pam fieldingPR firms are often asked to design and manage social media campaigns.  Stakeholders count on us to help them achieve robust ROI day in and day out, know the latest opportunities on the most relevant platforms, and keep them from making mistakes that might tarnish their brands’ reputations.

 When the pressure is on, how can you create social media campaigns that secure the engagement, growth, leads and impact clients and organizations are searching for?  How can social media managers avoid the dreaded flop or worse yet, the backlash?  There is no such thing as the perfect campaign, but there are some “do’s” and “don’ts” that will increase your odds of success.  Here are some practical tips for keeping your campaign on track, your clients satisfied and your results in line with expectations.

1.   Have a solid plan before you start. 

The first “do” in any social media campaign is to know your end goal and expected results before launching a campaign.  You should be able to answer these key questions:  What do I want to accomplish and how will I measure success?  Who is my target audience?  Which platform do they prefer? 

If the goal is to collect emails, you may need to run a very different campaign than if it is to engage your existing fan base. 

If your target audience is women crafters, your platform of choice will be very different than if it is Fortune 500 executives. Creating an editorial calendar in advance will help you organize and outline your campaign. This method alleviates last minute brainstorming and facilitates the process of writing content since it is already planned. The type of content you would place on your calendar is your organization’s milestones, trending holidays (e.g. Memorial Day, Independence Day, etc.), and planned engagements with high profile audiences such as bloggers or legislators.

2.  Make sure your campaign has influence.

Once you know what you want to accomplish and with whom, it’s important to find your “influence.”  Social media influencers are the people in your target industry or category with the social media reach, relevance and resonance to make an impact with your target audience. 

There are many tools, free and paid, that can help you find influencers (from followerwonk to Buzzsumo to Klout), so choose a few and find the influencers that can help drive your campaign success.  Bloggers can be a valuable resource for your strategy. 

Use a tool like Twtrland to search Twitter profiles of bloggers to find out who is active by skill, geographic area and name.

Once you know the bloggers you would like to engage with, email them a concise pitch and the benefit you can provide them in return for their participation. 

Some may be pleased to receive valuable content, such as an infograph, in exchange for their participation and promotion of your campaign.  Others may be interested in sponsorship. Additionally, if your organization is lobbying for bill on the federal or state levels a simple tweet including a legislator’s Twitter handle and a fact will encourage the member to engage with your content. If you provide a statistic or statement that describes how the pending legislation affects a legislator’s district or state, there is a high chance that he or she will engage by retweeting or favoriting your tweet. When this occurs, it becomes a small victory for your campaign.    

3.  Incentivize action.

While it may seem obvious, it’s worth repeating: social media campaigns work best when users are rewarded for providing helpful information or taking desired actions. You can ask your audience to vote on information that improves your market knowledge of customers or invite them to provide an email address in exchange for an incentive (or extra chances to win one). Facebook just announced on its Facebook for Business blog that it is now testing a new lead-generation mobile ad unit that allows users to complete a form in just two clicks, by pre-filling their Facebook account information. 

The new ad type could be used for everything from newsletter registration to appointment forms, making actions easier to take and easier to reward. By encouraging users to take desired actions, agencies and organizations can track important metrics, collect desired information and demonstrate clear ROI.

Knowing what not to do can be as important as knowing what to do to promote your campaign.  While you’re building your social media campaign, here are some “don’ts” to keep in mind.  

4.  Don’t forget to test and track hashtags.

Hashtags can do a lot to help promote your campaign. According to Dan Zarella of Hubspot, tweets with one or more hashtags are 55 percent more likely to get retweeted. You can improve your odds of choosing a high performing hashtag by doing a bit of research on and similar sites.  Identify popular and trending hashtags, test your options and track your hashtag results.

 5.  Don’t assume. 

Social media campaigns can be a fantastic strategy to promote a client’s brand or advance an organization’s marketing objectives.  But social media campaigns can backfire, and it’s important to imagine the best and worst possible outcomes for any campaign you recommend.  Can the proposed campaign message be easily twisted into something that can hurt the brand?  Does the campaign “fit” with the organization’s culture?  What are the downsides and how will you address them?  Imagining the worst is sometimes the best plan for ensuring the best possible result.

6.  Don’t forget video’s impact.

With autoplay videos taking over Facebook and now Twitter, it’s impossible to ignore the importance of video to the success of your social campaigning. Mixpo, the video and social advertising provider, reports that this is the first year marketers will buy more Facebook than YouTube ads.  Given the short attention spans of social media users, it’s important to grab viewers’ attention in the first few seconds of video play.  Get to the eye-opening footage right away and don’t depend upon audio to tell the story.  Autoplay runs without sound, so your video message needs to stand on its own visual legs.

Social media campaigns continue to evolve, along with the tools of the trade.  As important as it is to stay abreast of the latest technology and trends, keeping a steady eye on the foundational elements of your campaign will help ensure a strong result.  By setting clear goals for your campaigns, knowing your audience, finding influence, testing platforms, messages, and hashtags and incentivizing the right kind of action, you’ll #win at #socialmedia.

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Pam Fielding is president of SevenTwenty Strategies, a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.