How to Generate Data-Backed Social Media Campaign Ideas

Crafting creative social media campaigns isn’t easy. You need the right mix of strong design, catchy copy, and one big idea that resonates with audiences. Oh, and your boss wants your proposal by EOD and it better blow your clients’ minds.

No sweat, right?

This day-to-day pressure of being on-the-spot creative can be tough to shoulder. Some days you might feel like a genius. Others, you might wonder if your creative well has run dry.

What you need, then, is a consistent process for delivering quality work. The kind of stuff that drives KPIs, makes stakeholders happy, and earns your paychecks. If you knew you could create that kind of content with ease, how would your life be different?

We imagine it feeling something like this:

Relaxed

In this post, we’ll walk through everything you need to:

  • Be creative, even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Save time on ideation so you’ll more time for execution.
  • Be successful executing those ideas.

Let’s tap into your inner Ogilvy and plan some killer campaigns.

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Start By Downloading Your Free Social Media Campaign Proposal Template

We’ve included a free Social Media Campaign Proposal template to help you map out your creative strategy from start to finish. Read through the advice in this post, then use it to pitch your next campaign.

Next, Develop the ‘Big Idea’ Behind Your Social Media Campaign

Successful social media campaigns drive meaningful change. Their messaging moves mountains and motivates audiences to take action. And the best are built on a big idea. A “Big Idea” is an overarching concept designed to leave a lasting impression. David Ogilvy, the godfather of modern advertising, once said:

"You will never win fame and fortune unless you invent big ideas."

This doesn’t mean a good idea needs to be grandiose. It simply needs to be memorable and focused on conveying one clear message that will inspire a desired action. Ideas like this don’t arrive by accident though. They’re the result of hard mental labor, extensive research, and a little bit of serendipity. Ultimately, your goal to find a concept that hits the following checkboxes:

  • Delivers something your audience finds interesting …
  • … while connecting back into your branding, products, or services …
  • … and drives your desired change.

Easier said than done, but we’ve got a process to help you.

Know Your Audience: Start With Strong Research

Who are you talking to? This is the first thing you need to figure out. Here are two easy ways to do this.

Use Facebook’s Built-In Analytics

Facebook provides powerful analytics capabilities. Simply visit your page. Then, click Insights, and find the People tab in the left-hand navigation:

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Analyze Your Twitter Following With Followerwonk

Followerwonk is a great freemium Twitter audience analysis tool from Moz. For our research purposes, follow these steps:

  • Visit Followerwonk and enter your brand or company’s Twitter handle.
  • Select Analyze Their Followers (see below):

You’ll now have a report full of useful demographic data for your Twitter followers. This includes:

  • Geographic location
  • Most active hours on Twitter
  • A word cloud based on followers’ Twitter bios
  • Inferred gender
  • Audience breakdown by age group
  • Languages used

This information can give you a clearer picture of who your audience is.

Use Twitter Polls

Twitter polls are an easy way to get fast feedback. Here’s how to run one for audience research:

  • Log into Twitter via its mobile app or desktop website.
  • Compose a new tweet and click the Poll button:

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  • Think of two to four topical areas of interest to your audience.
  • Craft a question asking which is most interesting to your followers.

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  • Click Tweet and you’re on your way.
Tip: Make sure your options are sufficiently differentiated to be useful. Avoid offering options that merely reword the same topic multiple different ways.

Run A Survey

This option will pay massive dividends for your marketing, both on and off social media.

  • Choose a survey platform. Polldaddy and Survey Monkey are two reputable options.
  • Write good questions focused on finding out what your audience wants. Some examples could include questions about:
    • Their general interests
    • Which tools they use
    • Their toughest challenges and pain points

For an example of what kind of insights you can get from a survey, read the findings from our 2016 Better Marketer Survey.

Consider Creating Personas

A persona is essentially a fictional character description that fits your average audience member. They can be immensely helpful for visualizing and understanding the target of your social media campaigns. Read this detailed guide on how to build them the right way.

Nail Down The Characteristics Of Your Persona

Know Your Enemy: Do Competitive Research

The public nature of social media makes competitive research relatively easy.

Manually Monitor Competitors’ Social Accounts

A quick look at your competitors’ social accounts can tell you a lot. Pay attention to the following:

  • Their creative messaging
  • Their visual style
  • Their engagement levels with their audience

Use Social Media Monitoring Tools To Track Industry Keywords On Social Media

Tools like Mention make it easy to see what’s being said around any given keyword on social media.

Know Your Battlefield: Rock Your Industry Research

This doesn’t need to be too complex. Just follow these tips on a consistent basis to ensure you’re always on top of what’s happening.

