Social Media Campaigns: 1st Place

DIA's Out of This World Social Media Campaign

What aliens? A Midpoint Celebration at DIA… and nothing else.

With many eyes on DIA’s $544 million Hotel and Transit Center program, there was cause for celebration when the HTC reached its midpoint milestone in October 2013. Due to the nature of an active construction site, participation in the event by the general public was limited. To reach a wider audience, DEN turned to social media and used the October timing of the event and the rampant conspiracy theories about the airport to surprise followers, engage them in conversation, and inform them about what the airport is really building (it's not an alien bunker).

Project Goals: 

GOAL: To inform and excite Denver International Airport (DEN) customers about the $544 million Hotel and Transit Center construction program.

OBJECTIVE: Due to the nature of an active construction site, participation in the midpoint event by the general public was limited. To reach a wider audience, DEN turned to social media and used the October timing of the event and the rampant conspiracy theories about the airport to surprise followers, engage them in conversation, and inform them about what the airport is really building on site (it's not an alien bunker).

Production: 

TARGET AUDIENCE:
The media, general public and key stakeholders

EXECUTION STRATEGY:
DEN has long been the subject of a host of conspiracy theories, including rumors that the airport is home to a secret underground bunker or an alien landing strip. To draw attention to the massive construction project, DEN deliberately played on these theories. We crafted the on-site event around the various conspiracy theories, including “alien” sightings at the underground site and a video featuring five current and former Denver mayors all playing with the idea that DEN is home to an alien underground bunker.
We found that most of these conspiracies are discussed on blogs and through social media, making Twitter, Facebook and YouTube the perfect venues to promote our event and interact with our customers in a truly unique way.
We began the social media effort by having an airport contractor create a plaster alien “skull.” The Hotel and Transit Center’s program manager Tweeted the photo with the message:

“PHOTO: A strange find while building @DENAirport's Hotel and Transit Center pic.twitter.com/DVSFEzylp…”
The airport’s Twitter and Facebook accounts shared the message with the hashtag #DIAMidpoint and reached more than 10,000 Twitter users in minutes.

That initial message ignited a huge response from our customers, who began engaging with DEN, asking questions and posting their own theories about our series of related Tweets. As customers interacted with the content, the initial messages reached 30,000 individuals on Twitter and another 30,000 on Facebook in just hours. The tweets prompted a call from one local TV station asking if the airport’s twitter account had been hacked.

DEN responded organically to as many people as possible on both Twitter and Facebook, including reporters and television stations that, until then, had shown little interest in covering our midpoint event.
We also borrowed from trending topics on Twitter to increase the audience even more, playing on current events such as the U.S. government shutdown:

"The government #shutdown is NOT affecting construction of the underground alien bunker. That is all. #DIAMidpoint #conspiracy"
The customer response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive, with many users complementing our efforts.
“@nocok9cop: Side note: whoever runs @DENAirport twitter account is awesome.”
“@pueblokc: So is @DENAirport hacked, or actually has a sense of humor?”
“@NikkiMarieLynx: @KyleClark @DENAirport social media done right!”
“@lszleegs: If you're not following @DENAirport you should.”

DEN continued posing images and messages throughout the day, stoking the social media fire and creating a massive buzz online.

The conversations with our customers continued for six hours, until the event at the project site. From there, we transitioned into messages about the project itself, and its benefits to DEN customers. The ultimate goal was to inform and excite DEN customers about the Hotel and Transit Center project, and the social media campaign allowed us to reach hundreds of thousands more people than we otherwise would have in a fun, interesting and informative way.

While the effort was mostly organic and based on customer interaction and conversations, it was also highly strategic. All of the messages related to the effort included the Twitter hashtag #DIAmidpoint, which allowed us to track conversations about the event and spread awareness about the project. Within just two hours of the initial Tweet, #DIAmidpoint was one of the top 10 trending hashtags in Denver and before the main media event started, the hashtag had grown into the No. 1 trending topic in Denver.

This was a truly multimedia effort, as we also posted our alien conspiracy video spoof on the DEN YouTube channel, attracting another 1,500 views. That content was cross-promoted on Twitter and Facebook as well allowing us to reach a diverse audience of users across multiple platforms and give extra life to the social media campaign for several days after the event was over.

Evaluation: 

RESULTS:

  • In total, DEN sent 110 messages via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube during the one-day effort.
  • The resulting quantifiable impacts include:
  • 1.2 million impressions on Facebook among 633,800 individual users over two days (Oct. 8-9)
  • 739,700 impressions on Twitter in one day (Oct. 8)
  • No. 1 trending hashtag in the Denver area: #DIAmidpoint
  • 1,500 views on YouTube
  • Statewide and national traditional media coverage, including: The Denver Post, Travel and Tour World, CBS, NBC and much more.

The social media campaign unexpectedly sparked traditional media coverage about the social media campaign itself. Reporters took note of our playful and creative use of social media, leading The Denver Post, NBC news and the blog Open Minds to produce stories specifically about our social media.

OTHER COMMENTS:
Through the use of a comprehensive social media plan, DEN was able to reach a huge audience of stakeholders, including customers and the media, about an important milestone of the Hotel and Transit Center. But beyond the obvious benefit of spreading awareness about the project, DEN was able to achieve other objectives through this effort that should have lasting effects.

Through the sharing of high-quality, visually appealing content – from images and video to thoughtful hashtags and text – DEN was able to interact and build relationships directly with a large number of customers. The campaign also integrated the actual event, in which 500 people attended, with the broader social media audience as many of the guests at the event took to Twitter and Facebook to post live updates throughout the event.

The effort also created a brand for the airport that didn’t exist before. Customers noted that the airport is fun, engaging and entertaining on social media – a reputation that was sparked directly from this event and continues to inform our social media efforts today. But perhaps one customer’s reaction explains it the best:
"@enderFP: Kudos to @DENAirport for their social media presence today - great campaign! Wonderful concept and execution!"

Thank you for your consideration! - Denver International Airport

Budget: 

There was no budget for the social media campaign. It was rolled into the larger midpoint event, so the only capital used was staff time for posting content, which was minimal.