How to Plan a Social Media Marketing Campaign

By BrainStation July 22, 2019

No matter what kind of product you’re marketing, it’s become a certainty that the audience you need to reach is on social media.

Globally, 3.196 billion people now use social media, and that number jumped by a million people per day in 2018. Facebook alone now reaches 69 percent of American adults, 1.9 billion users visit YouTube every month, 67 percent of people aged 18 to 29 use Instagram, and Snapchat is used by 73 percent of people age 18-24.

And brands that know how to properly leverage those audiences are reaping the reward. Shopify research showed that 80 percent of Instagram users follow at least one brand, 60 percent say they’ve discovered new products or services through the platform, at least 30 percent have purchased products they discovered there, and 65 percent of the top-performing Instagram posts clearly feature products.

Clearly, businesses understand the value of learning how to tap into that massive audience; investments in social media advertising are forecast to grow to about $48 billion by 2021 and companies have started experimenting with AI for social media marketing

But a successful social media campaign requires forethought and careful planning; in fact, a study from CoSchedule found that goal-setting marketers are 376 percent more likely to report success, marketers who document their strategy are 313 percent more likely to report success, and marketers who proactively plan projects are 356 percent more likely to report success.

So we took a closer look at how to properly plan an effective social media campaign from scratch.

Audit Your Current Social Media Presence

Before you can launch a killer social media marketing campaign, you’ll need to assess where you stand.

It probably sounds more onerous than it really is. Essentially, it’s important to take a critical look at all of your company’s social channels, cut or consolidate any extraneous or underused accounts (while centralizing ownership and considering a tool like LastPass to keep track of your passwords), and scan for any imposter accounts impersonating your brand.

Next choose a few key metrics and document the performance of each account somewhere, taking note of which platforms and accounts seem to be generating the most engagement, and again consider shuttering any account that doesn’t seem to have a sufficient following.

Determine Your Goals

The motivation behind a social media campaign can vary wildly. Are you looking to increase overall brand awareness, to introduce a new product or service, to create excitement around a limited-time promotion, to reach influencers, or simply to grow your company’s social media following?

The S.M.A.R.T. method is a good starting point – in other words, your goals should be specific (S), measurable (M), attainable (A), relevant (R) and time-bound (T). Define your objectives and key results – or OKRs, an acronym popularized by Google –and consider the metrics that are important to you.

If your goal is awareness, for instance, that can be evaluated through a bevy of metrics, including likes, shares, and impressions, as well as the size of your audience and the reach of your posts. If that’s your goal, a brand-monitoring tool like Hootsuite, BuzzSumo, or Social Mention could be valuable.

Meanwhile, if you’re focused on conversions, metrics like bounce rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate will be more important to you.

Benefit Cosmetics offers an interesting case study for utilizing different social-media campaigns to achieve specific goals. 

The company uses paid campaigns to raise brand awareness – and indeed, according to Sprout’s 2018 Social Index, increasing brand awareness is the primary goal of 80 percent of business on social media – because only paid social allows insight into awareness lift, whereas the company opts for organic campaigns to achieve acquisition and engagement.

“Measuring engagement with paid ads doesn’t tell us what resonates naturally, so we’ve moved away from doing that,” said Assistant Manager of Digital Marketing Janine Nguyen. 

Observe the Competition

Use the same methods you employed to audit your own social media presence to see what competitors in your space are doing, which platforms they’re focusing on, and the strategies that seem to be working and not working.

It also helps to look beyond your industry for inspiration. Facebook provides dozens of success stories for social-media marketing done right and helpfully indexes them by goal type – awareness, consideration and conversion – as well as business size, industry, product type, and region.

You’ll also find plenty of good ideas combing through the winners and nominees of the annual Shorty Awards, which honor the best in social media and digital.

Establish an Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar is a crucial tool for content teams of all sizes, which explains why there are so many options on the market (popular choices include Trello, Marketing.Ai, and CoSchedule).

