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5 Case Studies Of Social Media’s Viral Power

May 10, 2010

When I first experienced social media what started to become very apparent was its power to influence through its inherent features and design. The ability to be able to create an impression and 5 Case Studies Social Medias Viral Powerinfluence many people from just one post, whether that be on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube was obvious but not seen by all and to many is still a mystery.

Seth Godin in his book “Tribes” says “Welcome to the age of leverage…. the new leverage available to everyone is means that the status quo is threatened more than ever..” and some of the status quo is the publishing industry, newspapers and mass media as we know it.

The platforms (software) and channels (social media environments like Myspace and LinkedIn) are free, all we need is some imagination and creativity and your social media technology, marketing and sociology experiment can commence. Social media is the crossroads of these three different but now intertwined disciplines.

We live in a time where we have the democratization of marketing, where you can reach millions of people without spending a cent on traditional marketing (read and view Conan O’Brien’s experience). It doesn’t mean you don’t work hard and smart but with the tools currently at hand and careful selection of channels to post your content, publishing your message to the world has never been easier or faster.

So how have some companies and personal brands used social media to influence hundreds of thousands and even millions of people.

5 Case Studies On Social Media’s Viral Power and Influence

1. Conan O’Brien‘s  “The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour”

Conan O'Brien Social Media Marketing

The Program

  • One Tweet promotion program

The Numbers

  • One Tweet and a national 32 city comedy tour sold out in 2 hours
  • Channel used Twitter.. Followers 939,000
  • 40 staff on Production
  • The bank account ($32 Million in severance pay from NBC to bankroll the production)
  • The number one ranked tour on leading ticket vendor websites in the US, according to The AP. “[This] is unheard of for a comedian,” said Glenn Lehrman, spokesman for the Stub Hub online ticket site. “The top spot usually goes to a sports event or big-arena pop concert.”

2. Ford Motor Company’s Ford Fiesta Project

The Program

Ford Fiesta Movement that involved selecting 100 socially vibrant individuals who were provided with the European version of the Ford Fiesta 18 months prior to it being manufactured and released in the USA. These socially media aware fanatics were encouraged to share their experience with the Ford Fiesta over the 6 months on their Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube channels.

The Numbers

  • 11 million Social Networking impressions
  • 5 million engagements on social networks (people sharing and receiving)
  • 11,000 videos posted
  • 15,000 tweets.. not including retweets
  • 13,000 photos
  • 50,000 hand raisers who have seen the product in person or on a video who said that they want to know more about it when it comes out and 97% of those don’t currently drive a Ford vehicle
  • 38% awareness by Gen Y about the product, without spending a dollar on traditional advertising ( Fords model “Fusion” doesn’t have that awareness after 2 years of being out in production and yet it has received hundreds of millions of dollars in traditional marketing spend).

3. General Motors Chevy Competition

The Program

Eight teams of social media embark on a combination road trip/scavenger hunt competition from their hometowns to Austin behind the wheel of some of Chevy’s newest products. Along the way they’ll need to complete 50 “challenges” in order to determine the winner. The winning team will be the one that not only has completed the most challenges, but has done the most interacting with their community on Twitter and their own sites.

The Numbers

  • 61.1 Million social web impressions from March 8 to 21 (with overwhelmingly well above 98% of those being positive, as far as the reports and measurements that I saw) with
  • 15,924 online mentions including
  • 13,440 Tweets (this is more than double the number of tweets about Chevy in Jan-Feb)
  • 1,216 blog posts
  • 1,268 other posts (including comments, photos and videos)
  • 33,500 page views through Facebook and
  • More than 300 pieces of positive user-generated content posted to (including 250+ videos)
  • Chevrolet added 8,764 fans to its Facebook page (up 12.7% in 3 weeks);
  • @Chevrolet Twitter followers were up +68% in the month of our SXSW activation

4. Toyota’s iQ Economy Drive

The Program

Toyota in the UK put together a social media marketing program that saw two bloggers attempting a 500-mile road trip in a Toyota iQ, all on a single tank of petrol. The trip would take the two drivers to 18 UK cities and every step of the journey would be shared through social media

The Numbers

  • In terms of coverage, the hyper-miling activity resulted in 64 blogs, including Wired, the New York Times and Treehugger reporting the attempt
  • Toyota reaching a potential audience of over 105 million readers worldwide
  • It reached a possible 3.7 million in the UK alone.
  • Traffic to the iQ blog increased by more than 212%

5. Obama’s Presidential Election

The Program

To be elected as President using the web and social media channels

The Numbers

  • Over 3 million individual donors were mobilised through social media
  • Motivated over 2 million social networking participants
  • Created and promoted more than 200,000 offline events across the country
  • Total of 6.5 million donations online
  • $500 million in donations online
  • More than 13 million people provided their email addresses to the campaign website over the course of the campaign, aides sent more than 7,000 types of  messages
  • In total, more than 2 billion e-mails landed in inboxes
  • The campaign website helped create over 2 million user profiles
  • There were over 400,000 blog entries
  • People spent more than 14 million hours watching over 1,000 Obama campaign-related videos on YouTube
  • There were more than 50 million views of Obama Campaign YouTube Videos
  • 1.2 billion minutes of YouTube view time.

