The ten steps to creating a Social media marketing campaign

Social media marketing campaign.JPG

Note: This is a long document outlining the creation of a social media marketing campaign. I welcome comments and feedback – especially to the ten steps and the overall approach. The emphasis is on converged media campaigns(spanning Web, Telecoms and Media)

Table of contents

The paradox of Social media marketing

Social media marketing campaigns

The metaphor: Air traffic controller or a focus group

Managing the social media advertising campaign

1) What is a social media marketing campaign?

2) What is the ‘brief’ – what is the campaign going to achieve?

3) Starting with the conversation

4) How will the brand serve the conversation?

5) What to measure

6) Microsegment the campaign (Long tail)

7) The data

8) The Mechanics

9) Goals of the campaign

10) Manage the feedback loop.

Why now – in a recession?


The paradox of Social media marketing

The term Social media marketing is a contradiction.

From the user standpoint, if we are having a conversation about Coffee, we do not want to be interrupted by messages like 10% off the next cup of coffee. On the other hand, if we wear a marketing/media hat, then marketers like predictability through metrics like CPM (cost per 1000).

If we extrapolate the CPM methodology ‘as is’ into social media, then the marketing question becomes:

Give me ‘x’ units of social media, against which I can place my advertisements.

Obviously, that approach does not work.

Not only does the audience (users) hate broadcast advertisements but more importantly, users are aligning themselves into communities and ‘talking back’ so to speak.

(Note: The term ‘user’ does not fit in well with Social media since the ‘users’ are also ‘creators’. However, we use the word ‘user’ here for the lack of a better word).

A community is not docile and malleable – rather it implies a two way dialogue which is not controlled by the marketer; a fact which marketers are not used to in other media. (Note: By ‘not controlled by the marketer’ we mean that traditional forms of feedback like focus groups are managed by marketers. That is not the case with social media when the message itself may be modified by the audience (for instance ‘alternate’ versions of the advertisement may be created and deployed on YouTube)

And yet, Google has successfully placed advertisements against sacrosanct communication (email/Gmail), and today we take this form of advertisement for granted. The success of Google shows that a balanced approach to advertising may work and hence social media marketing/social media advertising may also work if executed properly.

Social media marketing campaigns

The same paradox of social media also applies in the creation of a Social media marketing campaign. Like any marketing campaign, social media marketing campaigns must be quantifiable i.e. measurable. Social media presents some unique challenges as we explore below.

Here, we address the questions:

1) What is a social media marketing campaign?

2) How can a social media marketing campaign be executed?

3) How can metrics be used to monitor a social media marketing campaign?

4) How can a social media marketing campaign be used in a convergent scenario(Web, Telecoms and Media)

A few initial observations about Social media marketing campaigns:

1) Managing the tradeoff: Social media is driven by more than ‘shopping’. It is driven by community which does not necessarily include commerce.

2) The emphasis on metrics: The emphasis on metrics is important but is not unique to a social media advertising campaign. For instance, in academia, the number of papers published are important; in research, the number of patents acquired are important. However, these are not perfect metrics, for instance – many patents are defensive and hence not a reflection of innovation. However, even within their limitations, metrics are still useful. As a caveat, metrics should be viewed in terms of their utility rather than as raw numbers.

3) Social media marketing incorporates social media advertising: Social media advertising is narrowly targeted on the advertising realm i.e. how can we target advertising to social media content. Social media marketing on the other hand covers more than social media advertising , for instance the goal of a social media marketing campaign may be to improve a product or include user contribution for a product.

4) An emphasis on data: There are different ways in which we could engage with online social media. In a specific case, we could work with a designated online social network (like facebook). In the widest sense, we have to consider a converged scenario. By ‘converged scenario’, we mean a combination of Web, media and telecoms. There are two elements that are common to these platforms: Firstly, the underlying transactional data and secondly, working with the customer ‘conversation’. Thus, the two common elements of social media marketing are: The conversation and the Data.

5) The emphasis on a converged scenario: Note that as we discussed above, we are addressing a converged scenario (Web, Media and Telecoms). There are other means to address Social media advertising (for instance within a specific site like Facebook). The principles we discuss are generic and can also be applied to specific sites

6) A chief data officer: The long term implications of our analysis is the role of a Chief data officer – who will be responsible for the execution of the concepts in this document

The metaphor: Air traffic controller or a focus group

Most marketers are used to a focus group i.e. a controlled scenarios of getting feedback from users. However, that does not reflect the true nature of social media conversations today. A more appropriate metaphor is that of an Air traffic controller than of a focus group.

An air traffic controller simultaneously monitors a number of rapidly changing real time scenarios and reacts quickly making small incremental changes to a changing pattern keeping the overall goal in mind. In a similar way, we see the marketer of the future monitoring a number of dials (i.e. Real time data feeds) and making small, incremental tweaks based on a number of inputs. The results of the changes are benchmarked against sales, industry standards and other parameters.

Managing the social media advertising campaign

1) What is a social media marketing campaign?

We describe a social media marketing campaign as follows:

• A Social media marketing campaign is a mechanism to interact with a set of online social media conversations from a marketing perspective.

• A social media marketing campaign is based on converged media (since conversations span technologies and media).

• A social media marketing campaign is measurable via a set of social media metrics.

• These metrics function as the proverbial ‘air traffic control’ monitoring the domain in almost real time.

• Based on the data driven dials of this interface, the marketer monitors the ‘many way conversations’. Many way conversations take place between users but also between the marketer and the user.

• The marketer benchmarks the insights gained from these conversations against a set of transactional data (sales, surveys etc) to monitor and tweak a series of narrowcast (Long tail) campaigns.

• Thus, instead of having one large ‘broadcast’ campaign – we have many small narrowcast, interactive and ongoing campaigns

• The campaigns and conversations are based on a feedback loop hence they are iterative and are an ongoing learning experience.

• The goals of a social media advertising campaigns include advertising but also product development, trend monitoring, reducing churn, benchmarking etc.

2) What is the ‘brief’ – what is the campaign going to achieve?

We have seen before that the goals of a social media marketing campaign may be different from traditional advertising campaign (for instance – by definition, a social media advertising campaign is ‘two way’ as opposed to a traditional marketing campaign which is ‘one way’).

Because a social media campaign may be emergent i.e. its goal may not be known in advance; we expect that a social media campaign will start off with a broad goal – but that goal will evolve and will refine with iterations. Unlike with traditional metrics like CPM, the conversation is not unidirectional – but multidirectional and multidimensional i.e. conversations exist between the marketer and the user but also between the users.

Besides targeted advertising, the goals of a social media campaign could include new product development, benchmarking, reducing churn, tracking emerging trends etc

3) Starting with the conversation

A social media marketing campaign starts with a conversation and by the marketer engaging with the conversation. Like any conversation, its direction is unpredictable – an aspect that most marketers are not comfortable with. In many cases, the users may change the message of the advertisement itself – for example by creating alternate YouTube videos of the campaign. Also, conversations span technologies and platforms i.e. they may take place in Web, Media and Telecoms.

4) How will the brand serve the conversation?

The first question in engaging with the conversation is for the brand to ask itself: How will the brand serve the conversation?

There are three possibilities (and of course combinations thereof):

a) By providing information: An example of providing information is the Being a girl site created by the makers of Tampax. The site talks of the many aspects of growing up rather than speaking of a specific product.

b) By providing entertainment: The Sony Bravia ad is an example of entertainment combined with advertising (essentially a whole song played on the backdrop of falling multicoloured balls)

c) By being a ’cause’: The top 10 viral advertisements of all times lists the campaign for Dove evolution which used time-lapse photography to show the transformation of a normal woman into a billboard model using beauty stylists but also including Photoshop enhancements. The clip was released under the slogan “No wonder our perception of real beauty is distorted”.

5) What to measure?

We have seen before that the end goal of a social media campaign may be different than a traditional campaign. A social media marketing campaign facilitates and engages with conversation on an ongoing basis in a feedback loop.

The end goal of a social media metric will also be to facilitate conversation and to monitor conversation. The conversation we monitor could be at brand level and also at product level.

Thus, the characteristics of a social media metric include (note that we are always referring to converged social media metrics i.e. looking at the Web, media and telecoms holistically)

a) Social media metrics monitor social media campaigns(described above)

b) Social media metrics are based on the concept of feedback loop i.e. iterative improvement of the campaign

c) Social media metrics could be predictive i.e. they could be used for measuring future trends

d) Social media metrics may be emergent i.e. they could start off by monitoring a specific aspect but evolve further from that role.

e) Managing data is an important element of social media metrics.

f) Social media metrics are likely to monitor conversations across different platforms as the smallest unit of interaction.

g) A social media metric may be used for functions other than advertisements – for example for product development, spotting trends, bench marking against surveys etc

h) Social media metrics are likely to be used in Long tail, narrow cast campaigns

i) Data used in social media campaigns may have to be complemented from other market research data to get an accurate picture

While we take a converged media approach towards social media metrics, complimentary approaches include from John Batalle / FM publishing and Womma

6) Microsegment the campaign (Long tail)

A social media advertising campaign is likely to be long tail and narrow cast i.e. working with many niches rather than one specific monolithic audience

7) The data

Since data is an important element of a social media marketing campaign, the question arises: where do we get it from? There are many sources – some of which include

a) Directly engaging with social networks like Facebook

b) Working with sites like YouTube and Flickr

c) Working with Telecoms operators or mobile social networks

d) Crawling the Web i.e. writing a program to access the Web

e) By working with actual customer data and loading it into a database and processing it for the metrics.

