Guide to Social Media Campaigns

Table of Contents

Creating a social media campaign is an intricate process that requires deeply understanding your audience, brand, products and competitors. From start to finish, it’s imperative to stay focused on your brand’s goals and your audience’s needs.

And the campaign doesn’t end when your team hits “publish.” Tracking, monitoring, listening and analyzing campaign results is crucial to refining your social media marketing strategy and proving the far-reaching impacts your team has on company goals.

In this guide, we’re sharing the essential steps to running a social media campaign plan, four (and a few bonus) of our favorite recent campaigns and 20 tips for building your own unforgettable campaign.

Skip ahead with these links:

      1. What is a social media campaign?
      2. How to plan the best social media campaigns
      3. How to run a successful social media campaign
      4. 4 creative social media campaign examples to inspire you in 2024
      5. How to create KPIs and benchmarks for a social media campaign
      6. 20 factors the most successful social media campaigns have in common

Before you dive in, download our social media campaign brief template to start your campaign efforts strong.

Download the template

What is a social media campaign?

A social media campaign is a coordinated set of marketing actions across one or many social channels. The tactics share a common purpose and are designed to reach your company’s goals.

They’re usually part of an omnichannel strategy. Components of a social media campaign include:

  • Organic posts
  • Paid promotions
  • Contests and giveaways
  • Branded hashtags
  • User-generated content
  • Creator and influencer partnerships
  • Accurate reporting
An orange and purple definition graphic that reads, "What is a social media campaign? A social media campaign is a coordinated set of marketing actions across one or many social channels. The tactics share a common purpose and are designed to reach your company’s goals."

How to plan the best social media campaigns

Before you can get creative with your campaign, you need to do your research. And this starts by putting an ear to the digital ground and listening—to both your audience and competitors alike.

To design the strongest campaigns possible, start by listening to what your audience is saying on social. Using an AI-powered social listening tool like Sprout to analyze conversations across all social networks enables you to do three crucial things to build your campaign:

1. Understand your target audience

When you don’t begin by listening to your audiences and build campaigns around what they actually care about, you might end up pushing out content that just isn’t quite right.

Social listening enables you to analyze your target audiences’ conversations about your brand, product, competitors and existing campaigns. And that makes it possible to extract the topics that matter to your target audience and develop campaigns and messaging that resonate.

A screenshot of the conversation overview in Sprout's listening tool.

2. Do a competitive analysis to set yourself apart

A competitive analysis can also help you understand where you fall among your competitors—where they fall short and where you outpace them. Knowing your competitive position can help you set goals for your campaign. For example, using social listening during a competitive analysis can help you understand metrics like share of voice. You can understand how you stand out from the competition and how you need to tailor your campaign to improve your SOV.

Sprout Social's social listening tool showcasing metrics like share of voice, total engagements and average positive sentiment.

3. Analyze campaign performance

AI-powered social listening tools enable you to go beyond measuring performance metrics to actually understand how audiences feel about your campaigns.

Understanding how past campaigns were received is helpful when crafting new ones. But it can also be helpful in the moment if you need to adjust a campaign that isn’t getting the right reception.

A preview of Sprout’s Listening dashboard highlighting Sentiment Summary and Sentiment Trends.

How to run a successful social media campaign

To run your high impact social media campaign from start to finish, use this three-step process.

1. Brainstorm social campaign themes

Generate social media campaign ideas by asking your team (and teams outside of social) these questions:

  • What are your target audience’s challenges?
  • How does your brand help overcome them?
  • What do we want to accomplish with a social media campaign?

During the ideation stage of your social media campaign, it’s imperative to consult with teams from other business functions to ensure you have a complete understanding of your customers, your products and your competitive landscape. The insights you glean from other teams can inform and bolster a campaign to make it even more audience-driven. In fact, The 2023 Sprout Social Index™ revealed that 65% of marketers agree other departments inform their social efforts.

