Social media’s continued growth has made it very clear that it’s a force to be reckoned with, and marketers are taking notice. In 2015, 70% of marketers said they expected to spend more on social media. With the increased spending on ads, the more social media campaigns will hatch. Marketers will continue to push the bounds of creativity in an attempt to stand out in what sometimes seems to be an ever increasingly noisy social media feed.

Truly successful social media campaigns can sometimes be thought of as the proverbial “needle in a haystack.” While many of them do exist, there’s no guarantee that your campaign will be successful and deliver the results you were hoping for. But when you run a campaign that performs beyond your wildest dreams, you will be perpetually motivated to create the “next big hit” with your fans as you’ve seen your hard work and effort pay off.

To help you further optimize your campaigns, we analyzed some of the most successful social media campaigns by breaking down the main components so you can integrate them into your own strategy.

Components of a successful social media strategy

Develop a plan

This is by far the most important component of a successful social media campaign. It’s vital that you think through each aspect of the campaign and make sure it fits into your overall social media strategy. Ask yourself these questions when you start to develop your plan:

  1. Who is my audience? If your answer to this is “everyone,” you are thinking too big. While targeting a fairly broad demographic is beneficial in certain circumstances, it is not recommended that you use it when defining your audience. Do a thorough analysis of your social media demographic by analyzing your Facebook or Twitter analytics or by using a reporting suite like the one in Sprout Social. Find out who is already engaging with your content and define a subset of that population to target in your campaign.
  2. What networks will the campaigns be launched on? While you’re target demographic may be highly active on Facebook, the same may not be true on networks such as Instagram or Twitter. After you research your audience, pick one or two networks to launch your campaign on. This will give you a more concentrated effort on select networks instead of a diluted effort on all of them.
  3. What part is everyone going to play? Successful social media campaigns take a coordinated effort between all individuals involved. Assign roles to all individuals involved so everyone knows their responsibilities.

Define your goals and objectives

Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve with your social media campaign. Otherwise how will you know if your campaign was a success? By understanding what you’re trying to achieve, you can define your KPIs accordingly. Social media offers a level of flexibility that is rarely found in traditional radio or television advertising. With social media, there’s a plethora of new campaign types available. Below are some of the common goals of most social media campaigns:

  • Increase brand exposure. This campaign objective can be very effective at getting your name out there, especially if you are a relative newcomer to social media. Distinguishing yourself from your competitors through a social media campaign can be a great way to increase your fans or followers and increase overall social media engagement. Some metrics you can use to measure the success of these types of campaigns include number or new fans or followers, number of brand mentions, number of likes, and number of shares or retweets.
  • Drive more traffic to your website. The main reason websites are built is for people to go to them. Social media can be a very effective conduit to easily pushing a large volume of highly targeted traffic to key pages on your website. More traffic means additional visibility, which helps with SEO and search engine rankings, while providing more opportunity for your site and it’s content to be re-shared on social media. The amount of traffic driven to your website can be measured through Google Analytics. Look at metrics such as time on site, new vs. returning users and total sessions. You can take this a step further by analyzing what your users did once they landed on your site. By looking at where they went after entrance and what pages they exited on, you can gain a better understanding of how users act when coming from individual campaigns and optimize your funnel accordingly.
  • Boost conversion rates. You should always look to improve your conversion rates and running a social media campaign can shed some insight into what you’re doing correctly and what could be improved. Specify what conversion rate you are trying to improve and optimize your campaign for it. Clearly spell out the call to action in the campaign creative and have that message carry through to your landing page.

Your metrics you’ll want to be tracking depend on what conversion rate you are trying to increase. By setting up goals in Google Analytics, you can effectively track your conversions and measure campaign success.

Support your campaign cross-channel promotion

Unless you have hoards of loyal followers or an advertising budget on par with AT&T or Ford Motor Company ($3.3 and $2.5 billion respectively,) cross-channel promotion of your content is essential for success. When your social media efforts are supported through a variety of channels, you followers are more likely to engage with your content when being reminded from multiple sources. This can get your message in front who may not follow you or are less active on social media.

One of the most effective, and subsequently underutilized sources of cross-channel promotion is something you already have–your employees. Most successful and effective social media campaigns often have an army of social media advocates backing them. Take NASA’s 2013 campaign that gave a voice to the curiosity rover. This campaign was propelled into greatness by a coordinated effort of NASA employee advocates cross-promoting this campaign through alternate channels which generated the needed buzz to have this campaign go viral. It did so well that it earned one Shorty and two Webby awards.

