supplies

Weapons Plus Martial Arts Supplies is an early adopter of Google+ and has found many creative ways to take advantage of Google’s power.

One of their most compelling elements comes through their use of animated profile graphics.

animated effect
These three images cycle to create an animated effect on the Weapons Plus Google+ page.

Like any good content strategy, Weapons Plus understands that their audience likes to read reviews of martial arts movies and get how-to instruction on making and using martial arts weapons. They also want to show their love.

fan haircut
Here, Weapons Plus shows a fan sporting a haircut that advertises one of their customers. Now that’s showing some love!

Another ninja trick (forgive the pun) exercised by Weapons Plus is to take full advantage of the “About” page to get lots of Google juice. The Recommendations links are a perfect way to tie your Google+ page to your other online properties.

google+ about tab
Be sure to make full use of the About tab on Google+.

#4: Evian

Evian is the bottled-water company. They have developed a highly sophisticated YouTube page that is worth studying.

One of the smart things they’ve done is create a pervasive campaign with the “Live Young” motif. All of their images and products reinforce this through the idea of fueling the Evian baby inside (which, of course, needs to drink Evian water).

evian youtube
Evian has connected their various platforms on YouTube—all while reinforcing their core message.

Another excellent idea implemented on Evian’s YouTube channel is a user-generated video. The goal is to create the world’s longest user-generated video. They do this by allowing users to create short video clips that tie into the theme. The technology required to accommodate this can’t be cheap, but all businesses can look for ways to get fans to create content on their behalf.

#5: Openview Partners

Openview Partners is a B2B venture capital firm that helps emerging growth technology companies with startup funding. They have added 10,000 new subscribers through their social media strategies on their blog.

The authors of Openview’s blog understand that good content draws new readers. That’s why they make it really easy and compelling to sign up for their newsletter.

In addition to the ubiquitous sign-up sheet found next to every blog post, the site provides a pop-up invitation to new site visitors who haven’t signed up before.

social proof
This pop-up ad uses strong social proof to compel readers to sign up.

Openview employs another smart tactic by making their posts readily available for mobile readers. They do this through a service called Google Currents.

mobile audience
Make sure to service your mobile audience.

A venture capital firm could portray a stiff, conservative image to clients. Certainly they need to convey confidence and stability, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be personable and fun. Openview strikes this balance well by allowing staff to show a professional and a fun-loving photo on their “Meet the Authors” page.

meet the authors
When you hover over an author’s picture, his or her bio and a fun picture display.

#6: Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza

Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza is a regional chain based in San Diego. They have effectively used social media to grow their audience.

On Twitter, Sammy’s will regularly publish coupons, promote causes and share info for their partners or about important topics.

sammy's tweets
Use tweets to focus on others or share information your audience would find valuable.

For restaurants, it’s important to present your food favorably. Sammy’s takes advantage of photos on Twitter and videos on Facebook to do this.

sammy's food photos
Having good pictures shows your audience that you care about quality.
sammy's videos
Sammy’s has created several videos in conjunction with local news agencies. How-to videos are also popular in the food business.

#7: Small Biz Nation

Small Biz Nation is a partnership between HP and Intel, providing a LinkedIn community for small business owners and marketers. This joint venture demonstrates the powerful potential of LinkedIn groups.

linkedin groups
Have a clear description so new members know what they can expect.

Some advantages of creating a LinkedIn group:

  • You can advertise directly to the audience once a week, with a high open rate.
  • LinkedIn provides robust statistics and moderation tools—HINT: make sure to create clear group guidelines.

    linkedin stats
    LinkedIn provides detailed stats on your audience. This helps you know if you’re reaching your intended market.
  • LinkedIn provides the ability to create subgroups around interests. HP and Intel actually have a group just for those seeking coupons. That’s an intelligent move as these members have now prequalified themselves as being in the market for a deal.

    Use subgroups to identify interests and needs of your audience—and allow them to connect based on a narrower interest set.

Key Takeaways

These seven businesses are using social media in different ways, yet each one is seeing demonstrable growth through smart social media marketing.

Here are a few lessons we can all learn:

  • Social media is highly visual—take advantage of photos and videos.
  • Showcase your customers—this greatly increases engagement.
  • Enable social sharing on all of your content.
  • Google+ will impact search results—are you realizing these benefits?
  • YouTube is far more advanced than you may realize—check out the recent changes and consider making this a social destination for your business.
  • Don’t overlook mobile users—optimize your content for mobile readers.
  • Give people a reason to engage—coupons, causes and videos work well.
  • Think about starting a LinkedIn group for your industry or niche.

Now It’s Your Turn

What do you take away from these examples? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.