Data visualization from the Sprout Social Index, showing that 43% of social marketers feel their teams are siloed (even though 65% agree that other teams inform their social efforts and 76% agree that social insights inform other teams.)

2. Build out your creative and content

Once you ground yourself in the “why” behind your campaign, it’s time to build out the content. Here are some sources of creative inspiration that will help make your next social campaign truly memorable.

Partner with influencers and creators

Influencers and creators are already masters of creating content that resonates. They’ve built their followings based on engaging content they share on social. With their expertise, they can produce unique content for your brand that strikes a chord with their community.

Most importantly, influencers bring a key element to your campaign: authenticity. Which, according to the 2023 Index, is the number one thing consumers don’t see enough of from brands on social.

Align with the customer journey

Not every piece of content you produce needs to align with all members of your target audience across the sales funnel. Instead, shift your focus to create content specific to where your campaign audience is in their buying journey.

A graphic listing the stages of the marketing funnel with example goals.

For example, in the awareness stage, your goal is to increase the number of people who know about your brand, services and offerings. The content you produce within this stage needs to be eye-catching, but doesn’t necessarily have to speak directly to what your brand has to offer. The focus here is to grab your audience’s attention. “Edutainment” content—social posts that entertain and educate—is perfect for this journey stage. Think infographics and how-to videos.

Share user-generated content 

About 41% of consumers want to see customers and followers on brands’ social content, according to The 2024 Content Benchmarks Report.

By reposting user-generated content (UGC), you fulfill your audience’s expectations while saving your team time and creative resources. And your brand advocates are delighted to be featured by your brand and have a chance to grow their following. So, tapping into UGC is a win-win-win.

Post content formats your audience wants to engage with

Short-form video has been king for a while, and that remains true. The 2024 Content Benchmarks Report found that short-form video was the content format consumers want brands to focus on, followed by static images and influencer content.

A graphic ranking the content formats that consumers want brands to focus on in 2024. The top three are short-form video, static images and influencer content.

But remember that your audience’s preferences might differ slightly from the general population, so it’s important to factor in your most successful content types and themes using your organization’s own benchmark or historical data.

Size up the competition

If you’re running out of content ideas to fuel your social campaigns, turn to your competitors for inspiration. Your brand and your competitors may be targeting similar ideal customer personas, so zero-in on where their social efforts are winning share of voice. What are they doing that works? Where are they missing the mark?

Be careful not to mimic your competitors’ content, but instead use their social strategies as a catalyst for your creative ideas.

3. Choose your metrics and measure success

Choosing the right social media metrics to track and analyze is vital to properly gauge the success of your social media campaigns, and how well your campaign translates to reaching business goals. With the tremendous amount of social data now available, be sure to choose metrics that align with your objectives. For a complete deep-dive, check out this video that walks you through the 17 most important social media metrics.

When it comes to tracking campaigns, engagement metrics—such as the number of unique people who have clicked, liked, commented on or shared your posts—typically provide the most compelling data to determine your campaign’s overall effectiveness.

Once you determine the metrics that matter most to your campaign, start measuring your success and reporting on your social media analytics. Measuring performance throughout your campaign enables you to make adjustments to your social media strategy and content using real-time audience insights.

4. Use technology to manage your campaign from start to finish

To keep your campaign organized—from ideation to content creation to making sense of your metrics—use a social media management platform like Sprout. With Sprout’s Campaign Planner features, create everything you need to run a successful campaign in one place, including briefs, creative assets and analytics reports.

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4 creative social media campaign examples to inspire you in 2024

Some of the best social media campaigns have joined the ranks of the greatest creative efforts in advertising history.

To help you get inspired, here are some attention-grabbing creative social media campaign examples to get your creative gears turning.

1. LEGO’s Botanicals Challenge

LEGO never fails to create fun content. And recently, they leaned into their slogan “adults welcome” with a social campaign built to bring attention to new additions in their Botanicals Collection—a range of flower-building sets.

