You’ve got a good number of social media clients under your belt and you feel fairly confident in your own service or product content marketing strategy. To attract new clients, you’ll tell them how you’ve tripled someone else’s engagement rates but how do they know this is true? Enter the case study.
Social media case studies are often used as part of a sales funnel: the potential client sees themselves in the case study and signs up because they want the same or better results. At Sprout, we use this strategy with our own case studies highlighting our customer’s successes.
Writing and publishing case studies is time intensive but straight forward. This guide will walk through how to create a social media case study for your business and highlight some examples.
What is a social media case study?
A case study is basically a long testimonial or review. Case studies commonly highlight what a business has achieved by using a social media service or strategy, and they illustrate how your company’s offerings help clients in a specific situation. Some case studies are written just to examine how a problem was solved or performance was improved from a general perspective. For this guide, we’ll be examining case studies that are focused on highlighting a company’s own products and services.
Case studies come in all content formats: long-form article, downloadable PDF, video and infographic. A single case study can be recycled into different formats as long as the information is still relevant.
At their core, case studies serve to inform a current or potential customer about a real-life scenario where your service or product was applied. There’s often a set date range for the campaign and accompanying, real-life statistics. The idea is to help the reader get a clearer understanding of how to use your product and why it could help.
Broad selling points like “our service will cut down your response time” are nice but a sentence like “After three months of using the software for responses, the company decreased their response time by 52%” works even better. It’s no longer a dream that you’ll help them decrease the response time because you already have with another company.
So now that you understand what a case study is, let’s get started on how to create one that’s effective and will help attract new clients.
How to write a social marketing case study
Writing an effective case study is all about the prep work. You’ve got to get all of the questions and set up ready so you can minimize lots of back and forth between you and the client.
1. Prepare your questions
Depending on how the case study will be presented and how familiar you are with the client to be featured, you may want to send some preliminary questions before the interview. It’s important to not only get permission from the company to use their logo, quotes and graphs but also to make sure they know they’ll be going into a public case study.
Your preliminary questions should cover background information about the company and ask about campaigns they are interested in discussing. Be sure to also identify which of your products and services they used. You can go into the details in the interview.
Once you receive the preliminary answers back, it’s time to prepare your questions for the interview. This is where you’ll get more information about how they used your products and how they contributed to the campaign’s success.
When you conduct your interview, think ahead on how you want it to be done. Whether it’s a phone call, video meeting or in-person meeting, you want to make sure it’s recorded. You can use tools like Google Meet, Zoom or UberConference to host and record calls (with your client’s permission, of course). This ensures that your quotes are accurate and you can play it back in case you miss any information. Tip: test out your recording device and process before the interview. You don’t want to go through the interview only to find out the recording didn’t save.
Ask open-ended questions to invite good quotes. You may need to use follow-up questions if the answers are too vague. Here are some examples.
- Explain how you use (your product or service) in general and for the campaign. Please name specific features.
- Describe how the feature helped your campaign achieve success.
- What were the campaign outcomes?
- What did you learn from the campaign?
Since we’re focused on creating a social media case study in this case, you can dive more deeply into social strategies and tactics too:
- Tell me about your approach to social media. How has it changed over time, if at all? What role does it play for the organization? How do you use it? What are you hoping to achieve?
- Are there specific social channels you prioritize? If so, why?
- How do you make sure your social efforts are reaching the right audience?
- What specific challenges do organizations like yours face when it comes to social?
- How do you measure the ROI of using social? Are there certain outcomes that prove the value of social for your organization? What metrics are you using to determine how effective social is for you?
As the conversation continues, you can ask more leading questions if you need to to make sure you get quotes that tie these strategic insights directly back to the services, products or strategies your company has delivered to the client to help them achieve success. Here are just a couple of examples.
- Are there specific features that stick out to you as particularly helpful or especially beneficial for you and your objectives?
- How are you using (product/service) to support your social strategy? What’s a typical day like for your team using it?
The above quote was inserted into the Sprout Lake Metroparks case study. It’s an example of identifying a quote from an interview that helps make the impact of the product tangible in a client’s day to day.
