With the amount of time users are spending on social media each day (a daily average of 135 minutes, according to 2017 figures), there’s no question that these platforms are now a vital component of the marketing mix.

But just because we all use social doesn’t mean we’re all great at using it to our advantage. Succeeding on social isn’t as easy as simply posting a pretty picture on Instagram or boosting some video content on the first platform you can find with a low CPV.

The truth is that like any channel, social requires strategy and planning. It can be hard to know where to start, so here are four tips to help give your social campaigns the best chance at success:

1.      Define your KPIs

One of the challenges we face most often in social is the perception and expectation that it’s some kind of magic bullet, able to create brand awareness while driving cheap traffic and engagement, all while converting at an efficient CPL.

Yes, social can do all of those things, but not all at once – and not all with the same creative. Different stages of the customer journey will require different creative, different buying and optimisation methods and different audiences, so have a plan and understand what each stage of that plan is delivering.

Only then can you start to even think about what content you want to use – whether it’s a video for awareness, a carousel for product sales, or a Canvas for unpacking a narrative – and at what stage you want to use it. (Oh and by the way, don’t be intimidated by Canvas… it’s just a lot of different ad units stuck together.)

2.      Know your audience

Data is everywhere these days, especially on social. Everyone wants it and everyone collects it, but not everyone knows how to put it to use. Audience data is the most powerful by-product of social media, and yet marketers only make use of about 1% of the 1st party data they could be using.

When planning a social campaign, knowing how to harness this data is the key to understanding how your audience interacts with you as a brand. You need to define what audience you want to appeal to, and at what stage of the campaign.

For example, in a standard social campaign with the three classic stages (awareness, consideration and action), a great way to achieve awareness while keeping it relevant to your audience is to use lookalike audiences. Rather than the basic “I know my customers like business tips, so I’ll target people who like business tips”, you can instead use the platform to look for users who are similar to your customers using hundreds of correlating signals above and beyond just “Interest – Business”.

Further down the funnel we have consideration, when you want to re-engage those who you’ve already made aware of your brand. The best way to do this is by defining and collecting buckets of people who have engaged with your content: people who have liked your page, people who watched your video for more than 7 seconds, people who engaged with your Canvas, and so on. Hit them again with your content, but give them something more. Remember, every additional interaction is another data point.

Your final audience is those we know are engaged with your brand: your own customers, or those who have been on your site. This is the low-hanging fruit that we can re-target with a simple “Remember these shoes you wanted to buy?” message. Again, different audiences for different outcomes.

3.      Pick your platform

If you know who your audience are, you should be able to work out where to find them.

Facebook is the platform which comes first to people’s minds when you say “Social”, and for good reason. It allows us to very easily advertise on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger all at the same time, so you can work out using actual data which one of these platforms is best for your campaign and objectives.

But Facebook isn’t the only platform out there, and it might not be the right one for your campaign. For example, a study by the American Press Institute showed that 74% of US citizens who use Twitter for news do so daily. So if you have something actually newsworthy to get out there, do it on Twitter.

Think about what platforms your audience regularly use and what they use it for. Recent stats show that 92% of B2B marketers leverage LinkedIn over all other social platforms, including Facebook. Different platforms serve different purposes – so don’t think you have to be on all of them to succeed!

4.      Don’t be boring

This is probably the most important point of all but, it’s also probably the most ignored. The creative process is a difficult one and unfortunately, it’s not always done well. As a client, be critical. Would you engage with this content? Would you watch that video to completion?

We all use social platforms every day. Think about how many ads you scrolled past on your way to work this morning alone, and you’ll get an idea of how important it is to be able cut through the noise.

Another thing to remember is that ideas and media channels aren’t one-size-fits-all. Just because something works well on TV doesn’t mean it’ll translate to Instagram. This is why as a client you should encourage your performance, media and creative agencies to work together to align your creative to your audiences and the channels where they’ll be seeing it, right from the start. Someone has a great idea? Brilliant. But how will it work on social? How can we get the most out of it and what outcomes will it drive?

This brings us back to the beginning: your idea will inform your KPI, your audience and your platform. And all four elements, if well thought out, will add up to a successful social campaign.

But even if you don’t have all four, please, just don’t be boring.

Clare Graham

Clare Graham is a digital strategist at iProspect Melbourne. Passionate about testing new strategies to improve performance, she has 5 years’ experience working in paid media in both the UK and Australia.