Clever social media campaigns have a soft place in my heart.
As a Digital Marketer, I find it irresistible to see companies doing something original, that takes you out of the routine of boring, same old posts on Facebook, LinkedIn or, let’s say, Instagram. Bonus points if you can make a campaign that offers real value to users.
That’s what happened with the Athens based “The Beat App”. They created an original campaign, which promised free rides to all of its users, no questions asked.
Sounds crazy, right? What did they hope to get in return?
You’ll see pretty quickly, I promise. Let’s analyze this case study in more detail, shall we?
Introduction: What is The Beat App
For those that are not familiar with the Beat app, it’s a taxi app; you download, add the inputs (location so that the driver can pick you up, destination, way of payment), it shows the price you will have to pay for the trip. Then, it’s your turn; either press the button to call the cab, wait and reach your destination safely. Or just hope that public transportation will be punctual (spoiler alert for Greece; it won’t).
The company started with the name TaxiBeat in 2011, by 4 Greeks, and was acquired by My Taxi (a subsidiary of Daimler AG), in 2017, renaming it to simple Beat (seems like that they… beat the sh*t out that Taxi). Things quickly escalated from that point onward; the app does more than well for itself in Latin America; more than 15.000 drivers have registered with the app solely in Peru, according to TechCrunch. Similar numbers can be found in other Latin American countries as well.
Let’s return to the cradle of ancient civilization, Greece. The Beat App is currently present only in its two biggest cities, Athens & Thessaloniki. Within the capital, the app is popular among locals, but it still hasn’t reached its full potential in the later. It simply lacked recognition; the traditional way of calling a taxi (which involves unsanitary ways of whistling, raising hands, shouting like a madman, you know, the whole deal) is still wildly popular in Greece; yeah, the cradle the ancient civilization alright.
How did they come with a solution? They implemented a simple concept, the happy hour; but with a twist! Let’s see more.
Beat’s Happy Hour: An International Concept that went Digital for Local Communities
The Beat App decided to run a tailor-made campaign exclusively for Instagram, which didn’t run on any other social media platform.
Regarding the medium of choice, It’s no wonder they did that only on Instagram; In Greece, if you have to promote an offering to the general population (I emphasize on that, as other mediums could work for specific industries) through social media, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube should be considered as the only feasible options. Facebook’s organic reach is at an all-time low, and YouTube isn’t that great at creating Word of Mouth (we will see why that’s important in our case later on).
Instagram it was, then. Thus, they created a digital marketing campaign to be able to exploit the most out of the specific medium.
But how can a taxi app implement the happy hour concept?
One can instantly think the simplest solution; Beat can just see its data, find specific time periods when demand is low, and offer discounts in an effort to increase sales. Simple economics.
Yet, they chose a much more extravagant approach, not only to raise its numbers but to create a buzz as well. Why not take a ride for free*?
*= Nothing’s free, kids. Because when you don’t pay for a product, you are the product!
Users could follow the official account of the app on Instagram to see the next happy hours. The announcements consisted of three consecutive posts, one for the time & day, one for the title, and one for the main logo of the campaign.
After finding the hours, users could only wait for the time to come. The lucky ones that did find a cab got in for a free ride. But how to validate that you indeed made that ride, by gaining something in the process?
Well, users had to make a story. They had to include themselves inside the cab while making that course, tag the beat app and… that’s it! Beat promised to return the amount paid for the ride.
Users got from point a to point b, completely free of charge. They were delighted!
But what about Greece’s most famous taxi app?
Campaign Outcomes: Regarding Followers
A quick look at SocialBlade can help us have a better understanding of how the company got something back from this Social Media campaign.
You can see a huge spike on followers gained instantly; they managed to get almost 4.5Κ followers in 30 days. Surprise surprise; that’s approximately when they actually started promoting Happy Hour.
As a matter of fact, these results aren’t solely organic; they did make some Instagram Ads, just to get the word out.
But still, those numbers show that the motive of a free ride was more than enough to gain a whopping 45% increase on followers in such a short amount of time.
Now, it’s safe to assume that many of these new followers actually downloaded the app; it makes no sense that people stayed as followers if they didn’t. I couldn’t find the data, but one can speculate that there was an analogous increase in app downloads as well; a major conversion for companies like Beat.
Follower increase is essential for accounts that want to increase their organic reach, so that’s something of value. But the… story doesn’t end there (I am killing it with the puns today, damn). Let’s discuss the “pay with a story” aspect.
Campaign Outcomes: Why to pay with an Instagram story?
I would like to focus only on Thessaloniki, for two reasons: 1) I live here, so I have a better understanding of how the campaign actually played out here and 2) its a relatively new market for Beat, thus not having that much of brand recognition compared to Athens.
A report suggests that 250 drivers currently operate by using their app on Thessaloniki’s streets, most of which were really hard to find during Happy Hours.
Let’s make some more assumptions, now (and some really, REALLY bad mathematics).