Whichever platform you use, an editorial calendar will help you ensure you don’t miss opportunities relating to awareness days that always generate a ton of social-media interest – International Women’s Day, for instance – and allow you to plot a content mix that makes sense for your brand.

Many marketers are believers in the rule of thirds – so in other words, your social media feed should be fuelled by one-third engagement, one-third curated content, and one-third your own content – while others favor, for instance, a 3-2-5 ratio with three parts your brand voice, two parts a brand representative, and five parts generated by others. It’s an important decision; research has shown that 45 percent of consumers will unfollow a brand if their platform is too heavy on self-promotion.

An editorial calendar will also help you with the crucial task of posting content at the optimal times for different platforms; after all, 52 percent of consumers expect brands to know the right time to communicate. CoSchedule helpfully compiled research looking at the best times to post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest, and found that the ideal window varies wildly depending on both platform and industry.

Be sure to talk when your target audience is going to be listening.

Choose Your Channels and Tone Accordingly

Before you know how to communicate, you need to know the audience you’re communicating with.

An April 2018 survey from Salesforce found that 67 percent of millennials/Gen Zers expect a personalized experience in their interactions with brands.

Probe all the available information you have about your existing customer base, including location, age, language, income, and buying habits. You’ve already audited your social-media presence, but this is the time to dig deeper. Many social media platforms make it very easy to learn a lot about people already following and engaging with your brand.

As just one example of the potential to leverage that data to great effect, the Indian ride-sharing platform Jugnoo began a social-media campaign to target new users and grow its user base. Using Facebook Analytics, the company learned that 90 percent of referrals came from users age 18 to 34, and that 65 percent of those people were students who used Android. They then began a targeted mobile app ads campaign specifically focused on the user profile, education, and device used. The result? More than 78,000 inactive users logged into the app and they acquired 28 percent more new customers compared to previous referral campaigns.

Once you have an idea of your audience through social-media analytics and your own internal data, take all of that information to craft personas of current and prospective customers.

Instead of simple demographic descriptions, it’s more effective to create layered, specific images of people who represent a segment of your audience. For instance, perhaps a big chunk of your customers could be accurately represented by Just-Graduated Greg, a 23-year-old intern at a tech company who lives with a roommate in Chicago, goes to spin classes three times a week, loves Thai food and listens to TED talks during his daily “L” train commute.

Data from ITSMA found that 82 percent of companies using buyer personas said it has improved their value proposition, 90 percent say it has created a clearer understanding of their customers, and 56 percent said it helped lead to higher quality leads.

The personas will also be helpful in finding your brand voice. Whether this is a short, targeted campaign with a clear goal – for instance, a coffee company looking to generate 50,000 shares of an Instagram video showcasing a new drink flavor – or a longer campaign with more multifaceted goals, defining the voice characteristics of your brand will go a long way toward establishing a consistent tone and building a stronger brand affinity with your audience.

It might even be a good idea to explicitly document your ideal voice.

“We have a brand voice style guide with pillars like ‘trusted quality’ and ‘delightfully inspired’ that we want to make sure are emulated,” said Lisa Grimm, associate director of social media at Whole Foods Market.

Once you have a better understanding of your target audience, it’ll become clearer which channels deserve more attention. If you’re speaking to senior citizens, your energy should be spent on Facebook and YouTube, used by 46 percent and 38 percent of the 65-plus population respectively, rather than Snapchat or Twitter, which are used by only three and seven percent of the older population. That said, it might be better not to vary your tone too much across different channels; more than 90 percent of consumers expect their experience with a brand will be similar across all platforms.

Similarly, knowing more about your audience will help you determine the right type and mix of content for your campaign. BuzzSumo analyzed the social share counts of over 100 million articles and the result provides plenty of insight into the type of content that users want to share.

Since you’re just beginning on your campaign, use insights like those to determine what type of imagery and content will resonate with your audience. Once you have your plan, stick to it. Studies from Lucidpress have shown that brands that are consistently presented are three to four times more likely to experience brand visibility, and the average revenue increase attributed to always presenting the brand consistently is 23 percent.