Torture-test your next social-media campaign

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(Photo courtesy The U.S. Army via Flickr)
(Photo courtesy The U.S. Army via Flickr)

Ask these tough questions before you launch to minimize risk of a campaign run amok

Advertising wasn't always a risky career. TV spots were copy tested for months before they went into market. The worst that could happen if consumers didn’t like it was that they would tune out during the commercial break. But when a campaign launches in social media today, literally anything could happen.

Putting your social-media campaign through this social-media torture test social will help minimize the risk and maximize the results.

1.  Have you established a compelling value exchange with your consumers? 

Social marketing requires an approach that pulls people into your message and sparks them to take some kind of initiative or action. It’s all about the give-and-take. As a brand you’re "taking" engagement, so think about what you’re giving back to the consumer. This "currency" should sit at the intersection of what your brand can offer, and what your target audience values. One way to uncover that currency is through social listening to understand how consumers talk about your brand, how they engage with brands in general, and the types of things that motivate them. The recent campaign for Pharrell’s anthem "Happy," which won a Titanium Lion at this year’s Cannes Lions, is a great example of a campaign that hit upon a universally relevant currency – unbridled joy – that was especially poignant at a time of global economic and social unease.

2.  Is there a way to involve influencers in content creation and/or promotion of theidea?

Influencers have the potential to lend a brand incredible authenticity and reach, two factors critical to success in social media. Today online influencers are often mini-celebrities in their own right, adept content creators with incredible artistic skill and a voice that resonates with consumers. When utilizing influencers in the content creation and promotion process, be sure to identify those who are aligned stylistically with your brand, and enter into a contractual relationship that stipulates the expectations on both ends, including content ownership. Toyota (a 360i client) saw first hand the value of leveraging influencers when it engaged Supermarché to create a video documenting its work with the Food Bank for NYC. The video landed on the homepage of Reddit and amassed nearly 100 million earned media impressions in 48 hours.

3.  Have you established a tight ecosystem in which the campaign lives, using the optimal channels based on consumer trends?

It’s par for the course for brands to create a "Role of Channels" document when planning digital campaigns. But it’s less common to think "behavior first" about the planning process — the default tends to be Facebook and Twitter, maybe YouTube for videos, or Vine if you want to get really creative. There are hundreds of options for executing creative campaigns to reach audiences through social and mobile, and choosing the right one is a huge factor in campaign success. Pinterest, for example, is a great storytelling platform for those brands that have a ton of nuance where consumers are open to deeper emotional engagement. For creative inspiration, consider a platform like Colour Lovers, a more niche network for artistic-minded consumers.

4.  Is your distribution strategy designed to get a critical mass of consumers to exposed to your campaign?

Distribution is extremely underrated. In this pay to play world, many think the answer is simply putting some Facebook media or pre-roll behind their content. In truth, good distribution strategies are much more nuanced. A good example of this is Karen Cheng’s explanation of how she made her "Girl Learns to Dance in 100 Days" video go viral by creating a thoughtful marketing plan and generating PR. Smart distribution takes into account naming & tagging strategies, influencer amplification, possible brand integrations, seeding plans, paid promotion, search marketing, sharability, and more.

5.  Is your campaign designed to be optimized midway if necessary?

Social media is in a state of constant flux. What works today might not work tomorrow, and the platforms that matter once you get your campaign in market six months from now, might not even exist today. It’s crucial that social-media campaigns are designed to be flexible and optimized. Know what success looks like and measure it early and often, always being ready to pivot if necessary.

6.  Are there any potential points of backlash or backfire, and do you have a contingency plan for extreme failure, or even for extreme success?

Contingency plans are a must in social media. While there is a huge potential upside if your message resonates with consumers, it can just as easily go sour — as the NYPD recently found with its #myNYPD campaign, which invited a lot of negative backlash from New Yorkers. Scenario planning is crucial when planning a social media campaign, so that you can be prepared to address any potential issues (or amplify successes) in real time.

Orli LeWinter is VP of Strategy with 360i.

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