How To Create a Successful Social Media Campaign

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A woman sits while scrolling through her smartphone.

Social media marketing refers to marketing campaigns conducted through social media channels. Of the 7.7 billion people on Earth, approximately 4.4 billion are internet users. With this in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that companies worldwide are funneling more resources into social media marketing campaigns. Not only are the eyes there, but these eyes can see companies from across the world. Furthermore, a tried-and-true standby of marketing is to build and maintain relationships with customers. Social media accounts allow companies to reach out to their customers and keep them involved with much less effort on the part of both the business and the customer.

What Is a Successful Social Media Campaign?

The measure of success depends on each individual business and its goals, as with any form of marketing. While one business may be most concerned about actual conversions, another may be focusing on increasing view counts or click-through rates.

Social Media Metrics That Define Success

Because the social media marketing goals of different companies vary, so too do the means and metrics by which the results of each campaign are assessed. The following are several of the most common means by which brands track the success of their social media outreach:

  • Engagement: This is how often the company’s social media posts are actively engaged with by other users, e.g. clicks, likes, and shares.
  • Reach and Impressions: “Impressions” are how often a post shows up in followers’ timelines, while “reach” is an estimate of how many unique viewers could have seen the post.
  • Referrals and Conversions: These refer to how often a user visits a landing page or makes a purchase as a result of being redirected from a social media post.

Examples of Successful Social Media Campaigns

Examples of wildly successful social media campaigns are easy to find; by their nature, they are all over the internet. In fact, some such campaigns enjoyed not just national, but international success.

Wix: Melt the Ice Campaign

Wix, a website-building software company, made creative use of the then-new Facebook Live. In honor of the upcoming Super Bowl, the company posted a live feed on Facebook showing a football in a block of ice, being warmed through various methods. The hook was that once the football finally fell out of the ice, one of its Facebook followers would win $50,000. Followers could enter by changing their profile picture and submitting an entry to a link.

This not only attracted enough attention to make the ad the most successful pre-Super Bowl ad of the year, but also provided a very convenient means of tracking the ad’s success, due to the redirection to a different page and individual submissions. Furthermore, the ad provided a sense of urgency to participate due to the fact the football could fall at any moment, but also ensured there would be plenty of time, due to the nature of the unconventional stunt. It was also easy to participate, with links readily available, and a simple, fun idea. All these factors likely contributed to this campaign’s success.

Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino

Starbucks cleverly proved the adage that “any publicity is good publicity” with the success of the Unicorn Frappuccino. The bright and distinctive looking drink made it a popular choice for Instagramers, winning the brand more than 150,000 posts using the hashtag #UnicornFrappuccino. In response, many social media users voiced disdain for the marketing trend and the runaway bandwagon it rode in on. However, this only caused the campaign to get further attention, with users essentially doing the lion’s share of the marketing for the company. User engagement was easy to track due to the hashtag, and the interesting hashtag and limited time aspect set the perfect stage for an explosive, short-term trend.

Billie: Fighting Sexism with Shaving

Although women everywhere have long felt the repercussions of the “pink tax,” the concept, along with its new moniker, only recently gained notice from the public. The pink tax refers to when a similar product is used by both men and women, but the women’s iteration is more expensive. This is most common in toiletries, such as razors, deodorant and shampoo.

Using this ready-made spotlight as a springboard, Billie launched a brand that provides cheaper razors and other such products for women. Additionally, Billie offers referral rewards for customers who recommend the brand to others. This marketing sets it apart from similar products with backing from a popular cultural issue, which gives the brand a unique loyalty from its customers. Additionally, with its referral system, it is easy to track the expanding business.

Oreo: Dunk in the Dark

Ad slots for the Super Bowl are highly sought after, with a 30-second ad setting a company back $5 million. However, as Oreo demonstrated, it is possible for brands to ride the Super Bowl wave without spending anything near that sum. In 2013, there was a blackout during the Super Bowl, and within minutes, Oreo had posted a tweet in response which read: “Power Out? No Problem,” along with a graphic which read: “You can still dunk in the dark.”

