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Successful Social Media Marketing Campaigns

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The use of social media has increased exponentially, creating a fertile ground for platforms as a medium for advertising (Treadaway and Smith, 2012). However, advertising on social media can be very different from traditional advertising, due to the nature of the medium and the way on which marketing messages may be received (Chaffey and Smith, 2013). However, while there are differences compared to traditional marketing, there are also some similarities; with the stages of planning. The aim of this paper is to look at the way a social media campaign may be developed successfully, and consider the key challenges in managing the messages.

The process of developing a campaign may be broken down in to different stages;

Determine the specific goals for the campaign
Identification of target market
Decision on the marketing message and specific content that will appeal to the target market
Framing of the message, and choice of medium
Communication of the message
Monitoring of the message impact
Adapting the message

These different stages may be seen as akin to the traditional marketing process, with a requirement to determine the specific campaign, identification of the target market, and then the formation of the marketing message that will appeal to the target market, and stimulate the required responses (Kotler and Keller, 2011). However, the way in which it is undertaken differs, in terms of pace and style. Each of the stages can be considered individually.

Goals for the campaign

In any marketing plan it is necessary to determine the goals for a marketing campaign as this will frame the way in which messages are created and communicated. For example, a campaign target may be to increase brand awareness; alternatively, the campaign may be to specifically increase sales, it is important to determine this, as it will impact the message that is developed (Kotler and Keller, 2011). Goals can be clearly defined using the SMART acronym, where the goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound, or timely. For example, a marketing campaign may be undertaken with the aim of selling a specific number of items within a specific time, or gaining a specific percentage increase in brand awareness in a specific time.

Identification of target market

Before developing a message, after determining the goal of the campaign, it is important to identify the target market. The primary target market may be defined in terms of the profile of the consumers who are most likely to make a purchase. For example, the target market for the sale of nappies will be parents with children under the age of two, whereas the target market for stair lifts are likely to be primarily those over retirement age, who have mobility issues (Hooley et al., 2007). The target market may be defined in a number of ways; traditionally this will include issues such as demographics, psychographics, life-cycle stage, individual interests and geographical location (Hooley et al., 2007). Social media also provides a significant advantage with the ability to specifically target narrow market segments. For example, utilising Facebook it is not only possible to identify a target market by gender, age, and location, they may also be targeted in terms of their specified interests, such as interests in competitors pages, or complimentary pages, they may also be targeted in terms of behaviour, and whether they have made online purchases (Facebook, 2015).

Developing the marketing message

The message itself will be based on the aims of the marketing campaign, and the type of “call for action” which may be included. For example, if a promoter is selling tickets to a concert, a link to purchase the tickets may be the “call for action” (Chaffey and Smith, 2013). However, motivation to take action should also be provided, such as a simple as time limited offer, or a statement of limited availability to stimulate action (Treadaway and Smith, 2012).

The challenge in the development of the message is ensuring it is received and understood in an effective manner, and gains a sufficient amount of attention to be effective. In all social mediums, algorithms impact on the way in which posts by different companies are seen; the greater the level of popularity for a single post, usually judged through the use opposed interactions, the greater the level of organic exposure (Chaffey and Smith, 2013).

The message needs to appeal to the audience to encourage interaction. Research by de Vries, Gensler & Leeflang (2012) found that certain characteristics were highly influential the way in which posts were interpreted by social media users. For example, posts which included vivid, relevant images, such as high-resolution photographs on mediums such as Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest were able to gain a higher level of interest compared to text only comments (de Vries et al., 2012). Additionally, posts which required an interaction, such as questions, or polls, also stimulated high levels of interaction (de Vries et al., 2012). In social mediums, greater levels of consumer interaction with company posts usually have a positive impact on the perception of the brands, influencing the information search and evaluation stage of the consumer purchase decision making model, and impact positivity on purchase intent (Moe and Schweidel, 2012).

Framing the Message

Determining the content of the message, such as the text and whether images will be used, is only the beginning. Framing the message is particularly important on social media, and can messages gain popularity, and be reposted, or create controversy (Chaffey and Smith, 2013). Framing refers to the way in which something is said; the frames being storylines making message relevant, and the framing effect being the way in which the message may alter an opinion (Chaffey and Smith, 2013). Where issues are framed in a pertinent manner, they are more likely to be heard, especially when linking with other target market interests, for example dominoes is known to offer special deals on Facebook when there are sporting events, Dominoes Pizza suggests deliveries so customers can watch the events on television, without the need to cook or leave the house (Dominoes, 2015). However, mistakes can also be made; Dunkin’ Donuts provides an important lesson, when in February 2015 they sought to capitalise on their position as being Liverpool FC’s official coffee, tea, and bakery provider (McCarthy, 2015). As part of that campaign the company adapted the Liverpool FC crest replacing elements with the Dunkin Donuts logo, generating a high level of controversy. The Liverpool FC crest has two eternal flames each side of the crest, placed in memoriam of the Hillsborough disaster victims (McCarthy, 2015). Dunkin’ Donuts replaced the flames with two milkshakes, and was perceived by the audience as an insult to the victims that were memorialised (McCarthy, 2015). The marketing team were unaware of the meaning significance of the eternal flames, and later withdraw messages, and issued an apology after suffering high level of negative publicity (McCarthy, 2015). This exemplifies the importance in considering the framing of a message (McCarthy, 2015).

