How to Create and Track Great Social Media Campaigns [with examples]

Creating great social media campaigns may seem daunting.

We see the enterprise-level companies with deep pockets hitting the front pages of our favorite social networks. But how can a social marketer without the resources (or let’s be honest, time), compete?

Part of the beauty of social media is you don’t need a top-tier ad agency to run a great social media campaign. You don’t need a Scrooge McDuck room full of gold coins to compete.

What you need is a plan. That’s where this guide comes in.

We’ll cover what you need to do to create a social campaign that can compete, how you can track the impact of that campaign to look like a hero internally, and finish with some quick tips to jumpstart your strategy.

Table of Contents

Brainstorming social campaign themes

The key to effective brainstorming is to put yourself in the mindset that inspiration can come from anywhere and from as many places as possible.

In this section, we have put together a list of resources to ignite your brainstorming sessions as you plan out your social media strategies.

Newsletters

As social marketers, research is one of our most valuable skills, helping us make sure that our own strategies stay on par with trends in the industry.

Instead of browsing aimlessly through content, rummaging through thousands of social profiles, or running endless Google searches, an easy way to streamline research is to sign up for as many newsletters as possible.

Newsletters provide insights into the state of the industry, changes in technology, updates to social networks, and explain emerging trends and best practices. Here are a few newsletters that social media marketers should add to their resource list boost your creativity while you brainstorm:

  • Social Media Examiner helps you discover how to best use social media to connect with customers, drive traffic, generate awareness, and increase sales. Their newsletter shares articles, expert interviews, and reviews of the latest industry research. Social Fresh has a strong focus on the future of social marketing including future trends and inspiration for fresh social campaigns.
  • Social Fresh provides information on conferences, articles, podcasts, research, and courses to help social marketers find inspiration and produce creative content.
  • MarketingProfs focuses on educating social media marketers by providing modern marketing tools, training, strategies, articles, online seminars, and discussion forums. Their solution-based content helps marketers identify gaps in their marketing strategies and provides resources needed to overcome problem areas.
  • SocialMedia.org positions themselves as a brands-only membership organization for the people running social media at really big companies. They share best practices and provide actionable advice and solutions to the common challenges that come with being a social media professional.
  • Social Media Today is an online community and resource for professionals in marketing, social business, communication, customer experience, content marketing and digital strategy.

Social Listening Solutions

Social listening should be a priority for any marketer. It’s invaluable when you’re trying to create content specific to audience interest. Social listening solutions enable marketers to discover topics of interest and trending hashtags, and gain insight into brand sentiment.

Sprout Social Product Image of Listening Performance Sentiment Summary

Social listening is one of the most effective ways small organizations can access the same data as the larger players.

With diligence, you can listen for emerging trends worth creating campaigns around before anyone else.

During the brainstorming process, listening to your audience can help you identify their needs, which enables you to create social campaigns that meet those needs, identify the type of content they crave and engage them with your brand.

Webinars

Webinars can have a huge impact on our social marketing strategies by enabling us to generate new leads and prospects, nurture existing relationships, and demonstrate expertise in our industries.

During webinars, many businesses will live-tweet along with their users to engage them, answer questions, and keep the online conversation going. Webinars can also provide a way for us to learn, which can spark content ideas during our brainstorming sessions, as they are typically education-focused.

Webinars can provide you with actionable steps to take toward more effective social marketing. Social Media Today provides a wide variety of webinars specific to social marketers. You can register for upcoming webinars or watch from their library of on-demand webinars.

Forums

Forums provide an effective way for marketers to identify the topics that are spurring the most conversation online.

Quora is a great resource to discover topics of interest, ask questions, and engage in conversations relevant to your brand. As a brainstorming tool, forums can help social marketers build social content plans that address questions people are already asking.

Sales Teams

Sales is the number one team that social marketers wish they could influence more. So why can’t we look to them for insights as well?

Our sales teams are our first points of contacts with consumers, and they can provide insight into the needs, challenges, and successes of our customers. This insight can help us generate content that addresses these needs or highlights successes.

Building out your creatives and content

Now that you’ve explored your brainstorming resources and discovered topics of interest that will resonate with your audience, you can begin building out your creative social campaigns.

In this phase, you will strategically implement your most creative campaigns. This section provides you with five tips to ensure that your next social campaign is driven by creativity.

Utilize Influencers

Social media presents a tremendous opportunity for anyone to share their experiences, expertise, and insight with the world. A large population of social users has been able to develop big followings that are engaged and eager to digest and share content.