The catchy phrase and the timely response paid off for Oreo, which reportedly had 300 employees work together to throw together the image within minutes. The post was retweeted over 10,000 times within the first hour. Commenting on and responding to trending subjects has become a staple of many companies’ social media campaigns in recent years, and this may have been at least partially inspired by this success story.


IHOP created a stir when the chain announced it would be flipping the “P” in its name, changing it from IHOP (International House of Pancakes) to IHOb (International House of Burgers). This move generated thousands of tweets and other responses, from internet users and media alike. In fact, it initially only announced that the name would be changed to IHOb with no further clarification, asking fans to guess what the “b” stood for, causing guesses and questions to flood its social media.

Soon after, the company changed its name back to IHOP, and it was later revealed to be a marketing stunt meant to promote its burgers and imply it took them as seriously as its breakfast foods. This gambit seems to have been successful, as burger sales for the company increased.

How to Create Successful Social Media Strategies

However, while it may seem like garnering the success of one of these campaigns is like catching lightning in a bottle, their success was largely due as much to strategy and planning as luck. Great social marketing necessitates having your fingers in many pies, building connections and keeping track of a lot of moving parts. This is very complex, and a campaign must be carefully thought out before the idea is executed. Strategy and communication are key to a business’s marketing success, especially as it concerns social media. In fact, given the lucrative potential of effective social media campaigns, there is a demand for individuals with a degree in business communication.

Set Social Media Marketing Goals

The task of strategizing, planning and carrying out a social media campaign is incredibly complex. Therefore, it is in one’s best interest to set marketing goals beforehand, to both provide strategic direction and more effectively monitor the success of the campaign once it has been launched. Concrete goals and benchmarks will add some much-needed structure to the process.

Implementing SMART goals is one way to help ideate and set marketing goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Following these standards can help ensure that goals and expectations stay on the rails, and do their job of simplifying the process rather than complicating it. In conjunction with adhering to SMART or a similar system, it will be helpful to research competition and/or audit your audience on social media to help determine what those goals should be and what can reasonably be expected.

Research the Different Social Media Platforms

It is important to know where your audience is, rather than assuming or blindly throwing a wide net. Your focus should be on the primary platforms that your audience seems to engage with, and base a strategy around the particulars of that platform. A strategy designed for Facebook likely will not be very effective if used for an Instagram campaign.

Additionally, it is just as important to tailor the campaign to the audience, rather than copying what has worked for other people or trying something easy. It is better to put more effort into greater results. Research on different platforms should help you find your audience and create a strategy geared toward their interests. For example, it is definitely in the best interest of a social media marketer to check the demographics of different websites. Someone selling cars probably does not want to focus their social media outreach on platforms that are largely used by preteens.

It is also worth becoming familiar with the tools available to you on a given platform, and how traffic generally operates on the site, e.g. what time of day the site experiences the highest traffic volume.

Track Analytics

Tracking your social media analytics is arguably the most important step; without knowing if your strategy is showing results or not, the campaign won’t have any real direction. This is another reason to ensure that you have an in-depth understanding of your chosen platform. Many popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, have built-in analytics to help users track their following and engagement. These built-in analytics are an invaluable, free asset for a social media campaign. However, it is also possible to use third-party software to pull and analyze statistics. Looking into such available services is another helpful realm to research.

It is incredibly important to track your analytics to make sure you are meeting your goals, and/or able to determine why you are or are not. It may be helpful to keep a record of your progress, such as a monthly content calendar. This can provide a more digestible overview of progress over time.

Social Media Best Practices

While having a well-thought-out and unique strategy is a vital part of conducting a successful social media campaign, there are some best practices that are likely in your best interest to keep in mind during this process. Even within the frame of these best practices, there are many options and nuances, but below are a selection of some of the most effective ways to communicate with your audience.

Learn Everything About the Target Audience and Engage with Them

Researching your audience isn’t just important for the sake of identifying the best platforms to stage your social media campaign on. It is also important in terms of determining what the content of the campaign should entail and how it should be conducted. Social media is about building relationships, so a social media marketer should never forget to put communication and relationships with their audience and affiliates first.

The first step is to review information such as demographics, analytics and psychographics. This will begin to give you the basic information you need to start crafting outreach specifically for your audience.

