From Cadence to Campaign: Focused Storytelling on Social

Editor's note: This post is a guest post, authored by Rachael Datz, Associate Director of Social Strategy at DigitasLBi Chicago and a 2016 Clio Award winner. She architects social engagement strategies in retail, technology & more.

As the lazy days of summer approach, it can often be a time when social marketers feel pressure to stay relevant and continually produce content for a seemingly less-engaged audience—or when sales and promotional periods are slow. This pressure is largely tied to perceived notions that social should be published daily and that brands should be sticking to a routine cadence of content across all social channels (e.g., post three times a week to Facebook, five times a week to Twitter, and so on). With a changing social landscape favoring high-quality, focused (and, most often, paid) social campaigns, we as marketers need to adjust our calendar planning, moving from cadence to campaign social planning.

Lead with storytelling, not with filling channels

When trying to populate a social calendar with a required amount of Facebook or Twitter posts, we often lose sight of the overall story that we’re trying to tell. Instead of thinking about filling channels, we should be leading with a strong story or objective. What are we trying to achieve with a given social campaign? What story are we telling? What audience are we trying to reach? Once we’ve established this foundation, we can then determine the right social channels in which to tell this story. This approach ensures that we’re always putting strategy, audience, and story first, and naturally dictating the best social channel(s) for a given campaign.

No longer confined to posting content for the sake of meeting a required cadence, we also open up creative possibilities beyond our wildest expectations. Why not build a full campaign around telling expiring, exclusive stories via Instagram or Snapchat? What about going all-in on Twitter for a real-time campaign targeting the first four episodes of Game of Thrones?

Why not build a full campaign around telling expiring, exclusive stories via Instagram or Snapchat?

 

Beyond just creative possibilities, leading with storytelling truly pays off. In fact, focused creative campaigns on social have proven to be 11 times more effective than isolated creative. Smart marketers are leveraging social as a medium to establish breakthrough creative, rather than fretting over isolated posts. This shift is not only effective, but also right in line with the changing social landscape.

Editor’s Note: More proof that a campaign-first technique is more effective? When P&G’s Always wanted to empower the next generation of consumers, they led with storytelling by flipping the insult “like a girl” into an empowering message. The #LikeAGirl movement changed the meaning of “like a girl”, and the storytelling strategy started on social—introducing the movement with content and teasing the hashtag, #LikeAGirl. Ultimately, “The program garnered more than 290 million social impressions and 133 thousand social mentions with #LikeAGirl … in the US alone.” #LikeAGirl also trended on Facebook .... and increased Always Twitter followers by 195.3%. (source).

A changing landscape favors quality over quantity

The past year has seen a monumental change in the value of social content. As algorithms continue to force marketers to pay per view, the old method of daily social has proven to be an ineffective use of creative resources. Gone are the days of pumping out social posts day after day, many times without paid support. Marketers are now having to focus their efforts to ensure that the content they’re putting so much effort into is actually being seen by social users. This means cutting back on quantity and instead focusing on quality content, ideally with the right paid support to guarantee impact.

Leaning into campaign-focused social storytelling not only helps marketers prioritize quality content, but also uses social dollars more efficiently and effectively. Instead of spreading precious funds across many different social channels in the form of disparate content, we can focus dollars behind a singular campaign to reach the right audience with the strongest message throughout a given time frame. This focused, paid support also ensures that brands are reaching beyond their fan base, and not just speaking to their organic audience. This approach has led to a 77% higher success rate in driving brand growth than campaigns that reach only current fans or consumers.

Social’s bottom-line business value

Despite the inarguable value of social media, social priorities and associated spend are still often first things to get cut during budget reductions. In fact, only 27% of executives with budget control for social media feel that it’s a top strategic priority. Without the necessary data to demonstrate why social is important, it can be hard to defend social campaigns and planning. As social marketers, we can no longer measure success in the form of simple engagements, reach, or impressions. We need to be able to measure social’s impact on the larger, more holistic metrics of cross-media brand success.

The old model of disparate, cadence-based social content does not lend itself to the singular message, required reach, or consistent creative that is needed to tap into a Milward Brown or Nielson brand study. By building focused social campaigns with concentrated paid support, we are able to unlock these vital brand studies that help define social’s role in key metrics like awareness, preference, or purchase intent. The more campaigns we put into market with associated brand studies, the more data we have to prove social’s true ROI. As we continue to understand social’s role within a digital ecosystem, we can better defend its necessity and impenetrability.

How to create campaign-focused social storytelling

Making a major shift in social planning is not easy, especially for those of us who are comfortable working within a monthly, editorial content calendar that dictates when and where we should be posting. Shifting to campaign-based planning forces marketers to move to quarterly (and sometimes yearly) planning, in order to get a holistic view of brand priorities, messaging, seasonality, and audience. While difficult, this shift also helps ensure that social is integrated into the larger 360 campaigns happening across a brand’s digital ecosystem, rather than being siloed into a space all its own.

Campaign-based planning requires that marketers look ahead quarterly—or yearly.

 

However challenging the growing pains, there are tools that can help ease the transition. This past year, Spredfast launched its Planner tool, which helps social marketers brief, plan, organize, and execute social campaigns. Within one window, you can pull together the insights needed for the overall story and objective. You can then decide which social channels would be best utilized. Once the brief is consolidated and the work is kicked off, you can use the tool to plot posts throughout a given campaign time frame. When the work is live, you can then take it one step further and see the associated success metrics in real time, giving you the ability to optimize or pivot as needed.

Join the movement from cadence to campaign

The era of campaign-based social planning is upon us, and we need to answer the charge. We can no longer continue operating within the status quo, comfortable as we might be with our warm-and-fuzzy monthly briefs. While the social landscape is forever changing, strong social storytelling remains the same. This approach helps focus us as social marketers, reigning in the common distractions of shiny new platforms, channel rumors, or audience myths. It forces us all to keep the story and consumer top of mind—which is the ultimate bottom line for any given brand.

So say goodbye to your three Twitter posts a week, and say hello to a calendar full of possibilities.

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Dalyn lives in Chicago, Illinois (but is a diehard Broncos fan) with his better half and their 3 dogs. He is a long time agency vet—having spent time at shops in both Chicago and NYC. He focuses on building and growing agency partnerships for Spredfast.