Running social media campaigns can be quite different from managing your social media profiles on an ongoing basis.
Unlike your ongoing social media marketing, campaigns tend to be for a specific purpose and only last for a certain time period. The strategy you’d take for running a social media campaign might be different from your usual social media marketing strategy.
So how do you run a successful social media campaign?
Through case studies of successful social media campaigns by companies like Airbnb, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks, you’ll learn actionable tips on increasing the reach and engagement of your next campaign.
13 Proven Tips on Running Successful Social Media Campaigns
1. Use existing platforms in a unique way
Example: La Vie On Board (Life on Board)
To launch its new fleet of trains, Eurostar, a high-speed railway service, used Instagram with a unique twist — making use of Instagram’s “horizontal” profile gallery.
AKQA, the agency behind this campaign, created an illustration of the train journey, which consist of nearly 200 still images and animated videos, on the @lavieonboard account. Each of the posts describes a destination in London or Paris, hides a special offer (e.g. 2-for-1 tickets to museums), or tells a benefit of the new fleet, encouraging Eurostar’s audience to explore the entire profile.
To promote the campaign, Eurostar also worked with popular Instagram users and hosted social media contests where its followers were invited to post a selfie with the #eurostar hashtag.
This campaign generated 9.7 million impressions on Instagram and helped Eurostar increase its social media following.
Look for new ways to use the major social media platforms. Eurostar and AKQA created a separate Instagram account just for this campaign and used a format that has been rarely seen. Because of its uniqueness, many people tagged their friends on the posts, asking them to check out the account.
As part of our end-of-2016 campaign, we created a separate Instagram account, @bufferlove, with special posts to thank our customers for supporting us.
2. Experiment with new, emerging platforms
Example: Share a Coke and a Song
Agencies: Universal McCann
(Image from Coca-Cola)
Wanting to refresh the concept of “Share a Coke” and seeing the success of “Share a Coke and a Song” in China, Coca-Cola decided to bring the “Share a Coke and a Song” idea into the U.S., too. Instead of a name on the coke package, Coca-Cola featured lyrics of songs in line with its brand values of optimism, refreshment, and inclusion.
For part of the campaign, Coca-Cola and its agency turned to Musical.ly, a social media platform where many teenagers create and share their own music videos. They also partnered with Jason Derulo, a popular artist and Musical.ly fan, to host a contest which invited their followers to create music videos with the songs on the bottles and share them on Musical.ly.
This campaign generated more than 900,000 Musical.ly videos, which generated 134 million views and drove the #ShareaCoke hashtag to trend as the top hashtag on the platform.
Experiment with new platforms where the target audience of your campaign might be. To reach teenagers who are interested in music, Musical.ly was the perfect platform for Coca-Cola’s campaign. Other platforms you could explore include Anchor, Meetup, Medium, Messenger, WeChat, Line, Kik, Unsplash, and Ello.
3. Get your audience involved
Example: Taco Emoji Engine
Brand: Taco Bell
Agency: Deutsch L.A.
What's #TacoEmojiEngine? Tweet us a + any other emoji to find out. pic.twitter.com/tioahCA0WC
— Taco Bell (@tacobell) November 9, 2015
To celebrate the launch of the Taco emoji, Taco Bell partnered with Deutsch L.A. to create the Taco Emoji Engine.
When people tweeted @tacobell using the new taco emoji plus one additional emoji, the Taco Emoji Engine would automatically respond with one of 600 taco-based photos and animated GIFs. For example, a taco and a smiley face with sunglasses would generate a taco wearing sunglasses:
The #TacoEmojiEngine garnered more than 798,000 engagement and generated the highest amount of brand mentions in a day for Taco Bell.
Involve your audience and engage them on social media during your campaign. While Taco Bell created an application to automate the replies, such a campaign could be done manually by a team with sufficient preparation, too. (See Airbnb’s campaign below.)
4. Tap into trending topics creatively
Airbnb realized that the Oscars was a great marketing opportunity for its storytelling brand image. But as Marriott Hotels was one of the sponsors of the ceremony, Airbnb was not allowed to advertise during the ceremony or mention the Oscars or any of the nominated films.
The brand worked around this limitation with a brilliant social media campaign, #LiveInTheMovies. Airbnb asked its followers which movie they would like to live in during that weekend and replied the responses with Airbnb listings that matched the movie location (and even offered free stays for some).
The campaign generated more than 63 million impressions and 1.3 million video views, which were more than what any other brands had achieved during the Oscars weekend.
