#FitforRyan: Social Engagement Personified

It all started about a month ago. I needed a new car. My 1996 Acura 3.5 was quickly deteriorating, to the point that by insurance standards, the car was totaled. But with thousands of dollars in repairs and only a few hundred dollars in savings (after a big move to a new city, I was almost completely broke), I didn’t have options. I had no credit history, no cash, and almost no transportation to find a new job. I was in a pretty desperate situation. 

Something you’ll soon see about me is that I’m not afraid to take risks. I don’t have a problem with other people seeing me as strange, weird, or off-the-cuff. In fact, I thrive on that. I love it when someone tells me that something I’m doing is strange, because to me, that means I’m doing something right. 

And I know how powerful social media can be. I have over 60,000 followers on Instagram and that influence has done some incredible things in my life. It’s introduced me to hundreds of new people around the world, it’s given me an incredible outlet to grow creatively, and it’s given me leverage with brands for various promotions on my feed. So I had the idea of combining my love of risk and adventure with my love of social media in order to fix my car situation.

I decided to ask Honda for a free car.

Here’s how it would work. I would create a website (fitforryan.com), detailing my need for a car. I would tell them about my Instagram influence and offer to use that in exchange for a car. I also asked that they send me on a road trip around the U.S. for a campaign for the Fit, using social media along the way to create a lifestyle image of the brand. I would also use the crazy request of a free car as a way to create buzz around the idea…hoping that the idea of asking for a free car alone would be enough to create interest. I knew the current Honda Fit marketing campaigns could fit very well with this image I was creating in my project. Messages like, “Don’t be afraid to take risks.", or, “Follow your dreams and see what happens.”, were being constantly communicated on the official Honda Instagram and Twitter accounts along with the Fit, and I knew I could capitalize on that. 

I also knew that Honda could have an incredible opportunity to capitalize on the buzz, given that someone was crazy enough to ask them for the car, the fact that the project aligned so well with the branding and message of the Honda Fit, and because someone was coming to them, creating buzz, without them even asking for it. I created a hashtag, “FitForRyan”, similar to the official Honda Fit “#FitForYou” hashtag, to track progress and keep people informed. And after approximately 30 hours of planning, I launched the whole initiative late Thursday afternoon of last week.

People immediately loved the idea. Within minutes, people started retweeting and sharing the idea. Soon I had an army behind me, and within the first couple of hours, the story was shared around 50 times. Honda couldn’t help but notice. And within 2.5 hours of launch, the official Honda account tweeted at me, “You’re blowing up our Twitter feed, @ryancaven. We love your enthusiasm - let’s talk.”

Within 24 hours of launching the website and initiative, I was on the phone with Honda, talking about next steps for the project.

I think the quick success of the #FitForRyan campaign came down to two things:
1. A willingness to act on a crazy idea, and turn it into a viable campaign with potential for success.
2. The support and engagement of other people who were willing to get on board.

There were retweets from authors, speakers, sports players, and big social media influencers. Many of them gave me advice over the weekend on how to continue to generate interest. In the end, the campaign had a potential reach of over 1,000,000 Twitter accounts and got many, many people interested in helping to spread the word and to continue to get Honda’s attention.

People love stories, and this story is still in progress. I’m still waiting to hear back from Honda on how they want to move forward with the project, and I’m hoping they see the incredible potential for a marketing success if they fully jump on board. This initiative can still become whatever Honda wants it to be.

I’d encourage you all, as well, to dream big when it comes to social media, and don’t be afraid to act on those dreams. I was nervous of what I might communicate about myself through the process, given the craziness and magnitude of the project. But I decided early on that even if the project failed, it was incredibly worth it to just try and see what happened. Even in failure, I would have learned volumes about social media in the process, and I see failure much more as an opportunity for growth, rather than a reason to shove ideas away.

I’m sure many of you have great ideas, but you’re not sure whether you should go after them because of the fear of the unknown. Give your idea a shot. You never know what untapped potential your idea may bring out in you. I can’t wait to see what you all come up with