Don’t talk to me about your social media “campaign”!

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.


About Pharmaguapa

I am an highly experienced consultant and reverse mentor specialised in digital media marketing and strategy in the pharmaceutical industry.

Posted on May 1, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. You said it right where “campaign” comes from: “is based around traditional marketing lingo”. But I think it is only natural. May be “setting up a Facebook page for a 3 month campaign is a very bad idea” but there is nothing wrong of doing a particular “Campaign” of promotion within that facebook page for 3 months? Even in traditional marketing lingo, a campaign means a “Special promotion” within the marketing promotion. So that can be extended in Social Media marketing too? “Campaign” need not mean “presence” in social media. Presence continues and within that presence a “campaign” with an objective as in traditional marketing can be done? I think so.

  2. You are absolutely right in what you say. My issue is the number of traditional marketeers who I talk to who approach all of social media like a campaign – rather than selecting the social media channel (or other) that would be appropriate. My concern is people who set up a facebook page, build a presence and then forget about it – because they have approached it with a campaign mentality rather than a long term mentality. Of course as you say there are times when doing a campaign on social media is perfect – but just not all the time and only with the right mentality and objectives. I suppose though this also highlights the danger in generalisations – not all “campaigns” are alike!

  3. Jerry Matczak

    This resonates with me. Internally, I am trying to help folks understand social media are not just additional channels through which campaigns are executed. The objectives are not to “sell” people things – i.e. the objective is not to sell 20 million boxes of breakfast cereal, but rather to build presence, community, and trust such that meaningful relationships can be built. Yes, there is some “campaigning’ to be done, but it needs to be handled carefully and with respect for the social media norms and culture. Thanks for bringing this forward.

  4. Thanks for your comment. I think you have hit the nail on the head Jerry – it is about helping people understand how social media works. Without this understanding a campaign will indeed remain a traditional sales campaign and will not work – but with a full understanding of social campaigns can work as they will then hopefully be done appropriately and not with the old “campaign” thinking.

  5. Do you have any examples of companies that have done short term social campaigns that were good or bad?

    • Hello – sorry for the delayed response! I think there are quite a few examples of twitter campaigns – for example Malaria No More did a great campaign with Ashton Kitcher and CNN which was for a limited amount of time and was to raise awareness and funds for bed nets in high malaria areas. There was also an NHS sponsored Facebook campaign to encourage teenage girls to get vaccinated against HPV called Arm against cervial cancer which was quite innovative at the time but was also focused around fixed date. Finally there are also various campaigns that have been successful on other channels, for example Roche Diagnostics Big Blue Test video on You Tube.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: