How to Design a Social Media Campaign

social media how to

Do you need to set up a social media campaign?

Do you know how to get started?

Establishing a strong team and a day-to-day plan are important for any successful social media campaign.

In this article I’ll show you the five core elements you need to build a social media marketing campaign that works.

social media campaign essentials

Read more to discover what you need for a strong social media campaign.

A Social Media Campaign Example

Throughout this article I include examples from a campaign Whole Foods Market used when they launched a new larger store in Memphis, Tennessee to replace an existing smaller one.

whole foods store opening image

The Whole Foods Poplar store opening makes the news.

The campaign’s goal was to keep the Memphis community informed about overall progress, when the old store would close, when the new one would open, new offerings and opening-day activities.

#1: Assemble a Capable Team

Early iterations of social media community management often included a laissez-faire approach: Give it to the younger staff members—they’re on social, right?

Businesses quickly found out that just because someone is on Facebook in their personal life doesn’t mean they intuitively know how to communicate on behalf of a brand.

Bernie Borges‘ article on staffing strategies points out the importance of assessing the people on your team and determining who is best-suited to contribute to your social media strategy.

Social media marketing requires specific skills (e.g., writing and editing, photo editing, a little tech know-how and being able to respond in real time).

Whole Foods Market’s Experience

“Our social media is staffed during regular business hours, which for us [Whole Foods Poplar] is 8am–10pm, 7 days per week. There are several different MKTG Team Members who are assigned to monitor throughout the day. During the store opening, we had social media staffed for 24 hours the week prior and week of. There was a lot of energy and engagement. It was awesome to be able to interact with customers in real time (or we tried to make it real time) and share our mutual excitement.”

whole foods twitter mentions

Whole Foods Poplar fans tweeting about their experience taking a tour of the new store.

Establish a social community management team with members who can take ownership and responsibility for carrying out day-to-day updates in addition to long-term campaigns.

#2: Plan Your Campaign

Whether you’re launching a new product or location or bringing in new business partners, social media campaigns work wonderfully with pivotal moments in a company’s life. Any time you need to communicate goals or generate buzz, social media is the cornerstone of your success.

As you and your community management team begin to plan the campaign, a tactical social media plan is essential. Use it to organize your campaign’s short-term objectives for each of the social channels you’re using, team assignments, general content ideas you can build on and how you’ll use features of specific platforms (e.g., lists on Twitter or hangouts on Google+).

Whole Foods Market’s Experience

“We started planning the strategy for our [Whole Foods Poplar] campaign seven months before the new store opened. We had store opening milestones set and different team members assigned to make the announcements and handle comments and questions.”

social networking goal sheet

Create short- and long-term goals and objectives for your social marketing campaign.

A planned campaign is a successful campaign. Your plan keeps you focused on the number of steps you’ll need to take along the way, while also helping build momentum, curiosity and excitement among your audience.

#3: Choose the Most Effective Platforms

No matter what you hear from different sources, there is no one perfect social media platform to use. What works well for one business may not work well for another.

To choose your primary and secondary networks, think about where your target audience is more likely to spend time online and look at industry benchmarks.

Social Barrel designed an infographic that shows specifics to consider: suitable media types, objectives, potential reach, demographics, target profile and the types of skills your team needs to be successful.

Whole Foods Market’s Experience

“We [Whole Foods Poplar] communicated via Twitter and Facebook. Right now they are our most engaged social media channels. We had to train a few team members who were not used to doing social. If they were not comfortable posting, we made sure they were comfortable addressing comments/messages.”

whole foods twitter engagement

Whole Foods Poplar responded to followers on Twitter.

It may sound obvious to be where your customers are, but for some businesses that’s easier said than done. If you’re not sure where your audience is, set up social interaction reporting on Google Analytics to see which channels send visitors to your site.

Take the time to discover where your target audience hangs out online. When you have the right mix of platforms, your campaign has a better chance at success.

#4: Establish an Editorial Calendar

Print publishers have used editorial calendars for centuries and their usefulness has never waned. They help you leverage content across media, streamline resources, drive internal teamwork and stay focused on the needs of your audience.

If you already have an editorial system in place, you’re ahead of the game. If you don’t, this free customizable Excel template can help you get started. If you want to share your calendar with your team, consider a Google Drive spreadsheet or WordPress’ editorial calendar plugin.

editorial calendar

Editorial calendars help keep your content delivery on track. Image from WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin.

As you create your editorial calendar, include columns or tabs for:

  • Category
  • Keywords
  • Article type
  • Promotion
  • Content format (text, image, video, audio, presentation or other)
  • Related marketing
  • Additional tracking dates (due dates, other signoffs)

You may also want to include a place for written updates (exactly what you’ll post for easy cutting and pasting), where and when you’ll post each update and which team member is responsible for the update.

Whole Foods Market’s Experience

“We do/did use an editorial calendar. We use HootSuite to plan posts and Spredfast to provide the analytics. We find each program has its strengths and weaknesses, but a combination of the two provides us the information we need.”

#5: Be True to Your Company Voice

When your audience reads and listens to the content you produce, they’re not only hearing your message, they’re hearing the voice of your company—your tone, language and delivery (i.e., formal vs. conversational).

Each time they hear your brand voice, it’s a good bet they’re subconsciously sizing you up. They’re deciding whether you’re a company they can rely on, and more importantly, do business with.

Whole Foods Market’s Experience

“We try to keep the voice of our social media pages friendly, relevant and educational. (In that order too.) We are careful how/when we promote sales using these channels.”

brand voice graphic

Create a voice for your company, image created by Stephanie Schwab.

Stephanie Schwab writes, “Your brand voice in social media will evolve over time… If you’ve already been engaging in social media and feel like your voice needs refinement, take the time to work on it now… If you can more closely match your voice to their [your customers'] needs, you may attract even more customers and develop greater engagement and loyalty than you ever have before.”

Establish an online company voice that reflects your business values and matches your customers’ expectations and you’ll go a long way in building overall trust.

Over to You

Whether you’re a small startup or a major company, successful long-term social media campaigns aren’t built in a day. They require a capable team that can drive the project, careful planning and execution and, as you’re well aware, quite a bit of work.

Thank-you to Emily Lux, marketing team leader at Whole Foods Market on Poplar Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, who graciously agreed to share information about their campaign with Social Media Examiner.

What do you think? What other steps do you use when planning a social media campaign? What have been some of your challenges while planning? Share your comments and thoughts in the space below.

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About the Author, Debbie Hemley

Debbie Hemley is a freelance writer and social media coach. She helps businesses develop and maintain social media content strategies. Follow her on Twitter @dhemley & Facebook. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.webmaisterpro.com/ Kaloyan Banev

    Very detailed guide to social media marketing. It is going well beyond basics. It isn’t very difficult though, just require good planing and hard work.

  • http://www.crackerjackmarketing.com/ Stephanie Schwab

    Great post, Debbie, I love the step-by-step. And thanks for including my info about brand voice!

  • deb1221

    Thanks Kaloyan. Planning and keeping up with the plan–are key!

  • deb1221

    Hi Stephanie, Nice to hear from you. Loved your info about brand voice and was happy to include it here. Best, Deb

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  • KristiGarrett

    Once again, specific, actionable, essential business information! Thanks for just what I need before launching my new site.

  • Bob & Sarah Brown

    Useful post and totally agree about keeping true to your company voice, we call it the corporate personality and its so important if people are to trust you

  • deb1221

    Hi Kristi, Very happy to hear that the article arrived at a good time for you. Wish you success with your new site.

  • deb1221

    Thanks. And, you’re so right about the issue of trust! Trust is big and not to be taken lightly. Once you’ve earned it, you have to do everything in your power to maintain it.

  • Nathalie Pare

    Really enjoyed your post! A detailed plan is always easier in order to get results! Thank you

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  • Maureen Lenehan

    What an awesome breakdown of a daunting task! This process makes social media campaigns much more digestible. If anyone is ever looking for software that can guide you through the campaign creation process, collect results and help notify winners, they should check out Rignite! http://www.rignite.com/social-media-marketing-campaigns You’ll be able to run end-to-end campaigns with detailed analytics, monitor & engage followers across several platforms, and schedule posts all in one place!

  • deb1221

    Thanks Nathalie. It would seem obvious wouldn’t it. But, how many times….

  • http://www.susanjane.me/ Susan Cabezas

    Liking this approach to designing a campaign – so simple! Planning is definitely key, as well as being true to your company’s voice.

  • deb1221

    I know, right?

  • Jason Fonceca

    Sigh… another brilliant post from SME. Shared, and re-shared.

    Note 1: For small startups, a lot of this stuff can be dumbed-down or bare-bones’d. Having any structure and any of these tips in play, is better than avoiding it altogether because it appears overwhelming.

    Note 2: Another easy tool for editorial calendars is Google Calendar :)

  • Jason Fonceca

    I agree. Brand voice ultra- uber- important.

