Social media campaigns are never as simple as they seem.

That’s because any given marketing push involves so many moving pieces.

Reaching your audience. Interpreting results. Tying projects back to business goals.

That doesn’t even scratch the surface of must-do campaign tasks, either.

We hear you: managing all of the above (and more!) is daunting and downright overwhelming. That’s why it’s so important to have a defined game plan for your social media campaigns before you’re in too deep.

The good news? This guide can help!

5 steps to creating a social media campaign from scratch

Below is a step-by-step blueprint for running any given social campaign from start to finish.

Sticking to the step below not only encourages you to keep a closer eye on your campaigns but also anticipate and avoid the most common roadblocks marketers face.

With that, let’s dive in!

Step #1: Break down the basics of your campaigns

Let’s say you’ve been given the green light to kick off a campaign.

Nice! But where the heck do you even start?

Prior to posting or publishing, you need to go in-depth with your campaign planning.

For example, here’s what the beginning of a defined campaign looks like in Sprout Social’s platform. With a mission statement, specific objectives and an established timeline, you’ll be much more likely to follow through and keep your campaign on track.

Screenshot of the Sprout Social social media campaign planning outline and brief.

Here are the preliminary must-do tasks and key questions that’ll put your social media campaigns into motion. No matter what you’re selling, these steps always apply!

1. Define your target audience

Ask yourself: who is this campaign for? This might include:

  • New customers who’ve never heard of you or aren’t aware of your business
  • Past customers that haven’t interacted with you recently
  • Current customers that regularly engage with your offers and content

Either way, your answer shouldn’t be “anybody and everybody.”

Because your target audience has a direct impact on your campaign messaging and tactics. For example, how to market to new customers versus existing ones is apples and oranges.

There might be some overlap between these groups, sure.  That said, campaigns that zero in on a specific audience are better positioned to resonate with customers versus one-size-fits-all marketing pushes.

2. Set specific goals (and align them with the right metrics)

We’ve said it a million times — setting goals is crucial to all social media campaigns. Some sample goals include:

  • Increasing your social engagement rate
  • Boosting revenue by selling products
  • Raising brand awareness
  • Driving traffic to your site or store

By tying your campaigns to metrics and KPIs, you can objectively say whether or not a campaign was successful.  Without data points, you’re just guessing.

Also, tracking metrics during your campaign allows you to make changes and interventions in case your performance is stuck. Translation? Set up your social analytics before you get started!

3. Pick a theme for your campaign

Perhaps the biggest upside of running social campaigns is creative freedom.

Brands today are spoiled for choice when it comes to campaign themes and ideas. Off the top of our head, consider:

  • Product launches
  • Holiday campaigns
  • Exclusive or time-sensitive offers
  • Social ad campaigns
  • User-generated content campaigns
  • Influencer marketing campaigns

The list goes on and on in terms of what you can do. The type of campaign you choose will inform your messaging and what types of creatives you’ll need to create, capture or design.

Stuck on how to create a campaign that your audience will dig? Check out our list of social media campaign examples for some much-needed inspiration!

4. Decide on the timing and duration of your campaign

Keeping your campaign on a schedule is critical. For starters:

  • Set an intended start and end date for your project
  • Establish dates for specific goals, milestones and chances to check in on your campaign’s progress
  • Realistic estimations for deliverables and approvals based on you and your teams’ schedules

Note that your schedule doesn’t have to be set in stone as your project evolves. Don’t panic: it happens.

That said, sticking to a timeline really helps with resource management. In other words, you won’t needlessly eat up your budget or waste your teammates’ time by dragging your feet.

And there is no “right” answer in terms of how long your social campaigns should be.

For example, holiday campaigns may only last a week or so with a planning phase that’s much longer. On the flip side, some hashtag and ad campaigns might be longer and only end when engagement drops off.

But conventional wisdom says the tighter your schedule and timeline, the better. A few months in advance to plan and prepare is obviously ideal versus a few weeks. Just be realistic!

Check out our social media campaign templates to create a custom timeline for your next campaign.

5. Choose the appropriate channels

Chances are your social media marketing campaign spans multiple channels, right?

