Case Study: What’s that Red Equal Sign? How to Create an Effective Social Media Campaign

By Michelle Doty | Apr 1, 2013
More Articles by Michelle

I’m keeping today’s post fairly short, but I wanted to address every social media marketer’s least favorite question: “how can we make this go HRC Red Equal Sign Logo
viral?” I know, it’s a recurring theme across every internet marketing blog in existence, but I promise, my post is a bit different…

Yes, I will echo the oft-repeated sentiment of many, because it’s important: you can’t, and we can’t, make anything go viral. With that out of the way, social media marketers can, however, provide you with the tools and the know-how to produce engaging, interesting content that resonates with your audience, and has the potential to be shared widely… but, just to reiterate,  we cannot make anything go viral.

So with that, I wanted to share a case study of a recent social campaign that encompasses each of the best practices we share with clients—especially our nonprofits, who often lack the marketing dollars of the for-profits they compete with for online real-estate—to help inform their social media marketing efforts.

I hesitated to bring up the campaign that led me to write this particular post this particular      week—simply because its end goal represents a semi-controversial topic—but I decided I’d be remiss not to applaud the organization for their brilliantly simple, smartly designed, and most importantly, incredibly effective social media campaign.

As (nearly) everyone’s undoubtedly seen (or at least heard) by now, the Human Rights Campaign has effectively painted Facebook and much of Twitter red over the past week in support of marriage equality. Their campaign, their message, and their call to action were divinely simple: show your support for equality by making our pink and red equal sign (in lieu of their standard blue and yellow logo) your profile photo:


HRC made it easy to take a few simple, and arguably, meaningful actions: “Show your support for marriage equality – make your profile photo red for tomorrow and check out for more ways to get involved!” that all aligned with their end goal: to raise awareness surrounding  marriage equality as the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments.

So, as promised, the key takeaways from this campaign:

  • First, keep your message simple.
  • Second, make it easily shareable.
  • And third, ask people to share it.

That’s it. It’s simple. The hard part is figuring out what will resonate with your audience; what makes them tick (my favorite part of the marketing process). But, once you figure this out, the next steps are relatively easy.

The final component of this campaign, that put it over the edge, is the design of the logo itself—it’s just ambiguous enough that people had to leave Facebook to search Google for its meaning. A look at Google’s U.S.  Hot Trends proves the point:


And, if this isn’t enough evidence of its efficacy, checking out related terms in Google Trends might be:

HRC and Red Equal Sign Google Trends

Searches for red equal sign never existed before March 26, 2013—not enough to show up in Trends historically, at least. While correlation does not causation make… it’s difficult to argue otherwise with the data above, which illustrate the importance of an integrated online marketing strategy:HRC Facebook ad
with search, social, and content all working together (typically with a little sprinkling of paid marketing as the kicker—which HRC is also doing).

And what’s more, because the message was so simple, the logo took on a life of its own across the interwebs—and, as any social media team worth their weight would do, HRC celebrated these memes, calling out their favorites across networks:

Red Equal Sign Memes

Regardless of your personal feelings surrounding this particular campaign’s intent, it’s undoubtedly a great lesson in the efficacy of simplicity and direct calls-to-action in generating awareness on social media and translating the increased awareness to search.

Although, if I had one critique, it’s that the SEO for ‘red equal sign’ on’t equally as spectacular as HRC’s social media campaign… but we could help with that.

Readers:  Thoughts, questions, comments? I’d love to hear them all! Just tweet @me @mdough_tea 

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