It’s certain that a fraction of these taxis are available within these hours; let’s use the lowest estimates possible, around 40% (100 cabs). Due to huge waiting times, we can assume that the usage during Happy Hours was up to the roof, but for the sake of argument, say it stayed around 60% during the specific time periods (so only 60 cabs were operating all the time).
Subsequently, as most users can’t call a Beat without an app, thus a smartphone, it’s very unlikely not to have social media accounts. But, yet again just to review the worst possible outcome, we estimate that only 1 out of 2 passengers knew about the Happy Hour campaign, so they ended up paying for the trip.
According to Ride.Guru, the average trip distance for an Uber is 9.65 km in the US (6 miles). This can be translated into a 30-minute ride, with bad traffic conditions. Add 3 10-minute delays in order to find the next customer, and we can say that, within the two hours of happy hour campaigns, 60 cabs did 3 rides on average, equal to 180 rides and 180 app users, 50 percent of which knew and actually did a story (oof, it’s almost over).
To conclude, what I want to say is that, with the most pessimistic approach possible, there were around 90 different stories with a @thebeatapp tagged on them, only for Thessaloniki.
According to not so recent statistics on Statista (2015), the average American with a personal account on Instagram has an average of 150 followers. On the other hand, 70% of Instagram Users watch Instagram stories daily (AdEspresso, 2019).
So each story could have up to 105 viewers. Many may see more than one story, as follower groups may overlap.
Yet again, I need to say that my mathematical reasoning may be flawed. Even with that pessimistic approach, however, one can’t miss the forest for the trees;
This happy hour digital marketing campaign did create some buzz around it.
Campaign Outcomes: Online & Offline Buzz, and why it was so important for Beat
Hey guys! Guess how you can go somewhere today for free. What, you don’t know what Beat is? Agh… Ok Boomers. Lemme explain.A good samaritan from Thessaloniki to his friends and family
Excuse my profanity here; but I bet my bass that when you know about something free, you spread the word out.
I did that. Many of my friends did. Some of my own friends reached me as well to inform me. Word got around pretty quickly.
After the first couple of pay with the storytime periods, people even saw what Happy Hour is on their Instagram stories; some of them, repetitively.
I said I wanted to focus on Thessaloniki, and that was not random; it makes sense that a campaign like this works wonders for new markets.
Word of Mouth spread like wildfire, promoting the app’s purpose to the masses. A month before, nobody knew what Beat was; maybe some people who found some coupons for their first rides through Instagram Ads, maybe some others who go on Athens frequently, yet no more than that.
Yeah. I don’t know about that bass, but I really think that that’s not the case anymore.
Campaign Outcomes: So… Was it Worth it?
Let’s say that not many companies (especially here in Greece) have the funds to do such a bold campaign. Giving something for free at this scale requires some initial investment due to loss of profit. Daimler AG gives Beat that financial stability, in order to be able to make such aggressive, high yield promoting strategies.
Greece’s market is relatively small as well; thus making it a great testing ground for social media experiments. Don’t forget that only a small fraction of the app’s profits come from its origin; 90% of Beat’s profits come from abroad.
Beat got to meaningfully flex its resources here, I believe. The buzz they created will be crucial for Thessaloniki, as its a new market. Many people may have actually tried beat for the first time, making it a crucial first experience for a lot of newcomers.
And what’s better than something completely out of charge for your first ride?
What to extract from that Case Study: Can my Company do a Social Media Campaign like that?
Well, no. It’s hard to find a German sugar daddy to cover for these kinds of expenses.
Coming to our previous estimates, It’s interesting to calculate the loss of profit made for that campaign.
From experimenting with our average taxi ride distance, a relevant trip with Beat may cost from 8 to 12€. 10€, in short.
Meaning that they lost 1800€, for each happy hour, only for Thessaloniki. Not calculating the cost of promotions (creating an ad, Instagram ads, etc.).
Yeah… That’s a lot. It was probably worth it, but not many companies can suffer such huge amounts of profit loss for a digital marketing campaign.
But let’s focus on the word of mouth aspect. Because you may create that by yourself as well.
Create Wonderful Experiences: Back to the basics; your company exists to fulfill the needs of the customers. Focus your strategy on providing an experience that not only satisfies but overcomes your customer’s expectations.
You may think its hard, but that’s far from the truth. In such an impersonal world, just remembering your customer’s name and basic needs can take you a long way.
Create Campaigns that want to make your users create relative content: Before you do such a campaign, however, make sure that you read the guidelines set by your preferred medium. Instagram & Facebook, for example, have strict regulations;
Encourage your followers to share your content (and without even asking): Stop posting general, bland pictures of your product on Instagram. No one cares.
Instead, look at your audience; that’s a specific niche you have to adapt your strategy to. Create memes that they understand. Share relevant & interesting facts. Promote some personal stories of your employees. Do something unique, please; We see so much crap on Social Media, we slowly become immune even to great content. And that’s really, really sad.
Do you like this type of content? Well, do I have some good news for you.
I and Antonis Spyridakis started Digital Kitsune, a Digital Marketing Show with the goal of extracting knowledge from top marketing minds around the globe.