At the end of the interview, be sure to thank the company and request relevant assets.
Afterwards, you may want to transcribe the interview to increase the ease of reviewing the material and writing the case study. You can DIY or use a paid service like Rev to speed up this part of the process.
3. Request assets and graphics
This is another important prep step because you want to make sure you get everything you need out of one request and avoid back and forth that takes up both you and your customer’s time. Be very clear on what you need and the file formats you need them in.
Some common assets include:
- Logo in .png format
- Logo guidelines so you know how to use them correctly
- Links to social media posts that were used during the campaign
- Headshots of people you interviewed
- Social media analytics reports. Make sure you name them and provide the requested date range, so that if you’re using a tool like Sprout, clients know which one to export.
For graphics, Sprout’s reports make it easy to pull presentation-ready graphs to insert into the case study. All the client needs to do is export the relevant report and send it over to you to crop.
In the Keele University case study by Sprout, we examined how the university built their brand with Sprout. It includes examples of social media posts and the above graph to examine their year-over-year audience growth of 10.1% across their group.
4. Write the copy
Now that the information has been collected, it’s time to dissect it all and assemble it. At the end of this guide, we have an example outline template for you to follow. When writing a case study, you want to write to the audience that you’re trying to attract. In this case, it’ll be a potential customer that’s similar to the one you’re highlighting.
Use a mix of sentences and bullet points to attract different kinds of readers. The tone should be uplifting because you’re highlighting a success story. When identifying quotes to use, remove any fillers (“um”) and cut out unnecessary info.
Your copy should read somewhat like an adventure story: introduce the character, conflict emerges, a solution appears and the hero conquers the problem. Keep this story arc in mind while you’re assembling your copy.
Pinterest’s business advertising case study of Estee Lauder clearly breaks down each section in a presentable way. Their headers are to the point so you can scroll to them. The body for each section includes short paragraphs and digestible sentences.
5. Pay attention to formatting
Case studies can be long so you want to make sure you keep your reader’s attention throughout the piece. In terms of copy, this means that you should give thought to your headline and subheaders. Then, identify quotes that can be pulled and inserted into the piece. Next, insert the relevant social media examples and metric graphs. You want to break up the paragraphs of words with images or graphics. These can be repurposed later when you share the case study on social media, email or sales decks.
In the Sprout case study of Stoneacre Motor Group, we added three statistics right below the header. They’re succinct and grabs the reader’s attention.
And finally, depending on the content type, enlist the help of a graphic designer to make it look presentable. You may also want to include call-to-action buttons or links inside of your article. If you offer free trials, case studies are a great place to promote them.
Social media case study template
Writing a case study is a lot like writing a story or presenting a research paper (but less dry). This is a general outline to follow but you are welcome to enhance to fit your needs.
- Attention-grabbing and effective.
- Example: “How Benefit turns cosmetics into connection using Sprout Social”
- A few sentences long with a basic overview of the brand’s story.
- Give the who, what, where, why and how.
- Which service and/or product did they use?
Introduce the company
- Give background on who you’re highlighting.
- Include pertinent information like how big their social media team is, information about who you interviewed and how they run their social media.
Describe the problem or campaign
- What were they trying to solve?
- Why was this a problem for them?
- What were the goals of the campaign?
Present the solution and end results
- Describe what was done to achieve success.
- Include relevant social media statistics (graphics are encouraged).
- Wrap it up with a reflection from the company spokesperson.
- How did they think the campaign went? What would they change to build on this success for the future?
- How did using the service compare to other services used in a similar situation?
Case studies are essential marketing and sales tools for any business that offer robust services or products. They help the customer reading them to picture their own company using the product in a similar fashion. Like a testimonial, words from the case study’s company carry more weight than sales points from the company.
When creating your first case study, keep in mind that preparation is the key to success. You want to find a company that is more than happy to sing your praises and share details about their social media campaign. We hope this guide helps inspire you to write your first case study–let us know the results you’ve found from creating case studies as part of your marketing strategy!