The emergence and growth of social networks has changed the marketing world substantially, with the power having (arguably) been largely shifted from brand to consumer.

You only have to look at the success of the latest KitKat promotion to see social media in action. When the four limited edition flavours were launched earlier in the year, my twitter feed was inundated with people on a mission to find all four.

So now, my desperate friends were actually going round various shops not just to buy one chocolate bar, but four. They then had to try each again and again, so as to cast a fair vote for their favourite. This was of course being documented on their Twitter profiles, and eventually photographed for Facebook and Instagram.

The campaign was a success, with social networks rejoicing about the availability of the new Peanut Butter KitKat, chosen and voted for by the consumer, the follower, the fan.

Perhaps even more inventive is Edgar Wrights ‘Brandon Generator’. This five episode crowd sourced animated feature tells the story of Brandon, a struggling writer, who falls asleep, only to wake up to discover that he’s got a number of new ideas.

The twist? The messages left on his dictaphone, the drawings on his notepad and the stories on his laptop were left by followers, fans, and visitors of the website. Each new inspiring thought was animated into the next episode, allowing users to see their own ideas come to life week by week. In total, 9000 tweeters left art, prose and voicemails on the website.

However, there’s an amount of trust involved in giving strangers control over campaigns. Last month, American chain Walmart launched a competition, inviting fans to like their individual City pages. As a reward, pop star Pitbull would make a special guest appearance at the Walmart with the most likes. However, the campaign was hijacked by a prankster trying to ‘Exile Pitbull’ by ensuring that he played in the most remote location possible. As a result, the Alaskan City of Kodiak won the special appearance – receiving over 60,000 likes – nearly ten times the actual population.

What’s clear, is that advertisers must know their market, and be well prepared for their reaction. Giving consumers the ‘power’ is a fantastic way to get people directly involved, and spread the message from follower to follower, fan to fan, and friend to friend.

Posted by: Hayley Lingard on