Your employees should always be involved in your social media marketing efforts. If you don’t already have an established social media advocacy program (which you should), choose a handful of socially savvy brand advocates and integrate them into your campaign by having them distribute your campaign content through their own personal channels.

Let them curate the content so that it fits organically within their own social feed and encourage them to engage with others who may be commenting on the originally shared post. This is a great way to create organic engagement among users who may not have seen your content on other networks. Using an employee advocacy tool like Bambu can really amplify your internal content distribution efforts and allow you a better understanding of not only who is sharing, but where they are sharing it.

Measure your success

By setting your goals and the associated KPIs, you have the ability to thoroughly dissect each campaign to see what worked and what fell flat. Use the insight gained here to optimize future campaigns and continually benchmark your progress to gain a macro-level view of your overall campaign performance.

Successful social media campaign examples

There are dozens of successful social media campaign examples. Below are a few of our favorites from 2015:

The ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge”

Back in 2014, there wasn’t a day that went by when you could open your Facebook News Feed and not see people dumping a bucket of ice water on their head in support of ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease.) While this campaign wasn’t the brainchild of the ALS Association, it gained so much momentum that the ALS Association made it one of their official charity efforts and utilized the campaign to raise widespread awareness of ALS.

The campaign was so successful that in 2014, over $115 million was raised, 17 million people uploaded their own ice bucket challenge videos and the videos garnered over 440 million total video views. ALS continued to capitalize on this campaign in 2015 through supplementary marketing materials, most notably and infographic and a how-to video they’ve been promoting on their social networks and their website.

Groupon’s Banana Bunker

Groupon knowingly posted a picture of a product called the “Banana Bunker” knowing full well what type of comments they would receive. The social media team was armed and ready when this campaign launched. They took the time to individually respond to every single comment that that others posted using humor and wit to generate even more engagement.

This campaign was so successful that not only did they immediately sell out of the “Banana Bunker,” but Bill Roberts, the head of global communications at Groupon, called the campaign “far and away the biggest and most positive post in Groupon’s history.” The post gained more than 20,000 Facebook likes on the post and it was shared more than 45,000 times.

The Oreo blackout Tweet

During the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans, the power went out in the middle of the game. The social media team at Oreo capitalized on this and won big.

This campaign was a great example of the phrase “timing is everything.” The team sent out a single tweet, realizing it was a trending topic on all the main social media networks and on Google. Because of the skillfully executed campaign, this post shared on Facebook and Twitter more than 20,000 times and garnered 525 million impressions.

They also increased their Instagram following from around 8,000 fans to more than 36,000. This Tweet alone was seen by five times the amount of people who actually watched the Super Bowl.

Toms #WithoutShoes Instagram campaign

The team over at Toms shoes found people often post downward pictures on Instagram of their feet. The company then developed the “One Day #WithoutShoes” campaign. When users posted a picture of their bare feet using the hashtag #WithoutShoes, Toms would donate a pair of shoes to those in need.

This campaign was so successful that Toms ended up providing 296,243 shoes to children all over the world and bolstered their image as a philanthropic organization that cares about making a difference in the world.

Domino’s pizza emoji campaign

Although emojis have been utilized in countless social media campaigns, Domino’s takes the cake with its own strategy. Dominos made it so users can order a pizza through Twitter by using the pizza emoji. This new “tweet-a-pizza” campaign has been wildly successful on social media and has helped Domino’s garner tremendous earned media through this first-of-its-kind pizza-ordering system. They announced the new ordering system with a string of ambiguous pizza emoji-laden Tweets.

Domino’s continues to utilize this campaign and has expanded it to not only Twitter, but also through sending the pizza emoji through your smartphone, smartwatch and your SmartTV. This campaign made it exponentially easier for Domino’s customers to order pizza. As for the effect on the business itself, sales soared since the campaign launch and rose an astounding 19% to $45.9 million. Now, more than half of its orders are occurring through these newly established digital media outlets.

Success is in the eye of the beholder

No two social media campaigns are going to be the same. Don’t set yourself up for failure by thinking your campaign is going to go viral and reach millions of people. Every campaign has the potential to be a success. If your first few campaigns didn’t perform as well as you wanted, don’t give up hope. Learn from the successes and shortfalls of your campaigns and continually try to improve and optimize future campaigns with that knowledge.

If you develop a strategic plan, devote time to audience research, utilize pre-existing resources such as employee advocates, and harness the power of social media management tools, the possibilities are endless. Who knows, maybe your future campaign will become the next Ice Bucket Challenge.

Do you have any other tips for a successful social media campaign? How do you go about developing a cohesive strategy for future campaigns? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!