By the way if your not convinced here are four more numbers

  • This blog cost $10 to setup (The cost of the domain name)
  • March traffic 94,000 hits
  • March unique views 59,000
  • Time 12 months

To verify try this independent site

Have you tapped into the leverage of social media yet?

14 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2010 4:41 pm

    I’m pretty much of a newcomer, but I know the power of social media and am currently getting up to speed. I don’t think ignoring it is even an option anymore.

  2. May 10, 2010 5:40 pm

    Thanks for this list, Jeff. May I also add a SMB case study? My employer (INgage Networks) actually did an internal study on the power and value of social media apps for the enterprise. Our findings? We have realized a cost savings and potential revenue count of $10,000 PER EMPLOYEE by putting SoMe to work for our business. (Here is a link to the case study:, #2 on the list.

    I agree with you 100% that social media’s power is in its reach and ability to influence. Good stuff.

  3. FunCityChief permalink
    May 11, 2010 3:46 am


    Fantastic article and great case studies! I agree with you completely. I believe we have just begun to scratch the ROI of social media. With a low entry points and the ability to reach millions, I think ultimately this will be the new paradigm of marketing!

    Fred Campos

  4. May 11, 2010 5:01 am

    Excellent article, thanks Jeff … love your insights and thoughts … and your traffic growth graph on is inspiring!


  5. May 11, 2010 8:19 am


    Greetings from rural Australia.

    Your case studies about social media are truly interesting.

    I’m a recent user of social media. And understand the power it has to influence a large community of people.

    But as a marketer of products designed by my company, the bottom line for me has to always be sales. That’s how my mortgage gets paid and it’s what supports my lifestyle.

    I expect to have to invest in developing long term relationships first. And is something I welcome and enjoy doing. And which social media excels at. But somewhere down the line, this has to translate into the sound of ‘ker-ching’, ‘ker-ching’.

    The comedy tour selling out within 2 hours is proof of the effectiveness of social media working for them. Especially if this is the only means of promoting the tour.

    But a following of 939,000 people doesn’t happen overnight. How long did it take them to acquire those many followers? And how did they do it? One tweet at a time? About what?

    The impact social media had on the election of Barack Obama is now part of political folklore. And is akin to the cat swallowing the canary.

    But again, how far back did the Obama camp start building up its following? How much expert help did he have in its execution? And how long did it take for the light bulb to go on that this was working?

    The Indiana Primary seems to be the defining event that made him and his team truly comprehend the influence of using social media. And allowed them to start to believe they could both raise the money and garner the public support necessary to win the Democratic nomination.

    Obama reportedly embraced the use of social media since its inception. So he was knowledgeable as to its power of communication and influence.

    In your examples for the car companies, I noticed there’s no reflection of how many units were sold by Ford, GM & Toyota.

    Just awareness.

    Which doesn’t necessarily translate into units sold.

    I have a very heightened awareness of what a Hermes bag is. And a Porsche. But I own neither.

    Dell Outlets started out with 265,000 followers on Twitter. Increased it to over 1.5 million followers. And only increased its sales by 33% with the extra 1.2 million+ followers.

    Increasing the volume of followers/fans doesn’t necessarily equate to an increase in the bottom line.

    It’s more to do with the quality of followers/fans than the quantity.

    And this is where I think people get duped and confused about the importance and impact of social media.

    As well as the finesse required to use it effectively and the huge chunks of time needed to devote to its success.

    It’s like everything else in one’s business life. You not only have to develop the right skills and set aside an adequate amount of time to make it happen.

    You also have to make sure you’re mingling in the right community of people with the right message. People must be receptive to your message and be willing to take action when it comes time to putting money in your till. Otherwise we’re wasting our time. And theirs.

    The beat of ‘ker-ching’, ‘ker-ching’ is still the only tune to march to.

    Thank you, Jeff, for allowing me the space to offer a slightly differing view of the effectiveness of social media.

    Best wishes and take care,


    Carol Jones
    Interface Pty Ltd
    Designers of The Fitz Like A Glove™ Ironing Board Cover

  6. May 20, 2010 3:42 pm

    An excellent article Jeff – well done!


    John in Dubai UAE

  7. June 1, 2010 12:55 pm

    Good piece – Jeff. There is a need for more B2B case histories.

  8. June 2, 2010 5:23 am

    Hey Jeff

    Love your work. It’s really interesting and does show convincing reasons why Social Media rocks…but all of us social media nerds knew that before Twitter and Facebook came to the limelight.

    I’m curous…where did you get your info from? I don’t see any references, so wondering if you did the research yourself or if you have a source, thanks.

    Kind regards


  9. June 3, 2010 3:39 pm

    Jeff – good stuff – how did you arrive at the social web impressions for the case studies?

  10. July 1, 2010 1:44 am

    Great statistics! Well done, I bet it took forever to gather those numbers.

  11. July 7, 2010 4:04 pm

    To see some examples of successful Viral Marketing campaign visit my site


  1. Storytelling Social Media Marketing PR Business & Technology Curated Stories May 10, 2010
  2. Top 15 Social Media Channels Important For B2B Marketing [Survey] | My Blog
  3. The power of social media « Tech Tips Blog

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