Social Network Marketing Campaigns: Features Attributes

What are the attributes of social media marketing campaigns, run within a community?

Stephen Collins and I and a bunch of Twitterati got into a discussion about social media marketing campaigns and whether they should exist earlier today. Stephen followed up with a blog post called “Social Media, It’s not actually about selling anything” (actually about social media marketing) which of course is questionable on a number of levels. First, marketing is not sales. We don’t sell items through marketing, we sell concepts, ideas. Spin and spam if we’re bad. Education and information contextually relevant if we are good. Secondly, my blog is ‘selling’ my opinion. Oh you don’t pay me (you rotters!) but you do decide to buy or not buy my ideas. We enter into communication (marketing is comms, not sales) and discourse.  Most bloggers are promoting (marketing is promotion) their passion. If they aren’t and they take a neutral approach, they are journalists reporting other people’s news, facts not passion, promotion, self-marketing.

Unless you are blogging anonymously, and even then in some cases, you are not immune from selfpromotion and selfmarketing.

In terms of working with and using the tools and classes of software we’re now calling social media – wikis, blogs, social networks, ideas markets, and their various predecessors – I’ve got more than a little experience as a user and implementer of them throughout my career.

Because of this experience, I have well-formed views about what the greatest benefit these tools can offer are. And it’s not in marketing.

To be fair, Stephen’s blog post doesn’t actual mention anything that is “campaign” specific – there’s nothing to disagree with, by saying that

Finding the connectors on Facebook and giving them a video camera and a Summer’s worth of beer does not a connected, nurtured, collaborative community make.

Well, any marketing campaign, online or offline, doesn’t work if it doesn’t fit in with what the community of customers perceives as core values and the company sees as being useful and achieves goals.

By the way, I first raised these points in February 2008 in a post called Of course there ARE social media marketing campaigns.

I think that it is worth re-interating: anyone that promotes an idea, concept or opinion to a group of people online is engaged in online social media marketing. Marketing doesn’t exist only in a narrow channel of “companies” or “spammers” or “salespeople”, it is a function of promoting one view over another within a communication channel or community.

David Armano's Learning Curve

This image is sheer brilliance – from engagement in online communities to broadcasting in social media channels in one sorry heartbeat.

My description of a “campaign” (vs an ongoing strategy) is that it must be:

  • task-based, have a purpose, a declared target and an outcome
  • finite, limited in time, bound by a start and end,
  • maximises social tools to create an “interest spike” around the date of the campaign – interest leading up to, during and immediately after the event
  • and of course have an ethical exit strategy. If it’s a game or competition, a known and obvious end date.

Campaigns give Corporate a chance to baby-step into social media. No, of course they are not your full social media strategy, but they offer an entry point, the opportunity to get one’s feet wet without alienating the shareholders and board of directors from the get-go.

These are the types of campaigns that I think are important – if not critical – to run in your community (with examples of stuff I’ve been involved in):

  • Meetups, united purpose for coming together e.g. Australian Idol online pre-show chats, keeping brand awareness front and centre.
  • Competitions, ask for content then community assesses content – submit articles about the online game, create a funny cartoon etc.
  • Rituals, welcoming new members, anniversaries of longterm members e.g., Founders Clubs etc.
  • Live podcasts, Q&A sessions, training, virtual conferences, interviews e.g. heaps – mostly developers, industry leaders, famous on the internetz. In the late 90s we ran modded main channels for official discussion, and a backchannel on IRC for the riffraff. Works well to promote a new featured product.
  • Fun stuff, always make sure you campaigns are fun for both members and staff. e.g. In world Olympics (run through monsters, fastest one gets a gong).

None of these (except rituals) will be day to day events. These campaigns should pull old members back in, reinvigorate flagging general members, and often spotlight leadership members. They often lend themselves well to spotlight sponsorship, with co-branding campaigns doing well if the community favours both brands.

But to help rather than hinder the discussion, here are Jeremiah Owyang (Forrester’s Research) features of a social media marketing campaign.

Marketing Campaigns on Social Networks share the following attributes:

Meets a business objective: First and foremost, any marketing campaign or activity should match with a business objective, regardless of the tools being used.

Supports Community Goals: Every community is different, and each has unique goals (from supporting products, to each other, or to just be entertained) the campaign focus should therefore meet the needs of the community, before the needs of the marketer. Effective campaigns will first understand the core drivers, interests, and rituals of the community and learn how to meet those desires. (Expanded by Laurel Papworth)

Encourage Member Interaction: The most successful social networking campaigns and efforts involve the audience.

Quickly scale: Social networks are designed for information to quickly move from member to member, so campaigns that lean on these capabilities perform the best. These attributes known as Velocity, Viralness, and Spread are key.

Utilize Media: In some campaigns, the best way to get members to return is to offer them media. Depending on demographics and community needs, this could be audio, videos, or demos

Foster self-expression or communication: Members in social networks like to communicate with each other, or self-express. As a result, campaigns should satisfy these needs with the appropriate tools

Offer a satisfying User Experience: This encompasses the overall experience of the campaign, the content and navigation items should be where expected, the language familiar to the audience, and overall look and feel of the site appeasing.

Provide longer term utility: Successful campaigns have a longer term value, rather than a short term ‘disposble campaign”. These campaigns add value by being a useful application to the members, rather than just quick dose of entertainment.

Enhance Value as Community participants: As more people contribute or interact with the campaign, the value is increased. This can be in the form of content that is created by the community, contests, voting, or games.