  • deb1221

    Hey Jason, Thanks for your comment. And, good point about Google Calendar!

  • http://www.workreadplay.com Bryan Collins

    Good post Kaloyan. The last picture is particularly helpful. I also find it useful to keep a file of evergreen and cornerstone content that I can use for future campaigns.

    Also, every good campaign should have metrics and analysis baked in. This way, you can judge if it’s a success or a failure.

  • deb1221

    Maureen, thanks for sharing the info!

  • deb1221

    Bryan, Thanks for your comments. Nice point about evergreen content.

  • http://www.anthony-thomas.co.uk/ Anthony Thomas

    What if you dont have a team? excellent advice though

  • Sharon Marrell

    We use Snap Retail because they create the content directed towards customers and provide a calendar to drag, drop and schedule for twitter and fb. They provide relevant items relating to events during a month like national “fill in the blank” day and other celebratory things that you can use as is or modify. When scheduling it give suggested best times when people are likely to see it. They all also include an email service. For the price they have hundreds of great templates and a greater capacity of contact captures as compared to constant contact. I like the the convenience of email and social media being in one place.

  • http://marketingnate.com/ Nate

    It is nice to see companies taking social media seriously. So many of them “don’t need social media” or are “too professional for social media” – which is just rediculous. As you stated in the article, your business needs to be where your customers are … which is on social media. What you put together here is an awesome walkthrough for launching a social media campaign for a business. Great share!

  • Sarah Summers

    I loved this post! Great step by step instructions. Thank you for being specific!

  • deb1221

    Ah, no team? This is where we must wear many different hats.

    And, if that becomes too difficult to imagine, removing one hat and putting on another, then maybe try sitting in another part of the room, stand instead of sit. But above all, be good to your I-AM-THE-TEAM member and they will be good to you!

  • deb1221

    Interesting. Not familiar with Snap Retail but will take a look at it. Curious how big your company is?

  • deb1221

    Thanks, Nate. Being “too professional for social media” is now, oh, such late 2000s. Businesses have to get with the program! I’ve told this story a million times but back in the mid-90s a VP of Marketing at the company where I was working at the time asked me, “Why would we ever need a website?” Suffice to say that he was moved-on not too long after that comment. The man was stuck in another time period and no one can afford to be nostalgic-focused when it comes to business. Don’t get me going!

  • http://www.anthony-thomas.co.uk/ Anthony Thomas

    pmsl… thank you.. tried that.. my bots nicked all my hats and google told me to leave the room.

  • deb1221

    Ok then. Time for plan B.

  • deb1221

    Thanks, Sarah! Appreciate you taking time to read & comment.

  • Arantxa Getino

    Congrats for the post! I have a doubt. What about with a personal social media plan? I mean…when the project is personal, for example, a personal digital marketing blog that be part of your personal branding strategy. This step-by-step is the same? I think, broadly speaking, yes because you can consider you’re a company but is this really so? Thanks!

  • deb1221

    Arantxa, Thanks for your comment and question. The article was written with a “team” in mind.

    I believe you can apply these components to a personal branding campaign with one important caveat — being aware that it WILL take a significant amount of time out of a person’s day and week.

    Likely, one of the main reasons why a person even with the best intentions may not be able to keep up with it, day in and day out, while trying to keep up with the demands of their business. So, what to do?

    Be realistic. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Choose a few manageable areas e.g. updates on Facebook, Twitter, and a regular blog post –it will keep a person on the social media radar screen as they’re preparing to launch their book, offering a new service as an independent consultant, relocating to a new area, etc.

  • betur

    “Brand Voice” is the term. A new invention by itself in Social Media. Keep going SME!

  • deb1221

    Interesting how terms come in and out of play. Recently I read about google’s ngram viewer and looked up when the term reportedly first got its start (or at least hit the radar).

    1998 was first reported use and as you can image upwards from there.

    Thanks for reading!

  • Becky West

    thank you for a GREAT post! I downloaded the editorial calendar once I clicked the link you gave and saw “develop monthly and weekly themes”. That sounds fun to me! : ) Also, because I hugely need this! … to get organized. Thanks again!

  • Vickie Taton

    I saved this page in Evernote and used it today to put together a social media campaign for new clients – thank you so much for the detailed advice, the links, and the examples.

  • http://www.pammarketingnut.com PamMktgNut

    Thank you very much for including our content editorial calendar! Much appreciated. Great blog post.









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