Communicating the message

The communicating message may be perceived as the easiest stage of the marketing campaign. However, there are still some considerations. For example, the timing of messages may be important; Facebook analytics demonstrate the different types of messages are more likely to be received positively at different times of day, and on different days of the week (Facebook, 2015; Zarrella, 2009). However, it is also important to ensure that the marketing message can be monitored following its release, as companies can appear highly insensitive and aloof when the firm does not respond, especially if they are pertinent to the campaign (Chaffey and Smith, 2013), such as the criticisms faced by Dunkin’ Donuts in the case cited above. Therefore, the timing of the message needs to be considered to ensure that it can optimise potential, and that it can be monitored in order to ensure there are no issues with the communication, either in terms of the practical element, all the way in which it is being interpreted, including unexpected interpretations.

Monitoring and adapting the Message

In all marketing campaigns, marketers will wish to monitor the way in which messages are being received. Social media differs significantly from traditional media in terms of the information that can be gained, and the speed of feedback. For example, social platforms are able to provide a high level metrics regarding the number of people that have seen a message, and interacted in some way (Chaffey and Smith, 2013). The metrics facilitate an examination of different campaigns, and an organisation may be able to determine which messages are most effective, and which may need to changed in order to ensure optimal use of marketing budgets (Chaffey and Smith, 2013; Treadaway and Smith, 2012).

Key Challenges for Managing Social Media Campaigns

While the above stages have examined how social media marketing may be undertaken in an effective manner for a logical process, successful campaigns should be perceived as part of holistic social media marketing strategy. Firstly, marketers may be tempted to post only marketing messages, but research indicates that interactions with social media users are more likely to take place if there is a pure sales atmosphere (Chaffey and Smith, 2013; Treadaway and Smith, 2012). This means specific marketing messages should be interspersed with more generalised socially interactive messages, and marketing managers need to become experts in creating engaging social communications; Facebook recommend a ratio of 8 to 2, with 8 general interactive messages for every two sales messages (Facebook, 2015).

Additionally, there are certain characteristics that help enhance effective social media marketing campaigns, which marketers should seek to include and leverage. The first is the value of word-of-mouth, and user created content (Godes and Silva, 2012). Word of mouth marketing can help to spread a message exponentially where it becomes viral. A good example is the US airline West Jet and their 2013 “Christmas Miracle” You Tube campaign. The short video from the relatively small airline, and relativity small budget compared to mass media costs, reached millions of viewers as a result of going viral on social media (West Jet, 2013). By 2015 it has received more than 41 million views (West Jet, 2013). The success was due to the appeal of the message which was not direct sales, and created a ‘feel good’ factor.

Sharing and word of mouth are important, however, marketing managers may also benefit from generating user created content, such as reviews, photographs, or even videos. Where content is created by the users rather than the company, it inherently perceived as having a higher level of credibility compared to company generated messages (de Vries et al., 2012). This is also a challenge, to motivate the creation of the positive content. Additionally, they should resist the deletion of negative content; research indicates the deletion of poor reviews etc can undermine credibility of the firm (Godes and Silva, 2012).

The challenge for marketing managers is also in the way that successful social media marketing can create and ongoing relationship with the users (Chaffey and Smith, 2013). Smith and Zook (2011) developed a ladder of engagement to explain this, demonstrating that the greater the level of engagement by social media users with company or brand pages, the greater the level of commitment to the brand, and that it was possible through engagement to turn casual interactions into individuals who are engaged customers, who would then become brand ambassadors and zealots, generating user created, providing important competitive information, and creating a high level of brand support. In the long term, it is this type of user that is likely to be most beneficial with the provision of positive brand messages and user created content that are persuasive to the target market, as well as potentially aiding in the development of product brands and services more directly though their contributions. However, zealots are unlikely to be more than 1% of all users (Smith and Zook, 2011). Bringing all of these factors together, undertaking marketing in an effective manner in a coordinated an ongoing manner provides the potential for an effective social media marketing campaign.


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