Read Industry Publications

Follow reputable magazines, websites, blogs, and news sources related to your industry. This may seem like obvious advice. However, it’s one of the best ways to stay current with what’s relevant to your audience.

Follow Industry Thought Leaders On Social Media

Identify and follow leaders in your industry across their social channels. Again, Followerwonk is great for finding these folks.

Tip: Consider creating Twitter lists of experts, organized by topic.

Now, Let’s Brainstorm Some Creative Campaign Ideas

Crafting campaign concepts is a collaborative process. Whether you’re working alone or with a team, there are ways to get the most from your available brainpower to generate awesome ideas.

Find The Intersection Between Your Brand And Your Audience’s Interests

Your audience likely has diverse interests. You know this because you’ve conducted surveys and scanned keywords from their Twitter bio boxes using Followerwonk. They hold these interests in addition to your brand.

Finding where your brand and those interests overlap can inspire amazing ideas for social campaigns.

Ian Lurie, CEO of Seattle-based marketing agency Portent, has built an excellent presentation explaining how this concept works. It’s well worth taking the time to read and digest all 150+ slides:

Here’s the short version: Target your campaign’s messaging toward where your brand’s value proposition and your audience’s interests intersect. Think of it like a Venn diagram:

Your Brand + Audience Interests = Creative Sweetspot

Here’s how to apply this principle to creating a social media campaign:

  1. Identify an interest that’s common with your audience. It bears repeating: The Twitter bio box info you can gather with Followerwonk is a great place to start. Lean on any survey data you might have as well.
  2. Think about how that interest overlaps with your product or service. For example, if you sell board games, you might discover your audience likes a particular type or brand of snacks (you can’t play board games without snacks).

This could open a few possibilities:

  • You could reach out to that brand that makes that snack and collaborate on a campaign.
  • You could build a campaign around a giveaway offering that type of snack as a prize.
  • You could create a campaign that leverages interest in that snack to raise your brand awareness (eg: posting clever photos with board games and said snack).

These are generic examples to get your mental gears turning.

Develop An Easy 30-Minute Brainstorming Process

We use a simple brainstorming process here at CoSchedule. It’s broken down into three phases:

  1. Ten minutes of silent brainstorming. Write down every idea you can think of. At this point, these can be simple campaign titles, tag lines, or basic one-line descriptions at this point.
  2. Ten minutes of weeding out duds. Score every idea on a three-point scale. Threes are keepers, twos are maybes, and ones go in the trash.
  3. Ten minutes of winner-optimization. Take all your threes, and decide which ones you’ll run with.

What Your Idea Board Should Look Like

This process can yield awesome results fast. Devote 10 minutes to each step, and you’ll have plenty of creative ideas to choose from.

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Use Mindmaps

Mind maps are like visual idea trees. They’re made up of bubbles and arrows connecting different words and thoughts to a central concept. According to Lifehacker:

Mind mapping is one of the best ways to capture your thoughts and bring them to life in visual form. Beyond just note-taking, though, mind maps can help you become more creative, remember more, and solve problems more effectively.

What Is A Mind Map?

The easiest way to get started is to select a mind mapping tool. Here are some popular options:

This video from iMindMap demonstrates how to put one together (it’s specific to their tool, but it’s informative enough to apply generally):

Get Out The Whiteboard Markers

If you’re a visual thinker, then a whiteboard can be an indispensable creative tool. It’s likely you have one somewhere in your office (and if not, you can always order one).

  • Get some markers.
  • Free-write thoughts and ideas related to your potential campaign.
  • Sketch out rough drawings of what your visuals could look like.

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There’s no secret formula here. If you’re used to doing all your work on a computer, a whiteboard offers some advantages. These include:

  • Getting you away from the screen.
  • Allowing you to move around as you think.
  • Forcing you to create with something other than a keyboard and mouse can motivate and inspire creativity.

Let’s Put This All Together: How To Create A Social Media Campaign Proposal

You now know how to do your research, brainstorm ideas, and develop campaign concepts. Now, it’s time to put this all together into a cohesive campaign proposal. This document is what will help sell your campaign idea to your stakeholders. If you’re working in-house, that could mean your boss. For agencies, that means your clients.

Give It A Name

A catchy campaign needs a catchy name. A good campaign name should:

  • Be directly related to the topic of your campaign.
  • Be memorable.
  • Be concise.

State Your Objective and Target Audience

To once again quote Ogilvy, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” When it comes to social media, we might think of “selling” more in terms of engagement or traffic, depending on your goals.

In this section of your template, describe all of the following:

  • Your goals and the purpose of your campaign? There should be a clear goal for launching this campaign. Whether you’re promoting an event, launching a contest, or reinforcing your branding, this should be articulated here.
  • Which audience this campaign is intended to target? You’ll need to explain who this campaign is aimed at.
  • Which social channels will it encompass? Your audience and goals should impact this.

