Seriously Social, the report on effective global social strategies from Warc, has identified multiple trends in the social campaigns sector. The sector has adopted new strategies to drive campaigns – moving away from alternative bottom-up strategies to boldly using conventional top-down methods, and embracing video content and big data. The most detrimental trend though has been cost-cutting and its adverse affects on social strategies.
It is a well-known fact that organic reach benefits from more budget and long-term thinking. The success of a campaign, and consequently, the business is rooted in a powerful organic element in the campaign.
Yet, in 2016, there was greater focus on short-term strategies. Peter Field, a renowned independent marketing consultant, noticed that budgetary constrains adversely affected social strategy choices, thereby reducing the overall effectiveness of campaigns. According to the report, long-term business effects were sacrificed in the pursuit of short-term sales activation in many social strategies - the average budget fell by $0.8m, from $2.3m in 2015 to $1.5m in 2016. “The inevitable consequence of short-term measurement is a drift to strategies that deliver better in the short term. Unfortunately, these tend to deliver poorer long-term performance and so short-termism ultimately undermines long-term effectiveness.”
The other explanation for this preference for short-term measurements could be that marketers are unwilling to wait for the slower effects of some of these alternate bottom-up strategies to manifest themselves, the report noted.
Top-down campaigns lead the way
The biggest paradigm shift in campaign strategies was in the approach towards creating campaigns. Analysis of the entries found that there had been a dramatic shift towards more the conventional top-down and brand story-led campaigns. Top-down accounted for 86 per cent of shortlisted cases, while brand story accounted for 83 per cent of these cases.
According to Mobbie Nazir, Chief Strategy Officer, We Are Social, “various pressures on social strategy have led to the continuing abandonment of bottom-up and cause-driven strategies. These are essentially time-honoured ‘tell and sell’ campaigns with a social twist that are easier to deliver and to link to commercial outcomes.”
She also said that the limited data for bottom-up campaigns suggests that they have lost business effectiveness as the organic benefits they used to deliver dwindle.
Content is King
The report, which is based on the data derived from the entries to the annual award programme, noted that social strategies witnessed a migration towards content - more than three-quarters of the entrants – 79 per cent – used content in their social strategy in 2016. This is a considerable increase from 2015, when content-based strategies were limited to 41 per cent of the pie, and 2014 when it was just 22 per cent. Video content delivered a punch especially in campaigns where there was a strong social or emotional message like Coca-Cola’s ‘Remove Labels’ campaign which ran during Ramadan in the Middle East.
Social strategies primarily leveraged video content to reach out to consumers and clients. Nearly 73 per cent of all the entrants to the 2016 Warc Prize for Social Strategy used video as a primary form of content. "Organic social media is often ably assisting the reach of these video-led campaigns, particularly where there is a powerful piece of hero content," it reported.
Campaigns run on Big Data
Apart from video, the other factor that drove successful campaigns this year was Big Data. About 83 per cent of the entrants made use of it to derive apt social strategies. Many winning papers demonstrated sophistication in how data can be used to derive key insights and improve targeting in social strategies. However, there remains a lack of robust data in evaluating the effectiveness of social campaigns, the report stated.