Marketers have been able to utilize these social media superstars to increase brand awareness, promote products and services, and use the digital word-of-mouth concept to build brand trust and increase sales.

Influencers also can be a great resource for you when you run into those creative roadblocks.

One of the great benefits of having influencers in your social strategy is that they are already master content creators. They’ve been able to build their followings based on the engaging content they share on social. Their videos, pictures, tweets, and posts receive high levels of engagement.

Influencers will produce unique content for your brand, with a fresh perspective–a huge benefit for your brand if you feel you are lacking creative content.

Their social audiences already seek their advice, and influencers greatly impact purchase behaviors. In fact, 50% of consumers made a purchase based on a general recommendation made on social media, according to TWP Inc. Influencer-generated content can bring creativity back into your social strategy, and will require minimal effort on your end.

Wayfair, a furniture retailer, utilizes user-generated content in their social strategy. They share user images with links to shop for products within their posts, making it easy for consumers to visualize products in their own home for design inspiration, combined with the customer testimonial effect of actual users sharing their purchases. Wayfair simply had to repost content– minimal effort for a huge social impact.

Size Up the Competition

If you are running out of ideas to keep your social strategies creatively fresh, turning to your competitors is a practical way to develop creative content.

Be careful not to mimic the content of your competitors, but use their social strategies for inspiration. Your brand and its competitors have similar ideal customer personas, so focus on the type of content that is most engaging, both within your own social efforts and those of the competition.

Adapt to the Buyer’s Journey

Not every piece of content you produce is going to perform well with all members of your target audience in every stage of the sales funnel. If you find yourself lacking the inspiration to produce creative social content, shift your focus to create content specific to where your customers are in their buying journey.


Awareness

In the awareness stage, your goal is to increase the number of people who know about your brand, its services, and its offerings. The content you produce within this stage needs to be eye-catching but doesn’t necessarily have to speak directly to what your brand has to offer. The focus here is to grab your audience’s attention. There are a few ways you can do this:

Use Images

Posts that include images produce 650 percent higher engagement than text-only posts, according to WebDAM. Using the right visuals in your social media posts is essential to catching the attention of an audience who rapidly moves through social content. Visuals are both memorable and effective. Your audience can process, understand, and retain more information more quickly.

Oreo does a great job on social by combining their product with visuals that provoke emotional reactions. Their post promoting their new S’mores Oreos places their product next to a thermos and a telescope, which creates a sense of wonder with reference to exploring the wilderness and the unknown.

Share User-Generated Content

Save some time and energy by sharing content that your followers create. Initiate engagement by proactively sharing content that can positively promote your brand, while also boosting the ego of your audience. And, let’s face it, we all could use a little ego boost from time to time. Your audience will be delighted by your brand sharing their content and will be excited to share the news with their followers. It’s a win-win situation.

Starbucks often posts user-generated content to their social profiles, and typically sees a lot of engagement from its followers. Starbucks asked its followers on Instagram to share their cozy moments with the limited Starbucks Red Cup. This single post featuring a Red Cup and comfy blankets received nearly 300,000 likes and collected over 400 comments.

Engage with Your Followers

The beauty of social media is that it allows for a two-way dialogue between your brand and its followers.

Ask your audience questions, take a poll, or comment on their posts and engage in conversations they are already having on social. The more active you are on social media, the greater your chances are of increasing your brand awareness. Consistent interaction with your followers will be a fruitful addition to your overall social strategy.

Social media went into hyperdrive when users couldn’t figure out if a dress was black and blue, or gold and white. Specsavers took advantage of this trending conversation on social to promote their business and have people come in for eye checks. This particular tweet was retweeted over 12,000 times and received over 8,000 likes.

Consideration

In the consideration phase, you start providing content that is a bit more specific to your brand and its offerings. You want to entice your audience to want to learn more about your business. Here is where you would provide small chunks of information regarding your brand.

Connect Social to Your Website

It is imperative that you use social media to drive traffic back to your website or your blog during the consideration phase. Your website is a hub for all information related to your brand and your offerings. Your brand’s website and blog can even provide e-books and white papers to learn more.

IKEA was able to use user-generated content to drive people back to their website. IKEA highlights the stylish designs of their followers and includes a shortened link to their Share Space page on their website, where happy customers share their design inspirations and showcase furniture in their own homes.

Share Customer Testimonials

Your brand loyalists will often share positive reviews of your brand on social. Utilize those customer testimonials to tell a story on your own social profiles. During the consideration phase, your customers are seeking input from other customers that will ultimately influence their purchasing decisions. 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals–even if they don’t know them–over brands, according to TWP Inc.

