Susan-Chang

How Susan Chang executed an onsite activation for Dropbox using influencers and Instagram Stories

In the summer of 2018, Head of Social Media at Dropbox, Susan Chang, and her team partnered with influencers and artists to create a unique onsite brand activation and distributed it across their Instagram channels.

The multi-faceted onsite activation took place during the Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco.

Dropbox can talk about Dropbox all day long. People don’t care when you’re talking about yourself. Susan Chang
Outside Lands 2018 was scheduled to happen directly after Dropbox’s brand relaunch — creating the perfect opportunity for an onsite brand activation.

“It was a sponsorship, plus live event activation, plus social media storytelling project,” Susan said.

The project had two main goals: to build brand equity and an army of advocates.

“We wanted to build brand equity around our mission at the time, which was to show that Dropbox helps teams collaborate and create exciting things together,” Susan said.

To demonstrate that mission, the team brought influencers together and allowed them to exercise their creativity in whatever way they wanted. “Then, we’d showcase their projects to Dropbox’s communities,” she said.

Susan explained that the influencers were also essential in helping build their army of advocates.

“Dropbox can talk about Dropbox all day long. People don’t care when you’re talking about yourself,” she said. “But if you can have other advocates and influencers talk on your behalf, then their messages goes so much further.”

Susan’s team started searching for influencers and artists to demonstrate the collaborative power of Dropbox.

We looked for influencers with engaged communities who admire them and look up to them. Susan Chang
“We matched three groups of influencers and asked them to create something new by working on a project together in Dropbox Paper, and then that project would come to life at Outside Lands,” she said.

Susan and her team narrowed their search by identifying influencers that felt aligned with Dropbox’s new visually compelling branding.

For Susan, the size of each influencer’s following wasn’t nearly as important as how engaged their followers were.

“We looked for influencers with engaged communities who admire them and look up to them,” she said.

Lastly, it was also important to Susan and her team that at least one influencer in each group had a direct tie to Outside Lands — whether as an artist or vendor.

Once the influencer and artist groups had been established, Susan’s team just had to focus on monitoring the groups’ collaborative processes, presenting each individual project at the festival, and then sharing everything with their social audiences in an elegant and cohesive way.

During the three-day onsite activation, Susan’s team created live content featuring their artists’ projects — which required in-depth planning.

Susan explained that although all the Instagram Story content appeared to be live, they storyboarded the posts ahead of time.

We want to keep showing up in different parts of our community to show that Dropbox isn't just an icon on your desktop or on your phone. Susan Chang
“We obviously didn’t know what was going to happen day-to-day, but we had an idea,” she said. That way, her team didn’t have to create everything on the fly.

Her team was also strategic about how they posted their Instagram Stories. “We actually uploaded all the posts at the end of the day so it created one cohesive Instagram Story, and when the 24 hours started to expire, our audience didn’t miss the front half of the Story,” Susan explained.

Capturing and posting the live content was a two-person job, so Susan brought one other member of her social team to the festival.

“We had to capture everything that was happening around the activations each day, talk to the influencers who were participating, and get to know their stories in addition to ours,” Susan said.

She mentioned that when Dropbox did similar activations in the past, they only had one social person at the event to capture all the live content.

“We’re lucky to have had a second person on hand for this live event, because one person really can’t capture everything, especially if it’s something this big where you need to cover a lot of physical ground,” Susan said.

Because of the visual nature of every project, high-quality photos were essential in properly documenting the activations. So, the Dropbox team also hired a professional photographer to be at the festival taking photos for their Instagram feed as well.

Instagram Stories was the activation’s main distribution channel, but Susan emphasized the need for multiple content categories.

One of the highlights of the entire project for her was that the team was able to execute multiple categories of content: Instagram Stories, Instagram feed photos, and the accompanying blog post — which they shared on Twitter.

“Those three channels worked really well together, but were also able to tell cohesive and unique stories to their own audiences. Because the people who read your blog from Twitter might not be the same people who watch your Instagram Stories,” Susan said.

Thanks to their previous activation at Outside Lands in 2017, they were able to set internal benchmarks according to the performance of that content.

For something like this, especially with influencers, you have to stay up to date on all the FTC guidelines about branded partnerships and how you and your influencers can talk about them on social. Susan Chang
Susan explained that this activation beat last year’s social impressions — as well as their internal social benchmarks for cost-per-engagement and cost-per-click.

“We also beat our cost-per-engagement benchmark for the influencer content. And the blog post we wrote about Outside Lands 2018 was, at the time, the top performing blog post of the year,” Susan said.

They also received the highest influencer engagement rate they’d ever gotten on any influencer project.

According to Susan, choosing influencers with active and loyal fan bases was a key factor in beating those benchmarks.

The campaign’s success proved just how effective this type of model can be.

Although each campaign may take a different form, the model of using social media as a primary channel to share a partnership or sponsorship alongside influencers is one that Susan and the Dropbox team like to use regularly.

“We want to keep showing up in different parts of our community to show that Dropbox isn’t just an icon on your desktop or on your phone; we’re out there in real-life creative communities showing that we support really great, creative collaboration,” Susan said.

According to Susan, protecting your brand and showing your customers you care should be two of your top priorities during a project like this.

“For something like this, especially with influencers, you have to stay up to date on all the FTC guidelines about branded partnerships and how you and your influencers can talk about them on social,” Susan said.

It's great to show your online audiences that the people following you are more than just dollars and customers. Susan Chang
Susan warns that the guidelines can change frequently, so it’s possible to make a mistake without ever realizing it. If you have a legal team at your company, she suggests working with them or going online to stay up to date on those guidelines. “You have to protect your brand as well as maintain trust and transparency with your social audiences,” she said.

Susan also emphasized the importance of using opportunities like this to promote more than just your products — promote your brand’s overall mission and commitment to your customers.

“It’s great to show your online audiences that the people following you are more than just dollars and customers,” Susan said. “This is a way to just give your followers something a bit more high level to see on social.”

Susan Chang has been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2018. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.