What does a good social strategy look like? As one of the judges of the Warc Prize for Social Strategy, which has just named AMV BBDO's 'Doritos Mariachi' Facebook campaign 'the world's best social strategy', you'd think I might have my answer down pat. But after four months spent arguing the merits, or otherwise, of 40-odd case studies with a brilliant global group of strategists, planners, researchers, analysts and creatives, I have never been more aware of how subjective success can be in the social marketing world.
Wary of my own prejudices, I employed the process to articulate the criteria I use to define social success. It turns out I have four. Does this strategy use social channels in a uniquely appropriate and/or innovative way? Does it spring from an idea that is inherently conversational? Does it generate enough emotional advocacy to achieve behaviour change? And is it the product of a company that 'is' social, rather than one that 'does' social to try to win awards?
Let's examine the first. I have to admit that, when one entrant explained that they 'started a relationship with bloggers', I scribbled a weary 'woohoo' over the submission form. Putting slick images up on Facebook or sending freebies to semi-celeb bloggers seemed fresh in 2008. They can still form useful components of a wider strategy, but they're mostly tired old tactics from print or PR squashed to fit a new space. How about harnessing geolocation, augmented reality, wearable tech? How about looking beyond Facebook or Twitter to engage with exciting emerging communities on Findery, FightMe or VSCO?
Saatchi & Saatchi's ASB 'Like Loan' campaign, which won a Gold Award in the Warc Prize, used the power of group-buying to create the world's first home loan rate powered by likes. It's a great example of a brand using a uniquely social technology to game-change a risk-averse industry. Making an expensive video and slapping it on YouTube – a common tactic for weaker entries – is not. And what about the small matter of an inherently social idea? What we're looking for here is a concept that makes people talk, a spark that builds relationships, a story that inspires others to tell their own. A strong example of this is the Silver Award-winning 'Animal Strike' campaign by DDB Group New Zealand for Paw Justice, which gave animal lovers a series of tools to help their pets 'strike' on the internet in protest against new chemical testing laws. The 'black paw' symbol, whether plastered over a deactivated YouTube video or printed onto signs outside empty zoo enclosures provided a bold, simple message that people could customise to disrupt their own networks and convey their own sentiments.
The opposite of this is a brand pumping out a smorgasbord of content – Facebook posts, Twitter Q&As, blogger outreach, hashtags – at great volume but without a single coherent, emotional centre that will turn a marketing drive into a movement that others want to own and share.
Thirdly, behaviour change. It's no coincidence that the Doritos case study scooped both the Grand Prix and the Special Award for Analytics. With its mix of metrics encompassing reach, engagement, sentiment, intent to purchase, shift in demographics of Facebook followers and, yes, sales figures, it was a refreshingly sophisticated definition of social value in an industry that remains over-reliant on views, follows and likes.
The fact is, if you want massive exposure, you might as well just pay for a Facebook ad or put up a billboard. The superpower of social media is not exposure: it's influence. Did your audience do anything more taxing than clicking on a button or typing a smiley face? Did they create their own content and translate the spirit of your campaign into their own lives and words? Tracking emotional impact and consumer action is an essential indicator of social success.
Finally, a great campaign should be just one manifestation of a brand's commitment to a lifelong relationship with its consumers (not to mention partners, stakeholders and staff). Running shoe brand Mizuno deservedly won Warc's Special Award for Social Business with its Mezamashii Run Project, in which it collaborated with runners to rigorously test its product. The approach stemmed from a deep respect for existing online running communities and involved the company being publicly honest about its challenges and mistakes, resulting in an ongoing conversation between equals rather than a short-lived marketing stunt.
That's my take. You probably have four – or 40 – more. Tell me why they're better with a tweet to @mollyflatt.