Myers + Chang, a restaurant in Boston, Massachusetts, retweeted a post from a happy customer. Sharing testimonials increases brand trust and allows your users to tell others how amazing your business is, saving you the trouble of having to tell them yourself.

Use Social Media for Customer Service

Your followers on social may often want to interact with you online. They may just be giving your brand a shout-out on social, but may also have concerns or suggestions for your brand. Don’t be afraid to interact with your followers by responding to their questions or thanking them for the mentions. A study from Nielsen found that 33% of customers prefer to contact brands using social media rather than on the telephone.

PinkBlush, an online maternity retailer, responds to questions that their followers have on Facebook. In this particular post, a customer asks how fast PinkBlush can ship to New Jersey. PinkBlush responded directly to that customer and provided a link back to their website to learn more information and to complete their purchase.

Intent

During the intent phase, your customer is at the brink of making a purchasing decision. According to Forbes, 78% of respondents said that companies’ social media posts impact their purchases.

This is your opportunity to hit them with relevant content on social media to influence their decision in favor of your brand. Provide a Demo or Special Offer In a survey by Knowledge Networks PDI, 58 percent of nearly 1,800 respondents said they would buy a product after trying it.

Demoing your product on social media or giving your users exclusive offers will have a huge impact on your conversion rates. Your goal here is to provide an incentive for your followers to make an actual purchase.

In their profile, Dollar Shave Club provides a link where their followers are redirected to their website to sign up for their subscription and have shaving supplies shipped directly to their door. Saturate your profile, even the bio section, with ways for your customers to make easy purchases.

Conversion

In the conversion phase of the funnel, you’ve successfully guided your customer to make a purchase. At this stage, you can now shift your social strategy to create brand advocates, or influencers, for your brand. The type of content created should be shareable content that your followers can deliver to their own followings, to guide more leads into the top of your funnel.

Allow Your Users to Share Their Purchases on Social

After making a purchase online, provide an option for your users to share their purchases with their followings. This will increase brand awareness and influence potential customers, and it requires minimal effort. Give your customers the opportunity to brag about your brand.

Create a User-Generated Content Contest

Here we go again talking about user-generated content, and that’s because user-generated content is so important for a successful social media strategy.

During the conversion phase, you have the great opportunity to turn all of your followers into brand advocates by having them create content for your brand. National Geographic, for instance, asked users to submit photos for a chance to win a trip to the Galapagos Islands. National Geographic even hosted all submissions on their website, with sharing options at the bottom of each submission, making sharing on social easy for their visitors.

Post What Users Want

Still at a loss for what kind of content to create for your social media campaign? Here’s a little cheat sheet about the social posts that encourage consumer likes and shares.

Analyzing the impact of your work

By this point in your social strategy planning, you’ve already brainstormed innovative ways to boost brand awareness and engagement on social, and you have implemented a plan that targets users at each stage of the sales funnel, with specific content based on their buyer journey.

Now it’s time to analyze your campaigns to guide the creative process going into your next social strategy planning cycle.

Choose Your Metrics

Metrics matter. Choosing the appropriate metrics to track and analyze is vital to properly gauge the success of your social media campaigns. With the tremendous amount of social data now available, be sure to choose metrics that align with your objectives.

Engagement Metrics

When it comes to your content, engagement metrics provide the best type of data to determine the overall likeability and effectiveness of your content pieces.

Engagement tracks the number of unique people who have clicked, liked, commented on, or shared your posts. Engagement metrics provide insight into how your content is circulating around the social sphere. Your most popular content is going to be liked more, shared more, and commented on more often. There are three engagement metrics that are universal among the major social networks:

  • Clicks: Users are only going to click on content that interests them. If you experience high clickthrough rates, your content is intriguing enough for users to want to see more, meaning that your subject title and accompanying image are effective.
  • Likes: Users understand that good content is often liked more by their networks. If your content resonates with an audience and is receiving a high number of likes, your content will naturally gain popularity (and hopefully collect more clicks).
  • Shares: Clicks and likes are good indicators that content is at least attractive to audiences. However, when users like your content enough to share, it means it is relevant to them and their audiences.

In the analysis phase, there are two action steps you can take to gauge the effectiveness of your social marketing efforts:

Use Analytics Solutions to Gauge the Impact of a Social Campaign

Social media is making a huge impact on overall marketing strategies. Refer back to your social listening and content share tracking solutions to gauge the effectiveness of your social strategies.

Analytics solutions can guide you through specific pathways to discover challenge areas or gaps in your social strategy, and can help identify areas where your social marketing efforts are most rewarded. You also are provided insight on audience engagement, reach, and impressions.

