In the United States there are more than 1,700 fatalities and 840,000 injuries annually due to vehicle crashes on public highways, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission. Those are just the kinds of numbers that American Traffic Solutions, a manufacturer of technology and programs for road safety camera and electronic toll enforcement systems, would like to bring down through the implementation of its various products.
But first it had to do a better job of getting its messages out to consumers.
So in the spring of 2012 ATS decided to take its cash and go to where consumers increasingly congregate: social media.
With a budget of $12,500, ATS put together small ads on Facebook focusing on school-bus safety and the dangers of running red lights. In less than a year, the effort boosted ATS’ “likes” to 20,000-plus, from 8,000.
With more than 750 million users, three million active fan pages and a billion pieces of content being shared daily on Facebook, ATS knew that the social platform was the best media vehicle to spread its message.
By engaging targeted consumers on Facebook, ATS wanted to get the word out about both the brand and the safety message supporting it.
The ATS Twitter account and YouTube page were both considered as the potential centerpiece for the campaign, but ATS in the end decided that Facebook would take the top spot and the other social channels would be used to push consumers to the Facebook page, said Heather Schlichting, internal communications program manager at ATS Inc.
“Using all of these channels helped to increase awareness of the ATS Facebook page and, more important, its message regarding road safety,” she added.
A NEW PR VEHICLE
ATS produced a series of advertisements for Facebook that were highly targeted. It spent $2,000 in the first two months of the campaign running ads in English and Spanish, while “likes” grew to 12,000.
In August and September, ATS spent $100 a day for Stop on Red Week ads and Crossing Guard ads. In October, November and December, the expenditure dropped to $50 a day.
The Crossing Guard ads featured an image of a small child in front of a bus, with the text explaining that the child is thankful that crossing guards help get him home safely.
The ad was targeted to more than 139 million users who live in the U.S. and are parents, baby boomers, expecting parents and mobile users, among other demos. Versions of the ad in Spanish also ran throughout the campaign.
As another way to reach a broader audience, ATS promoted frequent posts that included articles, crash data and videos about its products.
No incentives were used to get consumers to click the “like” button.
“We simply appealed to their sense of what’s right and to their concerns with road safety,” Schlichting said. “We shared stats on the alarming numbers of accidents and deaths caused by excessive speed, red-light running, and illegal passing of stopped school buses.”
She added, “We also shared firsthand accounts from victims of road accidents, school officials who have had schoolchildren injured, and police officers who have seen the devastation when answering the call of a traffic accident.”
On YouTube and Facebook ATS deployed video footage of traffic collisions to compel the public to drive more safely.
While Facebook was the main target of growth for ATS, Schlichting was pleasantly surprised by an increase in a different social media channel: YouTube.
“Our videos on our YouTube page gained the most views,” she said. “One in particular went viral in a very short amount of time. The goal was to use the most dramatic video available to help our viewers to understand just how unsafe the roads can be.”
In just one week the organization’s YouTube page grew from 89,087 views, just before the launch of the campaign, to 244,498.
During the holiday season in December—the deadliest time of the year on the roads—more than a quarter million people around the globe watched the ATS videos.
“Many people do not realize the consequences of running a red light until they or someone close to them is involved in a collision,” Schlichting said. “Watching these violent events served as an eye-opening experience to the dangers that occur each day in our communities.”
The main goal was to reach 20,000 likes by year’s end. ATS reached that number by December 6th, and continued to press on, using a mix of Facebook ads, promotions and sharing the page on other social platforms.
As the Facebook numbers grew and the budget was minimized, ATS saw an increase in responses, shares and likes, according to Schlichting.
“American Traffic Solutions is now a company known nationally,” she said.
She also had some advice on how other organizations can reach that point: “Appeal to your audience’s heart,” she said. “Gimmicks are great, but they don’t make a lasting impression.” PRN
Heather Schlichting, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter, @azcitychik.
4 Steps to Launch Your Social Media Program
Social media is the perfect tool to reach all types of audiences in order to give them a 360-degree view of your brand. Here are four easy steps to take to establish your social media program to build your brand awareness.
• Choose the Right Type of Social Media Channel: Each social-media channel has a specific purpose, and you need to determine whether it’s a good fit for you depending on your goals. Do your research. For example, LinkedIn speaks to a more professional audience interested in news stories, community charitable endeavors and your company culture. Facebook is similar, yet geared more toward a casual audience that is more engaged by photos, infographs and other visual effects. YouTube is perfect to house your videos, and Twitter can help you promote all your social media channels. There are many other options to explore and those can be added on as your social media program matures.
• Start the Conversation: It’s easy to get into the routine of just pushing content into your social-media pages. Opening a dialogue with your readers is a little tougher, but should pay off. Try and stimulate users by asking a question or posting content that is going to require them to react. This strategy will help you raise awareness and boost revenue.
• Set the Stage: Let’s say your 5K run is coming up in three months and you are ready to start talking about it. Set up a way for your audiences to immediately access donation and registration options right on your Facebook page. To engage users and encourage them to take action, post updates about the event and stories about real people who will be affected by their donations.
• Use Social Media As A Retention Tool: When the event is over, don’t drop the conversation. This is your opportunity to build your strongest messages and transition to future initiatives in order to keep your followers involved and talking about your brand. Sponsor fun contests to determine if they are really listening and reward them for their commitment to your goals.
Heather Schlichting is Internal Communications Program Manager at American Traffic Solutions Inc.
This article appeared in the August 12 issue of PR News. Subscribe to PR News today to receive weekly comprehensive coverage of the most fundamental PR topics from visual storytelling to crisis management to media training.