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Don’t forget to answer the BIG questions before you plan a social media campaign

How to answer common objections about the value of social campaigns

I was working with a business a few weeks ago that wanted some help with its social campaigns.

Its latest campaign produced  disappointing interaction levels.

And, because of the campaign’s failure to attract a significant following, the business was tempted to pull out of social media altogether and focus on other areas - at least until people in their vertical market sector were deemed to be 'ready for social'.

Disappointing social campaign results can prompt good questions

The failure of the campaign prompted some interesting questions, such as;

“Did the business’s potential clients (people working in hospitals / health care) have the ability and inclination to access social networks.“

“Was it feasible to be 'friends' with businesses? Was it possible that customers didn't want to form this kind of relationship with a business entity?”

Finally, the business outlined the main issues with its business-to-business communication rules. The crux of the problem was the way the rules restricted how it could talk to customers and what it could say to them.

Now, I know there is already a wealth of knowledge to be mined on social media, reading blogs, articles and twitter; you will find some amazing examples of best practice and advice. However, the goldmine is also potentially a minefield because the sound advice is so mixed up with a huge amount of drivel!

I wanted to share the initial advice I gave to this business; advice which was followed up with more in-depth detail about strategy creation for the business, social and content.

We can then open up the discussion. I would welcome your comments on how you have addressed businesses like this in the past, where there has been initial negativity towards social.

I wanted to address the business’s initial negativity to social campaigns with some quick fire answers to its questions.

“Is it feasible to be 'friends' with businesses?”

The first issue here is the use of the word 'friends'. This is Facebook terminology, from the days before Facebook had 'pages' or 'groups'. Brands have moved away from trying to be ‘friends’ - it breaks the terms of service.

Instead, brands focus on creating a 'like' mentality !

Activating the like button is widely perceived as a signal that the 'liker' feels an affinity for that brand's persona. Each social network will attract different types of consumer audience who are dependent on the brand.

The key thing you must understand is how people want to interact with you as a business.

“How do I side-step restrictive communication rules?”

Quite often, business communication rules were established before the birth of social media; the rules were intending to apply to  letters, emails, PR, etc.

Around the turn of the millennium there was a shift in the way brands could communicate with potential and current customers.

This shift was not always reflecting in business communication rules.

I suggest you print out your company's communication rules, and keep them in front of you when you are creating content strategy.

Highlight where the rules limit you and then approach the relevant department to discuss the potential to re-shape parts of the communication strategy to reflect new social media requirements.

“Why am I doing social campaigns?”

However, before you start a new social campaign, tweeting and potentially spamming people, it’s good to take a step back!

It’s obviously great that a business is supporting social media. The business can see the possibilities offered by a new channel and understands the potential of growing and engaging a new and existing audience through it.

However, in most cases (including my own example), no-one bothered to ask “WHY?” you might want to create a social campaign

Four top questions to ask about social media

So, here are four top-line questions you need to ask yourself, and the business, to understand WHY you are engaging in social media:

  1. What are the business goals? This applies to the overall business, online and offline. What is the business strategy and what do they want to achieve? These questions allow the conversation to move on to what the business wants to achieve online - which should be outlined in the digital/marketing strategy.
  2. What do you want to achieve through social media? The answer to this question the focus should not be around KPI's or metrics. Is social media to provide good customer service, better understanding your customer needs (to drive a better overall business strategy), an understanding of who your customers are, etc?
  3. Who is supporting social media? Which departments are going to be involved/available. If you want to use social media as another route for customer support, will you have the support of the people who can provide the service?
  4. What content and voice am I going to be able to provide? What I would suggest here as the content strategy? What content do your customers want, how do they want to be talked to, what style are they looking for, at what frequency, etc?

A lot of these questions are very high level and will only pick up on a small element of the overall diagnosis you should be carrying out as part of a full social strategy

Once we have answers to these questions, we can address any initial negativity towards social campaigns and move on to create an effective social media strategy. The answers to the business goal and social media questions can be used to align the strategy to the business goals and objectives.

I would like to commend the business owner for asking questions before giving up, and to thank them for allowing me to use them as a case example.

Have you had any similar experience of initial negativity towards social media because the strategy was not outlined from the start?

Thanks to Russell McAthy for sharing his advice and opinions in this post. Russell is freelance Digital Marketing Consultant. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.


With thanks to Jon Rognerud for use of the image.

Share your thoughts

  • Paul James commented on April 5, 2012

    I’m taking a guess but this looks like it came from a pharma company??? Did they persist? What changes did they make?

  • Hi Russell. Great article.

    Re point 2, you say social media should not focus on KPI’s. Are you going to expand on this point in a later post? I would imagine many will find it difficult to get buy in at boardroom level without having some kind of measurement as part of developing a business case for adopting / integrating social media across their business. Either as a strategic move or even at operational level.

    So would be good to a more in depth post on that particular point.

  • Hi Russell – interesting article. It touches on a sore point for many organisations.

    For clarity, however, could you please indicate what this organisation’s “…disappointing interaction levels” were? Was it zero or just lower than they expected? Indeed, what did they expect in the first place?

    • Hi Andrew,
      They were seeing very very little feedback from potential customers. The expectation was more just a hope of engagement and they wanted advice on how to increase from ‘nothing’ to ‘something’. This is why I went through the process above to understand the true requirements

      • I see. Thanks for explaining that.

        One of the problems I see is that expectations of the level of engagement organisation expect from their Social Media activity is shaped by the huge numbers they see on the Web elsewhere e.g. ‘one gazillion hits on a YouTube video of a skateboarding cat’.

        I find that they then can be disappointed with the much, much lower levels of engagement they often receive. Which is a shame because it can still be worth doing (if done properly as you describe).

        • Totally correct, its the term ‘viral’ that has shaped the last few years worth of expectation of social and will continue to do so.

          Agencies and consults are as much to blame as the Hippo’s you bite at the concept. Selling the potential for viral is a snake oil saleman’s 101. We need to educate understanding the concept of good content and how to market it and not promise things beyond anyones reach!

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