Social listening solutions make campaign tracking a breeze. By setting up queries to listen across all of social for posts indicating your campaign, you not only see the reach and engagement, but you can see the general sentiment as well.

Sprout Social Product Image of Listening Performance Topic Summary

Use message tagging

Another simple yet powerful way to track campaign success is using social media tagging. This is something you’ll need a social media management platform to use, but this tool alone makes it worth it.

Create a unique campaign tag for each of your campaigns and whenever you publish a message using that tag. Additionally, tag every inbound message with the same tag to ensure nothing slips between the cracks.

Sprout Social Product Image of Publishing Smart Inbox with Instagram Compose Tag

You can immediately start looking at your social media tag report to see the performance of your campaign across all profiles and social networks.

Sprout Social Product Image of Analytics Cross-Channel Tag Report

With this, you can see data like:

  • Number of messages sent
  • Number of messages received
  • Impressions
  • Engagements
  • Clicks
  • Growth trends

Social media campaigns by network

The most successful social media campaigns span multiple networks simultaneously. Some even incorporate other media channels like TV or radio.

But if you’re looking for a specific social network to create campaigns for, we have content for that as well.

Examples of successful social media campaigns

Everyone loves a social success story. Even more people like a social media failure (but we’re not going to talk about those).

Sprout recently created an entire series of content called “Social Spotlight” which details successful social media campaigns. Our Social Spotlight series highlights great brands on social and what strategies they’re implementing to achieve success.

We release a new Sprout Spotlight every two weeks, but here are the brands we’ve covered so far and a bit about why their social campaign was so successful.

Social Spotlight: REI’s #OptOutside and How a Campaign Becomes a Movement

Many brands focus their marketing efforts on building an always-on, consistent social strategy with the goal of remaining top-of-mind with consumers year-round. But REI has proven that there’s something to be said for focusing on a specific moment in time and owning it like no other brand ever has. And in an age where 70% of consumers indicate that it’s important for brands to take a socio-political stand, finding a social good angle to support with your campaign has never been so vital.

But once you’ve made the initial splash – the most successful of which are built around an idea the reframes an entire set of cultural norms – how do you keep the momentum going year after year to ensure that your annual campaign continues to build equity for your brand? This week’s featured brand, outdoor retailer REI, is a study in sustained growth for a radical idea.

Social Spotlight: How the ASPCA uses social to inspire action

We all know social is a powerful platform for great storytelling, but the real secret sauce is when that great storytelling is paired with the immediate connection social offers. This is especially true for nonprofits like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or the ASPCA, which uses social to drive awareness of its causes, exposure for animals in need and fiscal support to operate its programs.

Because it relies on donations from the public to fund much of its work, the ASPCA expends great effort to connect with animal lovers through the stories of the animals it helps (and the humans who love them). Social allows the organization to tie those stories directly to actions of support: donations, adoptions, lobbying and awareness.

Social Spotlight: Everlane and the Impact of Zero Impact

Transparency and authenticity are two of the most sought-after brand beliefs for consumers who, more than ever before, want to put their money where their values are. But the records of social media are riddled with brands that have attempted purpose-driven marketing without realizing that consumers need more than surface-level PR commitment. Without a purpose-driven business behind the stunts, the message rings hollow.

But when a brand builds purpose into the very fiber of its business, the marketing is the easy part. Take fashion brand Everlane, which uses social not for flashy content meant solely to sell, but for deep and authentic storytelling about the purpose-driven business it’s built.

Social Spotlight: #FreshXIngridNilsen

Influencer marketing is everywhere in today’s recommendation-driven environment, but getting it right can be tricky. Finding an influencer your audience will identify with, find aspirational and take at face value – all at the right, mutually-beneficial price – is a challenging process without a guarantee. Fresh Beauty is one brand that got it right when it partnered with beauty vlogger Ingrid Nilsen, and the authentic, relevant connection created between the brand and its target audience constitutes a social influencer success story.

Social Spotlight: How GoPro fuels brand loyalty with UGC

Few brands have as successfully embraced UGC as GoPro, and with good reason; when your product makes great images and video possible for your consumers, showing is better than telling. And in Instagram, GoPro has found the perfect channel on which to build the kind of loyal community that keeps it top of mind for adventurous consumers across the globe.

Social Spotlight: A lesson in social storytelling from The New York Times

The New York Times is considered by many to be the greatest general interest publication in the world, but until recently lagged behind its digital-first peers in terms of innovation and risk-taking in its storytelling. Not so today, as the Gray Lady has come into her own in part by redefining the role of social media in compelling and accessible journalism.

