Google announced last December that Webkinz was second in its top-ten fastest rising search terms of 2007. Not bad for a children’s toy during the busy holiday shopping season.
But it wasn’t the plush toy pet that had parents opening their checkbooks–it was the virtual world this toy unlocks that made it a must-have for children everywhere.
Webkinz parent company Ganz reached out to Internet-savvy kids and their parents, and in turn, dove headfirst into social media marketing. Some of the tactics included:
- A dedicated social network
A secret code included with each toy granted the owner access into a safe, fun, “kid-friendly” social network. In this virtual world, kids receive an adoption certificate, biography and avatar that looks like their Webkinz pet. They can play games, decorate a room or design a complete custom-home for their pet, as well as interact with other Webkinz owners.
- Messaging system
Kids were able to send messages from their Webkinz pet to another through the social network. But in keeping with their “kid-friendly” theme, Webkinz allowed parents to choose a level of restriction for the messaging system. They could choose to allow their child to send pre-constructed messages, or build their own with a limited dictionary.
- Consumer-generated social media
Maybe it was planned, maybe it wasn’t. Either way, Webkinz embraced the outpouring of consumer-generated social media that took place outside of its virtual world. From videos of kids with their Webkinz posted on video-sharing sites to bloggers buzzing about the phenomenon, the toy maker took it all in stride. And the buzz landed them on “Good Morning America” and “Regis & Kelly.”
The social media marketing lesson
Anytime a company engages in social media marketing, they should be conscious of their audience. Webkinz was marketing to a tough crowd–parents. But by being socially responsible with their “kid-friendly” virtual world, they won that audience over and positive consumer-generated media was the result.
Making it work for your company
Generate your own buzz this holiday season and turn customers into advocates with exclusive content. Send them a “Welcome” e-mail that includes a password or code to access special features such as videos, games or message boards on exclusive offers. And keep them coming back with fresh content and extra incentives to make an additional purchase.
Lisa Wehr (info@oneupWeb.com) is CEO/founder of social media marketing firm OneupWeb.