Think out of the box and try new things. Social media has helped level the playing field. Small businesses with limited budgets but great, relevant content are now able to reach more people than before through social channels. It’ll be worthwhile trying new, creative marketing experiments that are in line with your brand.
5. Let your audience be part of the experience live
Example: Play Melbourne
Brand: Visit Victoria
Agency: Clemenger BBDO
Visit Victoria, the state tourism board, wanted its audience to see Melbourne in its true state and not only through high-quality, professionally-produced videos. So they used Periscope for part of its Play Melbourne campaign.
A host traveled around Melbourne and “brought” the audience to locals’ favorite hangout areas like hidden rooftop gardens and major events like the Australian Open Tennis Tournament. Viewers could vote for the activities and share their personal experiences at the various locations during the live-streams.
Through the more than 40 Periscope broadcasts, Visit Victoria generated more than 28,000 views.
Create opportunities for your audience to experience your events live. With features like Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and Periscope, your audience can be part of the experience from almost anywhere. Apart from broadcasting the event, encourage people following online to participate by voting, sharing their thoughts, or asking questions.
6. Be creative with constraints
Example: Hungry Singers
Agency: BBDO New York
Snickers’ “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign has been a global success. When it was launching a new Snickers product, the company and the marketing agency wanted to continue with the successful marketing concept.
Knowing that Facebook auto-plays videos without sound, they used this limitation to create a surprise in line with their campaign slogan. They created music videos that look like normal music videos when they are played without sound and had a call-to-action to tap to hear what hunger sounds like.
When people tapped on the video and the sound is turned on, they’d be surprised by a funny music that one wouldn’t expect from the looks of the video. For example, one of their videos featured a rock band singing The Wheels on the Bus!
These Facebook videos and the other ads made for the campaign were seen more than 16 million times.
Use constraints to create innovative surprises for your audience. For example, Instagram stories only appear for 24 hours. Is there anything fun or valuable you can do with that?
7. Encourage your audience to create and share
For almost 20 years, Starbucks has been using beautifully-designed red cups for the holiday season. In 2015, they simplified the design to a red cup with just the Starbucks logo. Customers started drawing on the red cups, and Starbucks took the opportunity to invite people to share their artwork on Instagram with the #RedCupArt hashtag. In eight days, it received over 1,200 artworks from all around the world.
In 2016, Starbucks took the campaign to another level. It designed that year’s red cups with 13 designs submitted by customers in the previous year and gave out free plain red cups, inviting people to submit their red cup art again. It then showcased some of its favorite designs in its Instagram stories and featured the top nine design in an Instagram post.
Invite your audience to co-create content with you and thank them by featuring their content on your social media (or giving them gift vouchers). This is a great way to engage your audience. If your audience is millennials, a research by Millennial Marketing found that 40% of millennials want to co-create products and brands with companies.
8. Focus on one platform
Example: Pinterest Yard Sale
Krylon, the spray paint brand, wanted to distinguish itself from its competitors. While most spray paint brands emphasize on the protection their paint provides, Krylon wanted to highlight that its paint can turn old items into valuable objects.
To do that, the DIY experts at Krylon bought 127 items from the world’s longest yard sale, transformed them with a layer of Krylon paint, and sold them on Pinterest for at least twice the cost. (The timing was perfect as Pinterest just launched their buyable pin feature then.)
The campaign increased the daily visits to Krylon’s Pinterest page (its priority social media channel) by 400% and generated an estimated $2.7 million worth of earned media.
It can be tempting to use all your social media profiles to promote your campaign. Especially for small businesses with limited resources, it’s often better to focus on one or a few channels than to use all the available channels.
If you want to promote something that is visual, consider Instagram, Pinterest, or YouTube. Otherwise, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn might be a better option.
9. Keep things simple
Example: Know Your Lemons Breast Health Education
Organization: Worldwide Breast Cancer, Know Your Lemons
Designer: Corrine Ellsworth Beaumont
The passing of her grandmothers due to breast cancer prompted Corrine to find out more about breast cancer, according to an article from Mashable. But she couldn’t find any resource that explained the signs of breast cancer and when one should get a mammogram, in an easy-to-understand way.
As a designer, she decided to spread the information through self-explanatory graphics. She created a series of graphics, which reached 166 million people in January alone.
“I think the reason why it’s gone so viral is because people can look at the images without having to read anything. In one minute people can learn all symptoms of breast cancer without feeling like they’re being educated”, Corrine told Mashable.