8) The Mechanics

The actual mechanics of running a social media marketing campaign should consider the following factors:

a) Real time: The feedback loop for the campaign should be Real time or close to real time – Real time feedback is one of the key differentiators for social media and designing the campaign for real time analysis is a key factor for Social media advertising

b) Privacy: The Social media campaign should work with privacy rules, regulations and guidelines along with a transparency in their actions

c) Trust: The social media advertising campaign should engender trust. Trust flows both ways – i.e. the users should trust the marketer not to be engaged in SPAM, respect their privacy etc – but the marketer should also trust the users to ‘modify’ their message – which may well happen. The marketer should also value the user’s feedback and respect it

d) Mutability: The ‘audience’ is not passive. In fact, they may mutate your product i.e. create ‘alternate’ digital versions of your product some of which may not be flattering to you!

e) Engagement: Both at a brand level and at a product level. Engagement alone is not enough – we need to be able to quantify engagement through the metrics.

f) Narrowcast and Long tail: The Social media marketing campaign may be actually a set of many campaigns designed around the metrics

g) Supplementing of data: The data used in social media marketing campaigns may need to be enriched from other sources.

h) Accountability Because social media marketing campaigns are likely to be based on niche segments(Long Tail), they are likely to be oriented towards Higher value items. By the same token, they are likely to also favour mobile social networks because the closed loop principle works will with mobile campaigns

9) Goals of the campaign

The goals for a social media advertising campaign could include:

a) Targeted advertising – for instance working with Alpha users

b) Benchmarking: Against surveys, sales etc

c) Product development: New and ongoing products

d) Forecasting: Short term and long term trends

There is also the option to directly work with Alpha users. For instance, the association of Motorola and Pepsi with the Back Dorm boys in China

10) Manage the feedback loop

Finally, we need to treat the whole process as an ongoing feedback loop where we listen to the users with humility and sometimes with a sense of fun!

Why now – in a recession?

In an article called Dude, where is my Ad

Om Malik points to the forthcoming difficulties in the advertising model. In it, he also says that:

The only ad-related company that looks like somewhat of a safe place amidst this chaos is Google (GOOG), thanks largely to its performance-based advertising system, which allows advertisers to only pay for what brings them returns.

This interactivity and accountability has been badly missing with traditional approach and with the recession looming, interactivity and accountability (i.e. monitoring the action to the advertisement or closing the loop) are likely to be even more important going forward.


We have seen the ten steps to creating a social media marketing campaign – with an emphasis on converged social media. I welcome any thoughts and comments about this.

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  1. Brian Jacobs says:

    I have some comments and builds on this which will I hope be helpful. To make it easy to follow I’ve placed these comments within the context of the original text.
    ‘If we are having a conversation about coffee we don’t want to be interrupted..’
    Why not – if the message can be integrated within the conversation and is relevant to it? It is true, we don’t want to be interrupted with an ad – but the skill of using social media forms as a marketing medium is to integrate the message into the medium. Engagement, and relevance, not interruption.
    ‘Marketers like predictability like CPM…’
    Yes – but today in traditional media forms CPM is a very rough and ready metric. Also this seems to me to be a non-sequitur, it has nothing to do with the appropriateness or otherwise of being interrupted.
    ‘Not only does the audience hate broadcast advertisements…’
    Do they? Where’s the evidence for this? Many ads are liked, spread virally, parodied. Of course, there are good and bad ads!
    ‘Google has successfully placed advertisements against sacrosanct communication and today we take this form of advertisement for granted…’
    ‘Successful’ against which criteria? And do we take these ads for granted, or do we just ignore them/not notice them?
    ‘Social media marketing incorporates social media advertising…’
    I think this is a very important point. Of course, marketing per se incorporates advertising per se. ‘Advertising’ is a narrow term, which does tend to conjure up images of interruptive (if sometimes entertaining) TV spots, or pages in a newspaper or magazine.
    Social media ‘advertising’ (if the word advertising is appropriate) has to be much more subtle, much more integrated into the two-way dialogue that takes place within social media forms, whilst at the same time being transparent and truthful.
    A basic and not very good parallel might be the magazine advertorial – within which paid-for messages appear (and are labelled as such) within a layout similar in design to the editorial pages amongst which it appears. But of course the dialogue aspect needs to be added.
    ‘A chief data officer…’
    There needs to be a link between research and data. At the moment there is far too often no link between observing how people actually behave (via data) and how they feel, or say they will behave (via market research). These are complimentary aspects of marketing, and yet they often exist in silos. This is a waste of time, and money; much research spend could be saved if existing customer data were properly explored; and many marketing dollars could be saved if all targeting avenues were examined.
    I think the fundamental dilemma is that social media forms need advertising funding in some shape or form; but traditional advertising approaches don’t and won’t work (not least because they will jar with the audience/user; and advertising that jars doesn’t work, it just annoys).
    We need to develop new skills – the right metrics are absolutely key in that they will help us understand the medium, and how (not just how much) it’s used. That’s a key step in being able to create for it.