Social’s role in strategy is growing: it is capable of fulfilling both long- and short-term business objectives; with smart influencer selection, it can lean on voices that drive growth; and its conversational nature can fuel brand bravery, leading to “creative judo”, according to a new report. 

These conclusions appear in the 2019 Effective Social Strategy Report, based on an analysis of the metadata of entries to the Effective Social Strategy category of the 2019 WARC Awards and a survey with the entrants, with additional contributions from the judging panel.

“We’ve scrutinised the case studies to find out what makes a social campaign successful and to offer actionable insights to marketers and the wider industry”, says Lucy Aitken, Managing Editor, Case Studies at WARC. “What we see is that social offers immense opportunities for participation-led campaigns, but overall, not enough brands are playing to its strengths.”

The report identifies three key ideas:

Social can fulfil both long- and short- term business objectives

It is common to hear criticism of social media’s ability to play at the top of the funnel, having been more effective at the lower end in the past. This year’s entries, however, showed how social at the heart of business could both execute on brand activity and serve as a promotional mechanic, delivering strong commercial results.

Two campaigns stood out in particular. In the UK, Starbucks emulated the way consumers use social to put it at the heart of strategy, driving up profits. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, McDonald’s used social to cheer up defeated football fans during the 2018 World Cup, which drove a year-on-year sales increase of almost 90%.

“Social is more than capable of a fair fight and it can make a real impact on brands, customers and business results”, commented Alex Steer, Chief Product Officer at Wavemaker and judge on this year’s panel.

Smart influencer strategies drive growth

In the most effective examples, influencer marketing is a long-term commitment, where the brand invests time in selecting the right voice with which to co-create. Getting it right leads to engagement and effectiveness.

“The future of influencer marketing is about the dynamic relationship between influencers and brands, expanding their impact from amplifiers and advocates to growth-drivers,” said Jakub Hodbod, Global Head of Strategy, Ogilvy Social.Lab and Chief Strategy Officer, Ogilvy Czech and Charlotte Tansill, Executive Director of Social, Ogilvy, in a joint statement.

Grand-Prix winner, The United Nations brought broadcaster David Attenborough on board to deliver a speech through Facebook Live, delivering reach of 1.3 billion people. Meanwhile, Vans in the US, was able to target niche communities rallied around influencers, bringing in almost triple the amount invested in eventual revenues.

Social can facilitate creative judo

“Social still brings an unrivalled ability to form a crowd, to break down barriers and smash convention,” argues Callum McCahon, Strategy Director at Born Social. “If you can’t be brave on social, you can’t be brave anywhere. Own the problem. Be tactical and proud. Divide and conquer. That’s how to apply creative judo on social.”

Creative judo is the ability of brands on social to be opportunistic, to spot a point of cultural tension on social and exploit it: witness Burger King in the US, which saw an opportunity on Twitter when Wendy’s discontinued its spicy nuggets, sparking outcry.

Elsewhere, Coca-Cola in Saudi (where it trails market-leading Pepsi) tapped into the country’s 2018 repeal of the ban on women driving by engaging with women’s stories.

A sample of the Effective Social Strategy Report, Lessons from the 2019 WARC Awards, can be downloaded here.

The report in full is available to WARC subscribers on and includes in-depth chapter analysis with views and opinions from the judges; what the trends mean from advertisers, agencies and media owners; data analysis; and summaries – objectives, insights, strategies and results – of the winning case studies.

The 2020 WARC Awards will open in October 2019. Free to enter, there is a $40,000 prize fund for the winning papers. View here for more information.

Sourced from WARC