Slim Jim Leverages Facebook Crowdsourcing

The challenges of assessing ROI for Facebook and other social media efforts are well-known by marketers -- particularly brands sold primarily or exclusively through brick-and-mortar retailers.

But ConAgra’s Slim Jim is among the brands demonstrating that a long-term vision and commitment to active management of a Facebook presence can pay off. 

Slim Jim’s strategy was put in place in early 2011, about a year after it launched its Facebook page in response to non-company-sponsored Facebook activity around the brand.

As Brett Groom, now SVP content integration and activation for Slim Jim parent ConAgra Foods, explained to Forbes, Slim Jim began by conveying to all parties, internally and at agencies, that the brand was committed to ongoing investment in the Facebook effort, starting with the hiring of a dedicated community manager. The brand then deployed ConAgra’s social and brand teams and their tools to map out the strategic plan and “sweat the nuts and bolts” of tactics.

At the same time, tactics experimentation within the strategic framework -- willingness to make mistakes and evolve -- continues to serve the brand by reinforcing its edgy “attitude” and encouraging feedback from fans, confirms Dan Skinner, PR and social media manager for ConAgra.

The crowdsourcing-driven strategy was responsible for naming the community manager (the “Sultan of Snap”), and fans are regularly asked to decide which challenges the Sultan will take on, as well as for their feedback on videos, other content, and new and existing products.

One recent case in point: To mark Slim Jim’s Facebook ”likes” having hit 1 million (up by a factor of five from an initial 200,000 bump driven by the Sultan’s debut), fans were asked to decide how the Sultan should celebrate: Shave a Slim Jim logo into his hair, fly a giant Slim Jim banner from a plane, or go skydiving. Skydiving won, so in late July, the Sultan took the plunge. A video and photos of his adventure were posted on Facebook/YouTube soon after, and within a few weeks, the view has drawn more than 1,600 views. 

Slim Jim’s annual partnership with World Wrestling Entertainment’s superstars to benefit U.S. troops generates major engagement -- which is heightened by asking Facebook fans what questions they want the Sultan to ask the stars during his video-ed interviews with them, reports Skinner.

Facebook fans’ insights have also inspired and helped validate new-product concepts -- including spicier Slim Jim DARE varieties and a Steakhouse line launched late last year. The brand has used both pre- and post-launch informal Facebook fan input (responses to Slim Jim postings/status updates) and more formal surveys conducted through the social site, according to Skinner.

In addition to the R&D advantage, use of surveys and other tools to gather ongoing metrics on both social engagement and indicators such as product awareness, intent to purchase, usage and willingness to recommend to friends, have verified that the consistent, active management of Slim Jim’s Facebook presence has resulted in higher social and product engagement levels that can be leveraged in mobile, experiential and other initiatives that drive measurable sales, confirms Skinner.

In its largest live/experiential Sultan/Facebook-driven activation to date, Slim Jim sent the Sultan -- wearing a costume chosen by Facebook fans -- to Comic-Con last month.  The Sultan posted his own photos, videos and content, while also encouraging fans at the event to post theirs. “Capturing content from events and feeding it back into the social media loop is very important in feeding the cycle,” notes Skinner.

Key elements at the event also included sampling of the Steakhouse products and gathering feedback via surveys.

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