Social Spotlight: Air Jordan or A/R Jordan

Many athletes have an eponymous shoe, but it’s feats like that gravity-defying slam that ensure one’s shoe line becomes a world-beating brand. But even Air Jordans must work to stay relevant, especially when the new generation of sneaker heads has never even witnessed the brand’s namesake lace up to take the court.

Enter Snapchat and its universally accessible A/R technology, which turns any user’s phone into an augmented reality viewer. By creating “the world’s first social commerce experience in augmented reality”– a Snap lens that superimposed Jordan’s iconic dunk onto a geofenced “court” outside the Staples Center during the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend–new fans could experience the jaw-dropping awe of that moment for themselves. Oh, and also buy the brand new Air Jordan Tinker IIIs, which Virtual Mike just happened to be wearing in the A/R experience, straight from Snapchat through a partnership with Shopify.

Social Spotlight: How Netflix uses social to create a brand experience

Perhaps the biggest coup of all for Netflix on social is the ability to capitalize on the brand’s unique value propositions. You can’t get Stranger Things anywhere other than Netflix’s service, and you definitely can’t get Stranger Things behind-the-scenes content anywhere other than Netflix’s social handles. 

Social Spotlight: Marshalls’ #MarshallsSurprise

One of the bargains shoppers make with a retailer like Marshalls is that in exchange for lower prices on brand-name goods, there are no guarantees that a given store will carry exactly what you’re looking for. While this could be maddening in the age of on-demand everything, Marshalls has turned its stores’ quirky, unpredictable stock into a treasure hunting adventure via a social campaign called #MarshallsSurprise.

The premise is pretty simple: Through their own social channels (primarily Instagram and Pinterest), Marshalls encourages shoppers to share pics of their best “finds” — from absurdly great deals on brand name clothing to the rug that really pulls the room together — using the hashtag #MarshallsSurprise. They’ve tapped some lifestyle influencers to join the campaign, extending the reach and reminding consumers that anyone can find a great surprise at Marshalls.

25 tips to come up with campaign ideas

1. Social Media Listening

Listening to your friends comes naturally. You want to hear what they have to say, and it’s easy: they’re sitting across the table from you at brunch, or you’re texting up a storm, back and forth.

Because you are involved in this seamless interchange of information, and listening intently, you know as much about many of your friends as you do about yourself.

The same is not true of your relationship with your social audience.

With our social audiences, we tend to push out information (owned content) and measure the effect of that content. Sometimes we forget to begin by listening to our audiences and building content around what they actually care about.

We end up pushing out content that just isn’t quite right. It’s like your friend telling you about a Golden Retriever puppy she wants to adopt and asking for your advice, and you responding by listing out your favorite qualities of Labradoodles. Tangentially related, but not quite right. We marketers fall into this trap an awful lot.

Here’s how you can begin to shift your thinking.

Build Your Empathy

Building empathy happens when you pay attention and listen deeply. This tends to come naturally in friendships: if your friend is hurting, you’re hurting. You wouldn’t scroll through your Instagram feed while your friend shared the painful news of his divorce, would you?

The same concept can be applied to your relationship with your customers and/or social audience. Don’t busy yourself so much with your owned content (what your brand has to say) that you miss out on what your audience is saying and feeling on social, forums, and blogs.

By building a solid foundation of empathy for your audience’s wants and needs–and how those wants and needs evolve throughout the customer journey–you’re also building better content, responses, and, ultimately, sentiment around your brand.

Know the History

One reason you’re able to so easily understand your closest friends is that you have a shared history. You’ve heard the story about Johnny chipping his tooth on a parmesan rind back in college a million times. You were there when Linda got to party with Snoop Dogg on her bachelorette trip.

The same level of historical knowledge is important when it comes to your customers. That’s why a social media tool with a CRM is critical.

Sprout Social Product Image of Engagement Contact View with Twitter Conversation History Add Note

When has your brand experienced the greatest spikes in reach, engagement, and volume? Which tactics and channels have historically worked for you (or your competition), and which have been misses?

This is another common mistake for marketers: we commit to a campaign, regard it as a success or failure, and then move on too quickly to learn and document valuable lessons that can help us do better in the future.

Don’t fall into this trap! Continue adding to your (separate) lists of customer knowledge and self-knowledge regularly as time passes and the data keeps rolling in.

Share a Common Language

You and your best friend have an endless assortment of inside jokes and maybe even made-up words and phrases that only you two understand. It’s kind of annoying, TBH. But shared experience = shared language.