For example, it’s no surprise to see brands simultaneously run Facebook and Instagram ads given that digital ad spending is up by 56% YoY.

But perhaps you don’t have the budget or presence for paid ads. Maybe you want to stick with organic content on one channel and paid social on another.

Either way, that’s fine! Just remember that your social media advertising strategy is going to be different from platform to platform. What works on Facebook and Instagram might not work on Twitter or Pinterest (and vice versa).

You can tackle as many (or few) channels as you want! Our advice, though? Don’t spread yourself too thin. Likewise, never lose sight of your big-picture goals as you post across multiple channels.

This speaks to the value of publishing your campaign using a tool like Sprout. Not only does our platform let you cross-post campaign content, but also put your goals and objectives front-and-center each time you craft a new post.

Screenshot of composing posts in Spout Social with the campaign brief explanation in an adjacent window.

Step #2: Prepare content and creatives for your campaigns

At this stage, you’ve finalized your campaign idea.

And making it a reality almost always means bringing new people into the project.

Whether you’re part of a marketing department or represent a team of one, your ability to collaborate effectively is make-or-break. This rings true for the sake of getting the creatives you need for your campaign (think: images, videos, copy) and finishing your campaigns on time.

Below is a breakdown of how to get the key creatives and deliverables you need.

1. Connect with your team

Whether in-person, via team chat or virtual meetings, you’ll likely need to communicate with a variety of people to get your project moving. This includes:

  • Stakeholders involved in the campaign approval process (think: managers and clients)
  • Freelancers and contractors (for graphics, videos, content, and/or copywriting)
  • Teammates and colleagues that’ll be participating in the campaign

Again, giving all of the above advance notice and plenty of time to prepare is a huge plus. Respect everyone’s time and confirm their level of involvement and commitment before moving forward.

2. Brainstorm your core social creatives

No two social media campaigns are the same in terms of social creatives. Beyond big deliverables such as content, don’t forget about essential social elements of your campaign such as:

3. Consider collaborators beyond your brand

Sometimes taking your campaign to the next level means partnering up with people that can raise awareness beyond your own network.

For example, you might connect with outside collaborates including:

If you can’t leverage these relationships, that’s totally fine. What matters is that you have a process for communicating the needs of your campaign and putting it all together.

And yet again, Sprout can help here. Tools like Sprout’s social planner make it easy to store all of your creative assets, set up approvals, and keep track of what’s been posted or needs to go live.

Coupled with real-time analytics once your campaign is off the ground, our platform gives you a constant pulse on your campaign performance.

Screenshot of planning multiple social media campaigns in Sprout Social with run-times, scheduled posts, posts approvals and impressions (so far).

Step #3: Manage social media campaigns across multiple channels

Running a campaign across multiple channels doesn’t have to be a headache.

Even if you’re sticking to a single channel, consider the following organizational steps to better manage and monitor your live campaigns.

1. Come up with a publishing and content calendar

With a dedicated publishing tool, you can map out your content calendar and schedule your posts well in advance. This prevents you from having to scramble in real-time to post. As an added bonus, you free up more time to manage customer relationships and respond to customers.

Check out below what a live publishing calendar looks like in Sprout. With our campaign management platform, you can manage your day-to-day social posts alongside your short or long-term campaigns in a single app. Simply having this visual makes your campaign feel less daunting and likewise makes it easier to move content around if necessary.

Screenshot of the content calendar in Sprout Social with a weeklong social media campaign with queued posts across multiple platforms during that time.

2. Optimize your social posts for each channel

Every social media platform is totally different when it comes to optimization. This includes:

  • Caption length
  • Hashtags
  • Publishing timing
  • Publishing frequency
  • Image size(s)
  • Links
  • Calls-to-action

This again speaks to the importance of having a tool that quickly allows you to cross-post and edit campaign content in one place.

Want to optimize a post across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter? Sprout lets you make and preview changes in a snap.

Example of a Sprout Social calendar card for different social media campaigns.

3. Be prepared to respond to followers in real-time

Make a point to prioritize engagement and interaction with customers once your campaign is live.