It also may be worth it to take a more direct approach and conduct surveys and focus groups to get information about your audience and their preferences directly from them, although it is important to note that people don’t always know what they want until they see it. Understanding how your audience views the world, your general market and your company should provide insight to further inform your strategy.

Curate and Test Messages

Industry leaders will know how to communicate effectively with their audience and recognize when the method of communication is working and when it is not. It is necessary to strategize, plan and put in the effort to tailor the messages and content you provide your audience with; however, sometimes the minor hurdles and the response of your audience won’t become clear until you are actively in the process of interacting on social media.

You may come across some minutiae about your platform in the course of your outreach. For example, Instagram does not support links in captions, therefore someone who intended to use links for their campaign on Instagram may need to adjust it upon discovering this information. Additionally, if you try and use the same content and method of messaging on different platforms, it will not only look spammy, it often won’t operate the same way on all platforms and will not be perceived the same way by the different audiences.

Furthermore, effective social media marketing, by necessity, must use some trial-and-error to test the current and alternative strategies. A common method is known as A/B testing. This involves trying small variations on similar messaging to observe how the audience reacts to each iteration.

Create a Social Media Team

Due to the work involved, it is advisable to form a social media team for any social marketing campaign, but it is vital for a larger operation. You do not want your message to look sloppy, function improperly or lack timeliness. It will be in your best interest to hire people who are well-versed in the particularities of social media, and who are also creative and innovative. It will be ideal to hire trustworthy employees who can wear many hats, as this will allow the campaign to run more smoothly.

Common Social Media Mistakes to Watch Out For

While there are true social media horror stories out there, many companies also make smaller mistakes that can still damage their brand or send their marketing strategy awry.

Mishandling Negative Feedback

It is sometimes human nature to want to respond to negative feedback, especially considering the modern social media culture of witty comebacks. However, a good social media marketer will keep in mind that they are speaking for the company, not themselves, and that they must remain professional, or at least on-brand for their company. There are a few simple rules to follow when trying to diplomatically field negative feedback.

When faced with negative feedback, follow up on it immediately. Respond calmly and professionally, apologizing if a mistake has been made. Quickly open a private channel, if possible, to communicate with the individual to answer any follow-up questions or correct the mistake. This may be possible through direct messaging, phone calls or emails. Having the conversation in public looks messy and unprofessional, as well as provides a negative platform for your brand.

Creating Too Many Accounts

There are two major mistakes that you could make regarding having too many social media accounts: creating several accounts on a single platform or making several accounts across multiple platforms. To begin with, both will make your content appear spammy and likely damage your reputation, especially if accounts largely exist to promote other accounts. You don’t want to make your social media marketing a scavenger hunt.

Additionally, having several accounts on one platform will confuse users as to which page is yours, which page is which and which page is the primary account. Meanwhile, opening too many accounts on different platforms will spread your online presence and marketing efforts too thin. This is especially true if you are a small business. You want eggs in a few baskets, but if you use too many baskets, there won’t be enough eggs to fill them. In most cases, your primary audience will largely occupy a maximum of two platforms.

Posting Inappropriate Content

Even if your audience appears to enjoy it or a competitor is doing it to its benefit, posting inappropriate or explicit content is usually a mistake. It could turn away a portion of your current audience, as well as other potential customers. It also could spark controversy that could create negative press or even lead to the loss of your platform.

There are many types of content that could be considered inappropriate for different reasons. Using curse words, posting sexually explicit content or handling a controversial topic in an insensitive manner are all examples of content that could put your brand’s reputation at risk. Other methods may just be considered in poor taste, such as newsjacking.

Using Influencers Incorrectly

It is both an ethical and legal obligation for brands and influencers to clearly disclose their relationships with each other to audiences. To avoid any pitfalls on this front, it is in the best interest of a brand to ensure that it has clearly outlined policies and guidelines regarding how it handles such relationships as a company, and what it expects from influencers that it works with.

With a well-researched plan, ongoing upkeep and mindful employees, a company will have a good foundation for social media success. Teaching your employees how to properly navigate negative feedback and avoid inappropriate content use can help empower them to make appropriate decisions. There are a variety of platforms and strategies a successful campaign could leverage, but employee uptraining and knowledge are keys to cultivating a sustainable social media future.