The same equation is true for listening to your customers on social. If you understand the slang and solutions that your audience throws at one another without you hovering in the room, you’ll eventually be able to learn their language and use it to better reach them.

Sprout Social Product Image of Listening Conversation Word Cloud

Prioritization

As you grow up, you stop making time for friends who don’t give you the same level of attention as you give them. This can also be applied to your social media program. Understand how your audience prioritizes you, and you’ll be able to adjust your brand’s behavior accordingly.

This doesn’t mean that you’re going to stop targeting customers or potential customers who like another brand over your brand. But it does mean that you might go more aggressively after one customer segment and veer away from another, or that you might spend more time doing competitive campaigning against one particular brand on social. The only way you’ll be able to prioritize correctly is by understanding where you sit in relationship to competitors in your (target) audience’s eyes.

Go Deep

The best conversations with your friends happen after a glass of wine or two, when you go deep into your fears and hopes and vulnerabilities. Don’t miss out on the most important, in-depth information about your customers by staying on the surface.

Sprout Social Product Image of Listening Conversation Related Keyword Hashtags

Take the time to look at the most buzz-generating comments around your brand and/or industry on social at least once a day. This will give you the level of depth you need to move forward and make better choices.

2. Consulting an Expert

Take a marketer you know and admire out to lunch, or approach him or her on social and ask for a quick chat. Come prepared with a set of questions, as specific as possible. We recommend choosing a particular campaign you were floored by, and digging deep to find out what you can learn for your own brand.

We have some social media experts on our staff who are always happy to talk about how Sprout Social’s full suite of social media tools can help you leverage data to come up with new campaign ideas.

3. Talking to Customers

This may take the form of jumping on a call or running a survey, depending on your business. However you consume this feedback, know that it is one of the most important things you can do to understand how people who give you money actually think and feel about not only your product but your industry at large.

If you’re not in a position where you can talk to your customers directly, try and schedule some time with your customer success team. These are the folks who have consistent conversations with your audience and can tell you exactly what pain-points they’re looking to solve. Then you can create custom social media campaigns catered to those specific challenges.

4. Learning from Innovators

Doing your research on how marketing executives (including your own!) think and operate is essential. Read interviews with CMO’s from best-in-class brands, and pay attention to the initiatives being emphasized on a broader level at your company.

The strategies and messaging set at a high level always impact what marching orders are departmentally–if not now, next quarter. Understand bold, innovative visions and you’ll be able to come up with and execute creative campaigns that accomplish business goals in your organization.

5. Learn from Non-Business Folk

Some of the best creative ideas you’ll find for social media campaigns come from outside business.

Here are some of our favorite quotes from thinkers who focus on expanding creativity and self-improvement. We recommend reading these books when your well has run dry.

  • “It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
  • “Whenever you’re at a loss for what move to make next, just ask yourself, ‘ What would make a better story?’ ” – Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
  • “Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.” – Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

6. Give it a Chance

Being able to pivot quickly according to data findings is important. No one believes this more than us.

But abandoning a campaign or messaging angle or visual approach because the data doesn’t match your ambitious goals within the first week or month is not the smart way to go, because it doesn’t give your message enough time to saturate the market, if it is going to saturate the market.

By pivoting too quickly, you risk diluting your brand story and recognition with too many different messages within too short a time span. This confuses your audience and ultimately gives your competitors an advantage.

We recommend making no campaign less than three months long, and breaking your campaign plan into multiple phases. At the end of each phase should be a stopping point at which you formally evaluate the data, and come up with an action plan for modifying your plan accordingly.

7. Face the Larger Climate Head-On

Both Cadillac and AirBnB have done an excellent job of addressing 2017’s divisive political climate in a way that:

  1. Faces the climate head-on
  2. Reinforces their brand message

This is a tricky balance to strike, since by addressing political themes brands often experience blowback. It’s not a good strategy for every brand. Before putting together a campaign around this, do four things:

  1. Run an audience analysis to understand whether your audience will be positive, neutral, or negative around content of this nature
  2. Remember to stay focused on general emotional connection and stay away from specific political topics or personalities
  3. Weigh the risk of negative feedback vs. a major awareness boost
  4. Consider your resources. It’s not worth doing this unless you can do it well (and, preferably, with video)

If you’re interested in getting political on social, check out our recent data study on the impact of taking a stance on social. Below are the key findings:

  • People want brands to take a stand on important issues, and social media is the place for it
  • Brands can’t change minds, but they can effect change
  • Brands face more reward than risk

8. Bring in the Music

Wikipdia defines the Mozart Effect as:

“A set of research results indicating that listening to Mozart‘s music may induce a short-term improvement on the performance of certain kinds of mental tasks known as “spatial-temporal reasoning”.

