I often hear people talk about doing a social media campaign.  On the one hand I understand that this language is embedded in our marketing speak and is based around traditional marketing lingo – and old habits are hard to break.  On the other hand it makes me shudder.


The problem with using the term “campaign” with social media is that for the majority of social media it is about building up a presence and a community – which does not have a finite timeframe.  A traditional campaign however is generally around a set timeframe and once the campaign is finished any marketing finishes – or in the case of digital sometimes it is just left and forgotten.  Campaigns can work on channels like Twitter but setting up a Facebook page for a 3 month campaign is a very bad idea.

A better approach, if you do want to do a short term or finite term campaign, is use social media to drive  the campaign but not to build up a presence, such as a Facebook page.  Rather consider setting up a microsite and driving traffic there using twitter, for example.

Alternatively will this be an annual campaign? In which case social media could work.  You could consider setting up a page for the event and then post-event continue to build the presence.  For example for a disease awareness campaign, such as World Diabetes Day,  build a Facebook or Pinterest page for the day but then continue to post about the disease after the event.  There should always be enough points of interest that could be weaved into the community content throughout the year – not just for one day.

The other issue with linking the term “campaign” to social media is the thinking.  Campaign implies traditional marketing thinking – e.g. the hard sell, push marketing – and this is not appropriate for social media.  Social media is about engagement and relationship building – it is not only about sharing your message but also about listening.

Finally is the fact that social media in itself is a large area, full of multiple platforms, audiences etc.  Whether doing a short-term or long-term “campaign” it is important to fully assess which platform is appropriate.  As already mentioned, there are some, such as Twitter, which can work for short-term traffic driving initiatives.  If the desire is though to build up a longer term presence then it is important to align objectives, audience insights and behaviours, needs (both of the organisation and the audience), and asset type.  A highly visual “campaign” could work well on Pinterest whereas a more verbal or participatory “campaign” may be better suited to Facebook.

Of course the other thing to remember is that not everyone is using social media – and regardless of whether you “get” social media or you want to do a long or short term “campaign” it will be doomed if your audience is not there and/or not interested.  Some things just do not change – not matter how new or old the channel is.


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