Outline Your Channel Strategy

Not all campaigns may be appropriate across all your social channels. Some may be best oriented toward one particular platform. Others might have more opportunity for cross-platform promotion, especially if you’re adding a social component to an existing campaign.

Narrow your channel selection by asking these questions:

  • Which networks is our brand strongest on? You might have strategic reasoning for focusing on certain networks.
  • Which are we weakest on? If you’re looking to build a following on a network where your struggling, a coordinated campaign could help.
  • Is the idea for this campaign best suited to one particular network over another? Use your best judgment. If your brand is highly visual, then visual net
  • Could this campaign benefit from a custom hashtag? Read our guide on hashtags to determine whether it makes sense to include one in your campaign. Again, this will depend largely on the networks and audience you’re targeting.
Tip: Avoid posting links from social network on another. It creates a poor user experience. Instead, craft content that is tied to one campaign and tailored for each specific network.

How Will You Measure Success?

Once your campaign has run its course, you’ll need to report on its performance. So, know which metrics and KPIs you’ll track and measure ahead of time.

5 Creative Social Campaign Ideas That Worked (And Why)

So, what does a successful social media campaign look like in real life? Let’s highlight some examples. Each of these showcases a company going beyond the status quo to create something unique, engaging, and connected to their brand.

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Honest Tea: “#RefreshinglyHonest”

Our current culture pressures people to perfect. Social media can often exacerbate people’s feelings of being inadequate. That’s probably why people often tend to only show their best selves, carefully crafting posts that make their lives seem a little more put together than they actually are.

Honest Tea is pushing back against this trend with their #RefreshinglyHonest campaign. They encourage people to share honest stories on social media using the hashtag #RefreshinglyHonest. Then, they share some of those stories on a dedicated campaign landing page:

Honest Tea's #RefreshinglyHonest Landing Page

GoPro: “Didja The Skateboarding Cat”

Cat videos make up 99% of all online video content (Note: This statistic is completely made up). That may be an exaggeration.

However, people really like their cat videos, and GoPro knows it. That’s why they strapped one of their cameras to a skateboarding cat and let it do its thing.

The results were a wildly successful campaign that was widely cited as one of the best of 2015. It worked because it showed off an interesting application of their product, and tied it into something their audience is interested in (gotta have more cat videos).

Spotify: “Year In Music”

Spotify allows users to share a landing page that displays what you listened to in the previous year. It shows some cool stuff, like what you listened to at the start of the year, which artist you streamed the most, and more. You can then share the interactive page on your social media channels.

This campaign works well because it allows users to express their individuality on social media through Spotify. It’s also a unique feature their competitors don’t have. Coolest of all (for us data nerds): It’s all data-driven, with data you’ve generated yourself.

Ritz-Carlton: “Memories”

Vacations are all about making memories. Ritz-Carlton, a chain of luxury hotels, understands this. Their Memories campaign taps into this well by encouraging users to share photos of their experience at Ritz-Carlton hotels.

This achieves two goals:

  • It lets hotel patrons show off where they’re staying…
  • …while allowing the hotel to show off their luxurious rooms and amenities.

It’s win-win, and it’s also an easy idea to emulate.

KLM: “Happy To Help”

Airline KLM took customer service to new heights with their Happy To Help campaign. They set up a massive control room in a busy airport filled with monitors and staff. The team watched Twitter for complaints from disgruntled travelers —whether they were KLM customers or not—and then offered to help with whatever problems they were having. This included everything from helping track down lost visas to actually delivering a bed to a traveler stuck overnight.

This campaign was effective because it focused on being helpful. It didn’t matter which airline someone was flying on. KLM understands that air travel is often stressful and fraught with mishaps. By making the experience easier, they earned an incredible amount of goodwill from frustrated flyers.

How Can You Plan, Publish, and Measure Social Media Campaigns in CoSchedule?

Once you have an awesome idea, you need a tool that will help you organize your campaign process behind the scenes. Social Campaigns in CoSchedule will help you easily group your social messages together in a single project for easy project management, collaboration, and scheduling.

 

Forget about trying to remember when and where to post during your social media campaign. Just use the Social Campaigns feature in CoSchedule!

Now, Make Your Next Social Campaign A Success

Armed with the knowledge in this post, you’ll never say, “I’m just not creative” again. You now know the creative processes and techniques used to generate world-class ideas (even if you’re a small brand—for now).

Has this post inspired you to try creating truly exceptional social media content? Is there anything we missed? Sound off in the comments below.

This was post originally published on June 22nd, 2016. It was updated and republished on May 15th, 2017.