So try and listen to some music while working on your social campaigns! Use Spotify to create a playlist that goes along with your campaign, and encourage followers to share the playlist on social for a chance to win a prize.

9. Collaborate Closely with Content

Do your social and content teams work closely enough together, or do you run on parallel tracks that rarely intersect? If the latter is true, you’re missing out.

When your content team is regularly informed about what’s performing well (or not) on social, they can create better content for your social team. When your social team is regularly updated about which content requires promotion to fit brand messaging, product offerings, and larger marketing initiatives, they can be more strategic about how they post. Magic can really happen in this intersection.

10. Collaborate Closely with Email

Once you have a clear campaign theme and message that your entire marketing team is driving toward, your email marketing team begins planning sends. Make sure you’re aligned on these sends so you can figure out how to best support the larger campaign by driving web visits and content downloads.

If you’re not involved in these meetings now, you should push to be. Previously unexplored collaboration opportunities can make great ideas happen.

11. Make Conversions a Focus

What you do on social plays a role at every point in the buyer’s journey – all the way from awareness to decision. Own that powerfully this year, and fill the gap between awareness and decision.

Content share and conversion tracking are useful for leveraging public and private social sharing signals from real customers and prospects to provide you with the insights you need to increase traffic, leads, and revenue by producing and distributing content that drives conversion. This allows you to:

  • Optimize your content production based on what consumers organically signal to be most compelling through complete understanding of how consumers share your content privately (dark social), leading to conversion and what other relevant topics your target audience talks about most.
  • Optimize your content distribution through social channels for full-funnel impact from impressions, to engagement, to visits, to conversions, based on how content performs through posts published by your owned brand social channels.
  • Learn from competitors’ content strategies by analyzing how their audiences engage with competing brand content on social, so you can target these audiences with relevant messages and compelling offers.

Looking into what campaigns have a tangible impact on your bottom line may help you discover campaigns that will drive amazing results.

12. Run a Competitive Analysis

Regular competitive analysis helps you create benchmarks for your own brand. For instance:

  • What is the average engagement per day for the brand you see as your competition?
  • How often is their owned hashtag being used on a weekly basis?
  • What does a successful campaign look like for your primary competitor, in terms of engagement, follower growth, and connection depth (i.e., comments and conversation vs. a simple Like)?

Remember that the brands you benchmark against don’t necessarily have to be competitors for dollars in the bank, or even within your industry: they can be competitors for a certain brand voice or visual association you are trying to foster with your target audience.

Your target audience only has so many hours in the day to interact with brands on their social feeds; you want to make sure your brand is front and center, and, if it’s not, understand why.

If this is a new concept to you, check out our guide on running a competitive analysis on social media!

13. Experiment with Ephemeral Content

I’m talking Snapchat and Instagram Stories here, people. These platforms give you creative freedom as a brand, and a chance to infuse your brand with personality in the public eye, increasing brand advocacy and conversions.

Invest time and resources in Instagram Stories (which can be great conversion points from Instagram), Snapchat, and/or Facebook Live. Do your research on brands incorporating these platforms in their campaigns already, and you’ll find inspiration.

14. Identify Your Influencers

We all have a circle of influence, but we may only be influential about certain topics. The same is true when it comes to social media, and identifying the people who hold esteem in specific areas can be a challenging task. Influence boils down to three key factors:

  1. Reach
  2. Resonance
  3. Relevance

The quickest place to start is by looking at the influential folks who are already engaging with your content and talking about your brand.

Get outside the building

We have a mantra on our marketing team that “the answer isn’t in the building.”

This mantra pushes us to validate assumptions by listening to actual humans. This is good advice for anyone looking to identify influencers on social media.

Don’t just look for the folks who are tagging your brand in every post and already engaging with all of your content (although, as I mentioned above, you may find some valid opportunities there as well). Look for folks who are driving value in conversations that are relevant to your brand, but not ones that necessarily involve your brand.

Dig into topics and categories

With Sprout’s Social Listening, discover the most influential and engaged people discussing any topic of your choosing.

15. Put UGC at the Heart of Creative

British Airways recently did this with panache. Their #Unforgettable campaign, devised by Ogilvy & Mather, recruited a father and son after they wrote a review thanking British Airways for their New York trip.

The centerpiece of the campaign was a video, which was complemented by a social media competition inviting people to share their #unforgettable holiday moments, geniusly soliciting UGC from a content piece with its roots in UGC.

