Unilever, P&G and Kraft are the “most social” brand owners. However, too many social media campaigns are short-term and low-budget and are still failing to quantify their impact on sales, market share or other financial metrics, according to a new report. The report from marketing information service Warc argues that marketers need to apply the same seriousness to planning, budgeting and measuring campaigns with a social media element as they do to more traditional campaigns. However, this is despite metrics remaining hard to quantify in many cases. The report looked at almost 800 case studies of campaigns that contained a social media element and found that the usage of social media by has grown rapidly the work being done is often “small-scale, short-term and lack quantified proof of their commercial effectiveness”.
The ‘Seriously Social’ report analysed cases with and without a social media element, which won awards in a set of major international industry schemes, including Cannes and the Effies. Overall campaigns involving social media activity were shorter in duration and involved lower budgets. For instance cases including social media accounted for 44% of all cases with budgets of $500,000 or less, but only 28% of Gold awards were won by social campaigns from the sub-US$500,000 budget segment.
It also found that examples of social media deployed as a commercially effective stand-alone platform, without integration with print, TV or other channels, were also rare.
The report argues that brands’ usage of social media does not need to lack either ambition or rigour. Examples of campaigns looked included work by American Express, Kraft, Wal-Mart, Audi, AT&T and Virgin Mobile. The reports said marketers need to become more serious about their social media activity and to enforce higher standards of planning, strategy and evaluation in social media campaigns. It said: “Growth in the usage of social media has outpaced growth in objective understanding of how to use it effectively for communications.
It is time to bridge the knowledge gap. “Social media might not always be the right choice for every context. But in order for marketers to extract more value from their investments in this field, it is time for social media to be taken more seriously.”
Brands must meet four main challenges
Based on their analysis of the most effective cases the report argue that success in the social media environment often depends on meeting four main challenges:
1. Adopting a social mind set: This approach focuses planners and insight teams on understanding what type of content will drive social currency within the target audience, and how to provide this content.
2. Social articulation of a clear brand idea: Best practice campaigns embody a clear brand idea. But they also show marketers being relaxed enough to encourage users to add their content and voices to campaign content in order to give an idea genuinely social expression.
3. Scaling up of ambition: Marketers need to review campaign budgets, duration and media integration to ensure these all help to capture the full benefits of their social activity. The best marketers can also distinguish themselves by their commitment to rigorous evaluation of social programmes.
4. Including key elements: Components such as storytelling, calls to participation and taboo-breaking often feature in successful social campaigns. However, it is more important that brands work out which exact elements drive social currency for their audience than look for a rigid creative formula.