Questions. Comments. Shout-outs and call-outs. You name it.

Managing interactions often requires some juggling, particularly if you’re bouncing between multiple platforms. Speeding up your response time can be the difference between a positive engagement or sale and a buyer bouncing.

Tools like Sprout’s Smart Inbox empower you to answer questions across multiple platforms faster by consolidating all your social communication and notifications. The result is more time spent with customers, less time jumping from network to network.

Step #4: Assess the performance of your campaign

Figuring out whether your campaign was a slam dunk or a dud means looking at your analytics.

That’s because numbers are objective. Through your reporting, you can clearly highlight your wins to stakeholders, teammates and clients alike.

Remember: reporting and analysis should be ongoing and not solely be reviewed at the end of your campaign. While you should absolutely reflect on the end result of your efforts, looking at campaign data throughout your project gives you a greater sense of control.

1. Look at your high-level performance data

Engagement data (impressions, interactions and clicks) can clue you in on how much your campaign resonates with your audience. Looking at data over time, you can:

  • Benchmark how engaged your audience was before the campaign versus during it (and after, long-term)
  • Which networks performed the best (and worst)
  • Determine if there was a specific content type or timing that received greater engagement

Here’s a snapshot of campaign analysis in Sprout:

Screenshot example of social media performance data in Sprout Social.

2. Assess specific social engagement metrics

Beyond big-picture data, you should also consider getting granular with specific posts. For example, which posts were your top-performers? What scored the most impressions, engagements and click-throughs?

These data points are invaluable not only for your content strategy but also ideas for future campaigns.

Screenshot example of engagement KPIs for social media campaigns and sent messages.

3. Analyze paid versus organic advertising

Assuming you ran a paid campaign, make sure to assess the performance of your ads versus your organic content. Doing so can help you refine your ad budget and likewise understand if social ads are a worthwhile investment in the long run.

Screenshot of Sprout Social's paid performance report that outlines paid impressions, total spend and various metrics for measuring success.

Step #5: Gather ideas and inspiration for new social media campaigns

As soon as one campaign ends, you’re probably already in the planning phases of a new one.

And that’s awesome!

But again, social media planning and brainstorming can be both draining and time-consuming. Rather than rack your brain whenever it’s time to build a campaign, consider some low-hanging tactics to ensure that fresh ideas come to you.

1. Tap into the power of social listening

If you want to know exactly what your audience wants from their favorite brands, look no further than their social media conversations.

Tools like Sprout Social make it so simple to master the art of trendspotting. Our keyword and hashtag section of your Listening Topic instantly highlight what your audience is buzzing about, allowing you to get ahead of trends and content crazes.

Screenshot of Sprout Social listening and hashtags for social media campaigns.

2. Conduct competitive analysis

Pop quiz: what sort of social media campaigns are your competitors running right now?

Conducting competitive analysis can clue you in on up-and-coming brands and big-box competitors alike. Through listening and competitive analytics, you can better understand their social presence and where they might be dropping the ball.

For example, you might find that customers are unhappy with your direct competitors’ recent product change or pricing model. If you see a rise in @mentions of your competitors with negative sentiment, you might consider putting together a campaign that speaks to those disappointed customers.

Example of competitive analysis in Sprout Social, including share of voice, engagement, impressions and sentiment.

3. Draw inspiration from past campaigns

Finally, don’t be afraid to draw inspiration from effective social media campaigns you’ve seen elsewhere.

Perhaps your competitor just ran an awesome customer success campaign.

Or maybe you saw some sleek social ads from a brand that you personally admire.

Either way, take notes of such campaigns and start thinking about how you can adopt a similar theme yourself. The goal here isn’t to copycat or steal ideas, but to make sure you’re aware of what other players in your industry are doing.

Do you have a defined strategy for planning successful social media campaigns?

We know firsthand that planning a campaign requires a lot of legwork.

But now that you know how to create a social media campaign with the steps above, you can approach your next one with serious confidence.

Just make sure that you’re using the right tools to put your campaign into action sooner rather than later. If you haven’t already, give Sprout Social a try yourself to see how our publishing and analytics features can level up your next social media project.