16. Team Up

Can you think of any brands that would make good partners during your next social media campaign? These should be brands that:

  1. Have overlap with your brand when it comes to target audience
  2. Don’t overlap with your brand when it comes to product offerings

Co-marketing is a great way to expand your awareness with people likely to buy your product.

17. Think Retention vs. Acquisition

These should be two different tracks in your social media marketing strategy.

On the one hand, you’re trying to keep and engage with the customers you already have. On the other hand, you want to, obviously, acquire more customers, AKA ROI, with your social strategy. Some content might appeal to both customers and non-customers, but you should also be creating unique strategies to target each of these categories.

In your content calendar, make sure you should have posts and mini-campaigns devoted to each of these categories.

18. Inspire on Social, Close in Store

This applies if your brand targets young folks, has a brick-and-mortar presence, a pop-up shop, and/or is sponsoring a booth at a conference.

A recent study by Accenture examines the attitudes and expectations of 18- to 20-year old Gen Z consumers–those already with spending power–along the path to purchase and compares them to Millennials. The study is based on a survey of nearly 10,000 consumers across 13 countries, including 750 U.S. consumers.

While Gen Z is very much a “digital native” group, 77% still prefer to purchase in-store. In addition, 44% will go to a store to get more information before making an online purchase.

19. Think Big, Zoom In

For awareness-generating campaigns, your social strategy doesn’t have to be as micro-focused on your value prop and brand as you think. Once you know who your audience is on social, you can build campaigns that appeal to other aspects of their lives and perspectives.

For instance, you might be a hotel chain hyper-focused on medium-budget travelers between the ages of 21-30. You could create a whole campaign around budgeting for travel. The most important thing to remember here is that you need to provide value that is totally unrelated to closing a deal: this is an engagement-generating campaign to push people further down the path to purchase, not get them to book with you immediately.

With a campaign of this nature, if people feel they are being blatantly sold to, they will automatically distrust the content you’re surfacing.

20. Better Understand Social Behavior

There are countless studies and stats being released about how social media affects the human brain, and how different demographics engage on social. Read ‘em! These studies give you insight into how people interact with social in general and, ultimately, your brand.

21. Use SEO to Inform Themes

Chances are, the words and terms you want to rank for as a brand on Google are the same that you want to be associated with on social. Contact your SEO friend in your organization to find out which words and terms you are focused on, and weave these into your social media campaigns. This is especially important as Tweets are now included in Google search results for certain words and terms.

22. Jump on Events

And create follow-up content to make the most of your efforts there. This follow-up content should direct people towards your blog and/or website.

23. Stay Relevant to Your Brand

Don’t jump on the #Oscars2019 hashtag if you’re a B2B analytics company. With such a buzz-generating, business-irrelevant event, you’re not going to reap any tangible rewards for your business.

24. Understand How Content is Shared

The customer journey is your new marketing funnel. The social media marketer’s job is to move people through the customer journey via social media sharing: from awareness to consideration, to purchase, to the loyalty and advocacy stages. Make sure you know how your content is being shared across this journey, and across all your active social channels.

25. Take Care of Yourself

This is not a copout tip. Exercise:

  • Spurs brain growth and boosts brain-building hormones
  • Improves the brain’s executive function
  • Fights depression, anxiety, panic attacks, social phobias

If you’re sitting at your desk, truly in a creative rut, go take a walk, a run, or a yoga class. Shake it out. Then keep mulling our tips over and put together your Best. Campaign. Ever.

Conclusion

Creativity can sometimes be scarce, but there are actionable things marketers can do to maintain a creative outlook on their social marketing strategies.

In this guide, we provided you with brainstorming resources to guide your social strategy into a more creative direction. When you run into a creative roadblock, you can attend webinars, engage on forums, subscribe to newsletters, and use social analytics solutions to determine audience interests and best-performing posts. This insight will guide your creative process.

As you build out your social strategy, utilize your influencers to create unique content for your brand and increase brand awareness. Listen to your audience to join relevant conversations already happening on social, and to guide your future social strategy. Compare your efforts with those of your competitors, track your content’s performance on social, and adjust your content to align with the user at every stage of the sales funnel.

Analyze your efforts by determining your success metrics and use social analytics solutions to gain insight into the effectiveness of your social campaigns. The data will guide your future strategies as you jump into your next creative cycle and launch your next social campaign.

Looking for a social media tool to help you plan, execute and analyze all your social campaigns? Start your own free trial of Sprout today and get to planning.