Human connections, video, discoverability and connecting with particular communities are key themes that link social strategy to business success, according to a new WARC report.

These conclusions appear in the Effective Social Strategy Report 2018, based on an analysis of the metadata of entries to the 2018 WARC Awards and a survey with the entrants, with additional contributions from the judging panel.

“We’ve been documenting the evolution of social strategy since 2014,” said Lucy Aitken, Managing Editor, Case Studies at WARC. “During that time, social has changed in the media mix, from an activity designed to generate conversation, participation, sharing or advocacy, to a broadcast medium for online video and, in many instances, a support medium for bigger integrated campaigns that also use TV.

“Social is now firmly established in the media mix, though its ability to connect with communities in highly unique and memorable ways continues to make it distinct.”

This was exemplified by the Grand Prix winning campaign, Full-heart support for Gaokao: fast-food chain McDonald’s sought to ease some of the pressure on Chinese students taking the national college exam by encouraging older people to share their experience of it and thereby show the results did not determine their future. The campaign also exceeded the KPI of a 15% increase for overall sales.

Empathy and humour are appropriate tones for social campaigns. And by anticipating what what their audience wanted to talk about, McDonald’s was also able to seamlessly become part of the conversation.

As jury member Chris Herbert, Strategy Director at the7stars, pointed out: “While the ways we connect with each other have changed, the reasons why we connect haven’t. The messages we share socially are still those which interest us, those which agree with or challenge our beliefs.”

Video, perhaps inevitably, was also seen to be an integral part of the best-performing campaigns, with more executions across more platforms offering greater scope for iteration.

Less expected was the number of social-by-design campaigns that demonstrated the value of a discoverable idea. Brands with little or no budget were able to successfully tap into news, memes and broader cultural trends.

A sample of WARC’s Effective Social Strategy Report 2018 can be downloaded here. The report in full is available to WARC subscribers on and includes chapter analysis with views and opinions from the judges, as well as summaries – objectives, insights, strategies and results – of the winning case studies.

Sourced from WARC