Integration with other marketing activities: Successful marketing campaigns aren’t single channel, in fact they utilizie multiple channels and mediums to enhance the overall activity. The same thing applies to marketing campaigns on social networks, those that are promoted from other locations such as (corporate websites, email newsletter, blogs, podcasts) outside fo the social network have a great chance for success.

Maintain agility during the campaign: Social networks are living, breathing organisms made up of real people connecting with each other. Marketing campaigns also should share these attributes and show be flexible to change in-flight, yield to legitimate requests or complaints of the community. Those campaigns that reflect the same dynamic behavior as human interaction have a higher chance to be interacted –and accepted –by the community. (Submitted by Graham)

Company Participation: In some cases, companies that participate in the discussions or conversations will yield to a more successful marketing campaign. Activities can range from recognition, company interaction, or attention to members perhaps from a community manager (Submitted by Whitney McNamara, Esther Lim, Crimson Consulting, Warren Sukernek)

Here’s a high level overview diagram – and without the involve (= listen, watch, understand), any marketing campaign will fail.

Diagram Social Media Marketing Campaign
Diagram Social Media Marketing Campaign

Please note: First, the link that Jeremiah was pointing to, was an old blog of mine, no help there. Also, there will be a bunch of people who don’t read this post, assume that “marketing” and “campaign” are somehow seperate from “community” and leave some comments that would challenge a pedant to understand the difference between social media marketing and social media campaign and so on. Engage them at your peril.

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  1. So, I’m guessing by this that your definition of marketing is way broader than mine?

    Because, by the definition you present here through the context you offer, we actually agree on lots of things (which is not terribly surprising).

    I didn’t specify in my post, but what I’m talking about in my post when I say marketing, is advertising-type campaigns aimed at selling stuff or increasing market share and run by the marketing and advertising industry. Mostly short term. Mostly with a particular product as focus.

    The approach I want to see more of in social media marketing is akin to the Harley-Davidson case study at HBR that I linked to. That’s real. That cares deeply about it’s community. That’s tied hard into overall company strategy. That’s about innovation and richness and a world of things that short term, opportunistic use of social media for marketing can never be about.

    I’m guessing, but could be wrong (it happens, often) that our divergent perspective is born of our backgrounds and exposure – me with a long career in government and private and yours with a lot more exposure to the marketing industry (I don’t think I’d met a marketer professionally until two years ago).

    And like I said, one person’s perspective. I want to generate useful debate.

    Stephen Collins’s last blog post..Social media? It’s not actually about selling anything…

      1. I changed “dodgy” to questionable – which is the word I actually meant/was looking for. 😛

    1. I don’t have a traditional marketing background either – I’ve built and managed massive online communities and now work with companies and governments to understand how best to connect with the communities.

      But inside or outside of marketing, I do think that people don’t understand that companies add a huge amount of value to their social network, if done right. There’s some negative generalizations floating about, without recognition that companies and government are part of the community, not outside of it.

      1. I completely agree with your second paragraph above.

        It’s the failure to recognise that all organisations are of rather than apart from community that’s spoiling the perception of social tools in parts of the business world.

        So, like I said, I chose a really narrow definition of marketing – about selling actual stuff (or convincing people to buy) as opposed to your broader definition which is (I gather) about convincing people of things and ideas (which I’d rather call change management).

        Stephen Collins’s last blog post..Social media? It’s not actually about selling anything…

        1. but .. but.. what about sports marketing? I mean, coca cola co-sponsoring Olympics? Is that marketing, change management or sales? What about all the marketing managers that don’t have a KPI of sales but of brand recall etc. ?

          I think you mean “Sales”. As in, “click on this link and buy my crappy e-book please.” That is definitely sales masquerading as marketing, no?

          1. Hmm…

            Coke and Olympics I’d say is defintely about sales.

            So yes, my definition is skewed to sales. For the purposes of my post.

            For the other marketing types with recall or message or awareness KPIs, I think big parts of their jobs are very different to sales-focussed marketing. It skews in those cases much closer to change and culture management. But that’s just my opinion.

            Debate is a beautiful thing.

            Stephen Collins’s last blog post..Social media? It’s not actually about selling anything…

  2. I think that promoting your brank on soicial networks is definately marketing. Whereever you can create a touch point with a customer is some form of marketing. How is it not marketing if you create an “interest spike” and reach several hundreds of thousands of page views. I have seen clients hit these sorts of traffic levels through targeting social media camapigns. It has done wonders for there online awareness and traffic levels.
    .-= Shout SEO´s last blog ..Hello world! =-.

  3. Hi Laurel,
    It was very interesting to read this blog. I loved that the sentence ‘Marketing is not Sales’. Also the way you look towards Social Media Marketing is totally different.

  4. I too have had the Marketing debate so many times I’ve lost track. My case is that Marketing is everything, affecting everyone, and everyone is guilty of Marketing to a certain extent. To me Marketing represents the communication of a message (any message) to a second or third party. How this message is interpreted is subject to the quality of the medium used as appropriate to the desired outcome. Much of the Marketing that we are subjected to on a daily basis is impervious to attracting our attention.
    The argument as to whether or not a specific use of marketing results in a sale or an expression of interest cannot be substantiated in the specific case of social networking but more on the groups as to whether or not that specific communication appealed effectively enough to the desired target audience.

  5. It’s truly a great and useful piece oof info.
    I’m lad that you just shared this useful information with us.
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