Keep your campaign promotional materials, such as your slogan, graphics, and videos, simple. We found that self-explanatory graphics do well on Twitter for us because people can quickly understand the message, making such graphics are highly shareable.
10. Time it right
Example: ADT Ghost Monitoring
ADT’s customer service rep, Xavier Rollins, received an unusual request from one of the company’s customers. The customer’s son was afraid of ghosts, and she wanted Xavier to help reassure her son that there are no ghosts in the house. And Xavier did it — brilliantly. Xavier told the customer’s son that they have a ghost alarm in their house, and if the alarm is triggered, the police will be sent to chase the ghost away.
ADT and its agency created a minute-long animation of the story with the actual phone conversation as the audio. To maximize the impact of the campaign, they waited till just before the National Ghost Hunting Day to post the video.
The video turned out to be a great success, gaining over 130,000 impressions and over 1,000 links to ADT.com.
Consider scheduling your campaign around relevant events or occasions when your audience might be more likely to be talking about the topic. Such timeliness will make your campaign more relevant to your audience, and they might be more likely to engage with and share your content.
We’d love to help you create awesome social media campaigns. Start your 14-day free trial of Buffer for Business to schedule your posts and analyze your performance!
11. Use the latest features or technologies to create better content
Example: Don’t Go There. Live There.
Join us in London! Jump into an Airbnb experience on #Periscope360. Just move your phone around and see what happen… https://t.co/z1bFRV9q1u
— Airbnb (@Airbnb) January 6, 2017
Airbnb found that 86 percent of its users use Airbnb because they want to live like a local, and not a tourist. That led to its new marketing campaign, “Don’t go there. Live there.”, which encourages people to not tour, but live in a new city like a local.
When 360 live-streaming became available on Twitter, Airbnb jumped on the opportunity to provide its users with immersive experiences of living in an Airbnb home and participating in an Airbnb experience through live 360 videos.
The two videos have been watched by more than three million people around the world.
Use the newest social media features (e.g. 360 live videos) or the latest technologies (e.g. 360 cameras or drones) to create unique content for your campaigns. The novelty of the content can attract people to interact with it and give them a reason to share it with their friends.
(If you are looking into live-streaming 360 videos, I found this $249 360 camera which can be used for Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and Periscope.)
12. Promote with social ads
Example: Don’t Go There. Live There.
(Image from Instagram)
To spread awareness of its “Don’t Go There. Live There.” marketing campaign, Airbnb partnered with Amobee, an Instagram Ads API Partner, to use Instagram ads to reach travel enthusiasts on Instagram.
By targeting specific interests and testing multiple ad creatives, the ad campaign garnered 53.5 million impressions, 4.9 million video views, and 31,000 clicks to Airbnb’s website.
If you have some money to spare in your budget, consider promoting your campaign with ads on the relevant social media platforms. A common strategy I’ve seen is to run the ads before the actual campaign starts to generate an initial round of awareness and interest.
To help you get started, here’re our complete guides to Facebook and Instagram ads.
13. Partner with other businesses
Example: Stranger Things Super Bowl Ad
Brand: Kellogg’s Eggo
Netflix’s Stranger Things Super Bowl ad was one of the most watched Super bowl ads this year. The YouTube video has more than 15 million views (at the time of writing), and the ad generated over 300,000 tweets during the game (as reported by Fast Company).
But there’s another winner here — Kellogg’s Eggo, which was featured in Season 1 of Stranger Things. A part of its 1980 ad appeared at the start of Stranger Things’ ad (which meant that people were essentially watching an Eggo ad, too). The tweets Eggo prepared for the ad campaign also generated more than 9,000 retweets and more than 20,000 Likes combined.
Once Kellogg saw that Eggo appeared prominently in Season 1 of the show, it and its agency decided to partner with Netflix, which led to this great product placement in the ad, according to Ad Age.
Collaborate with businesses who are in line with your brand and would also benefit from your campaign. Some of our recent successful campaigns were partnerships with companies like Product Hunt, SkillShare, and Pocket.
When a potential partner mentions or features you in their content or website, reach out to thank them and slowly build a mutually-beneficial relationship. You could even feature them in your content first.
What other takeaways do you have?
While these campaigns were run by big companies with huge marketing budgets, there’re many lessons you can take away from their successes. I hope you have found these tips useful for your next social media campaign, and I wish you all the best for it!
It’ll be great to hear if you have taken away any other learning points from these campaigns. If you have any tips on running great social media campaigns, feel free to share them below, too!
Image credit: Unsplash
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