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Step-by-step guide to planning a killer social campaign

Step-by-step guide to planning a killer social campaign Melonie Gallegos

When a social marketing campaign is killer we hear about it. It ends up in discussions on blogs, Twitter, Ad Age, or you'll find it waiting in your inbox with a note from the CEO that says, "Did you see this!?" Now that this social media thing has really caught on, brands have proliferated social networks vying for the attention of people willing to engage and spread their messages. It's no longer an anomaly to see a brand big or small launch a Facebook focused promotion asking you to "share your story" or "post a photo of" this and that.

Step-by-step guide to planning a killer social campaign

What does it take to kill it? The answer is different for each brand. Yet, the foundation of what makes a successful social campaign is common to everyone. Let's explore the foundations in this step-by-step guide.

Stick to your priorities

Determine what's most important to your brand then stick to it. As marketers, we've all been in situations where a good idea eventually gets convoluted after making its rounds through the organization. Everyone has a stake, especially when it comes to social, and your stakeholders can be the biggest killer of your killer idea. This is not to say that collaboration and integration are not important, these are absolutely key elements for success. What I am stressing is focus. One concept cannot be everything to everyone.

Before going into full brainstorm mode, establish what's most important to the brand by agreeing on success metrics. One primary goal and up to two secondary goals is a good framework for keeping ideas focused and stakeholder meltdown to a minimum. Ensure that the campaign concept you plan to pass around the organization aligns closely with agreed upon goals so that each time someone starts up with the "but what if, and it won't, or what about…?" you have a purpose to anchor to.

Key Takeaway: Killer campaigns are not watered down.

Find out what's important to your audience

It's easy to come up with a promotion that's important to your brand. Throw up a landing page with marketing headlines, a big prize, and a sweepstakes entry form. Done.


I mean "not" if you're leveraging what today's marketing has to offer versus 1995. A killer campaign entertains, engages, and delights people. It also provides an insurmountable benefit to a brand in the form of word-of-mouth. You have to work harder in today's marketing to get people talking and finding out what to talk to them about can be easy. Set down your brand playbook, clean your slate, and study your audience to understand what matters in their life, what makes them happy and, most importantly, where your brand fits into their conversations with their friends. Here are a few ways to learn more about your audience:

Conversation analysis
Use a listening tool to analyze conversations about what people talk about when they aren't talking about your products. Radian6, Sysomos, and Meltwater Buzz are all good tools and they can provide what you need to measure conversations on an ongoing basis.

Facebook data mining
If you're ahead of the curve you might have this in place but most brands aren't doing this. Using Facebook applications, you can get a peek into the likes and interests of your Facebook fans. This reveals what is important to them and what they enjoy in their life.

Take a sample of your top Twitter followers and peruse their tweets and lists to learn about them.

I hesitate to suggest this because I know how quickly a survey can turn into bad data by skewing the questions. If you decide to go this route and ask a question to your followers or pose a set of questions be sure they are open ended and not focused on your product. An example might be "What makes you happy?" or "What's your favorite TV show?"

Key Takeaway: Killer campaigns focus on people not products.

Search all corners of the universe for your "aha" moment

It's all about finding the "aha" moment. It has to be different, surprising, emotional, and entertaining. Tall order, I know. This is why I recommend gathering your brain trust. Creativity can come from the most expected and unexpected places. I say both because time and time again I've seen one of two scenarios: Either the creatives are not involved in idea creation because social media sits in some dark corner of the organization, or the only people involved are the creatives. In my experience, working for years in agencies with top creative minds, I can say I respect what they do. I have also learned that they do not always fully understand how social media works.

I've also learned that the best ideas can also be sourced from people on the outside because they aren't stuck in the brand think. All you need is one strong concept and it might come from the quiet guy in the office who is never asked for an opinion -- or it could come from your top art director. Lead a focused but open forum, then sleep on it, and you'll have some gems to work with when you launch into strategic planning.

As a bonus, you will have let everyone be heard and they will be invested in your initiative making it much easier to push through the organization.

Plant your campaign right in front of your audience

Take your campaign to your audience in one or more spaces they like to be online. While Pinterest is cool and shiny it might not be where your people hang out. If you don't already have a following there it will be difficult to drum up support to launch your campaign with. "Viral" doesn't just happen. It is seeded. Gaining traction for your social campaign involves leveraging your existing audiences and their friends.

Being where your audience is important to driving conversion. People hate leaving their warm, friendly social network to outbound links. It's like asking them to leave a party to pick up milk. Do everything you can to make them comfortable and surround them with friends if you must host the campaign on your website. Integrate social networking features like social sign-on, Facebook Connect, or native sharing buttons to make it easy for people to engage in one click.

Key Takeaway: Be where your audience is.

Develop an integrated strategy

I'm a bit biased so I'll just get it out and tell you that social media is darn special. I will also admit that it's not magic. It can be often treated as a stand-alone tactic. A killer campaign does not stand alone. It involves 360-degree communications, paid advertising (yes I said it!), and many of the other treatments any other promotion would require. Work cross-functionally to develop an integrated communications plan and multi-channel promotion through advertising, email marketing, PR, and other social networks.

Key Takeaway: Integrated marketing is magic.

Execute like a master

The devil is in the details. Human communication is complex and sometimes mind-boggling -- it's what keeps us social marketing people on our toes. Proper execution will make or break your campaign. You have to understand how people speak to each other in Facebook versus Twitter versus Instagram and how they use it. Otherwise, your "follow me on Facebook @brand" will be laughed upon and no one will want to associate with your silly little campaign. "Post your photo on Facebook using #happy" will also be laughed at. If you do not immediately understand why, I suggest hiring a social marketing specialist ASAP.

The same goes for proper technical execution of mobile, interactive design, SEO, or Facebook applications. Successful people hire the best and trust their experts for masterful execution. A successful collaboration of these practices will make all the difference in your campaign working and connecting with your audiences.

Key Takeaway: Poor execution can kill your campaign.

Make it shareable

There's no such thing as social that doesn't involve sharing. It's a key component so be sure to incorporate it. Sharing can be how someone "enters to win" or a way to earn a fun reward or offer. The benefit is two-fold, they engage with your brand and they spread the word to their friends. Every time someone shares his or her message, your content or a link to your page, the effectiveness of your marketing is compounded. Some call this earned media. I call it earned awesomeness.

Key Takeaway: Make it shareable.

Creating a killer social campaign involves great ideas, collaboration, execution, and a little bit of luck. The truth is you'll really never know what will take off until you try it. Be prepared to try different things and try again. Set realistic goals and manage budgets accordingly so that you can continue engaging your audience with room to learn from them along the way.

Melonie Gallegos is the principal and chief social strategist of Fandom Marketing.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Vector illutration of tower" and "Varicoloured child's blocks for games" images via Shutterstock.

Melonie Gallegos draws on over a decade of digital marketing experience to create integrated social media strategies. Over the years she has worked with a vast portfolio of CPG and B2B companies and for top-tier digital advertising agencies. She...

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