We keep a close eye on the retail social media space, not only to stay on top of trends for our retail clients, but to inspire our clients in other industries, like financial services and healthcare, to boost their own social marketing efforts. In addition to being exciting, Honda’s current social media campaign — #WantNewCar – is full of lessons for marketers in all sectors.

Supported by advertising in traditional media, the campaign uses Twitter and Vine to draw attention to Honda’s Summer Clearance Event. When customers – and potential customers – use the hashtag to tell Honda why they need a new car, the brand responds with personalized Vines. This one responds to a consumer who tweeted that she needed a new car because her old one was a dinosaur:

And #WantNewCar is more than a creative opportunity to have conversations with social media users. Honda is also paying close attention to trendy topics, getting in on the competition between Vine and Instagram, for example, and interacting with @BejeweledBlitz.

Here’s what healthcare and financial services marketers can learn about social marketing from Honda:

  • Tie the campaign to a specific goal. In this case, #WantNewCar’s purpose is to create buzz around Honda’s annual Summer Clearance Event. The goal for financial brands may be to get people talking about new products, account features or rewards programs. Healthcare organizations may want to generate attention for grand openings, mergers or other expansions or breathe new life into ongoing efforts, like core services and annual fundraising drives.
  • Define the scope of the effort by using a hashtag. While it’s best practice to respond to all customer/patient outreach (including many brand mentions), creating a personalized Vine for every conversation would be too cumbersome. Use of the hashtag focuses the effort on a particular conversation within a specific timeframe (the duration of the campaign).
  • Shine a spotlight on your responsiveness. One of my favorite things about #WantNewCar as inspiration for healthcare and financial services is its emphasis on responsiveness. The patient/customer experience in both industries relies on timely, personalized answers to inquiries. A campaign showcasing responsiveness as a skill and a priority could be very effective.
  • Support social marketing with traditional, paid media. When possible (and where appropriate), use television, print, digital and radio advertising juice social campaigns. In addition, if your campaign is creative enough, you just might inspire trade pubs, online news sources and blogs like this one to write about it… spreading word even farther.
  • Move existing conversation to your turf. Honda realized consumers were venting about car trouble via social media. #WantNewCar pulls that conversation out of the general chatter and into Honda’s very own social streams. It also sets the mood for the conversation (infusing fun into the buyer-seller dynamic) while expanding awareness of the brand. Social media chatter is full of conversations about financial- and healthcare-related topics. Why not create a campaign – or campaigns – that invite consumers to talk… in your space.
  • Be personable. I realize the tone of #WantNewCar may not be right for many campaigns within healthcare and financial services. However, it’s not the playfulness of the Vines that sets this effort apart: it’s their personality. Every brand from hospitals and health plans to credit card issuers and banks can use social marketing to show consumers who they are and what they do. For these industries, video responses might build trust, show concern, convey expertise, evoke emotion or inspire health/financial wellness.

Want to do something big like this? Set up your resources ahead of time – including securing outside help as needed – and have a clear plan. You’re making a promise to consumers, and you’ll want to be able to fulfill it.

You can read more about #WantNewCar at All Twitter (“Social Customer Service At Its Best: Honda Responds To Tweets With Real-Time Vines”) and MediaPost (“Honda Does Personalized Vines For Summer”).