LEGO chose the perfect time to promote these new flowery sets—in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day. Their social campaign consisted of a few pieces (no pun intended). On TikTok, they featured a weekly LEGO Botanicals Challenge where florist creators were challenged to make creative displays using Botanicals sets.

On Instagram, they posted beautiful Valentine’s-themed displays and LEGO Botanicals being built by a former contestant on The Bachelor.

And their campaign was taken offline with “Le Florist”—a LEGO store that was transformed into a florist shop populated with LEGO flowers and bouquets.

The takeaway: We don’t all have hire-a-former-Bachelor-star budgets. But the takeaway from LEGO’s campaign is less about the flashiness and more about the creativity. Their team gave LEGO Botanicals practical, fun applications that were all about connections, celebration and the Valentine’s Day holiday.

Think about how you can involve customers and creators in a fun way, like the Botanicals Challenge—and how you can connect your campaign to people on an emotional level.

2. McDonald’s “W” flip and Grimace’s social media takeover

We just couldn’t choose between these two campaigns. Most recently, you may have noticed that McDonald’s has been flipping the classic golden arches into a less-classic golden “W.”

McDonald’s has been temporarily calling itself “WcDonald’s” in honor of how the massive chain is often portrayed in many manga, TV show, graphic novels and video games. On the digital front, they’ve changed their social channels to reflect this new approach.

A screenshot of McDonald's X (formerly Twitter) channel where they've changed their name to WcDonald's.

And their social content is filled with manga-inspired art and WcDonald’s shorts inspired by the medium.

A screenshot of a post on McDonald's X channel featuring one of the custom short animations they're using for their WcDonald's campaign.

It’s no question that McDonald’s knows how to have fun on social. And that was also apparent when their character took over posting on their social accounts to promote the Grimace Shake, giving the character a unique voice.

A screenshot of a Thread from McDonald's featuring a picture of their character Grimace and copy that reads, "u made me feel so special ty. say goodbye grimace now."

The Takeaway: The WcDonald’s campaign shows that McDonald’s is tapped into how their brand is referenced in media and culture. This is where social listening can help you do the same—use it to understand how people are referencing your brand and if there are any trends you can join in on.

And the Grimace takeover is a great example of how your brand can have some fun on social. Do you have any characters you can hand the mic to? And if not, what creator or even employee takeovers make sense to lean into?

3. #ShotOniPhone and #YourShotPhotographer

These two campaigns aren’t new, but they’re impactful and have staying power.

You’ve no doubt seen Apple’s #ShotOniPhone before—you may have even used it: to date, there are 29.6 million posts using the hashtag on Instagram alone.

And that content and hashtag have been repurposed into countless billboards, commercials and ads for the brand, taking social offline.

A screenshot of a photo on Apple's Instagram featuring a #ShotOniPhone photo from an Apple user.

Similarly, #YourShotPhotographer by National Geographic is a hashtag that unites Nat Geo’s photo community. They’ve also turned to Instagram to create a space for their Nat Geo Your Shot community, and amassed a following of 6.6 million.

A screenshot of the Nat Geo Your Shot Instagram channel, which features user-generated photos from Nat Geo's community.

The takeaway: Both of these campaigns are ongoing, and are a stellar example of how you can source UGC and inspiration directly from your community—celebrating your diverse and loyal audience in the process. Your community can fuel campaign concepts and content and bring your brand to life in a new way.

For your next campaign, think about how you can create a hashtag to gather UGC, drum up excitement and even create community amongst your audience.

4. Adidas “Originals” campaign

We love when a brand gets cinematic. The brand’s 2023 “Originals” campaign celebrates the sports celebrities and everyday people alike who embody the brand.

As a core part of this campaign, Adidas created several short films shared across their social channels, based on three of their iconic shoes: Gazelle, Superstar and Samba, which each film is named after.

They shared these films on their YouTube channel and leveraged Instagram to show previews of each film in Reels, connecting their content with the hashtags #WeGaveTheWorldAnOriginal and #AdidasOriginals.

The takeaway: We’re not saying you need to create high-production films or hire celebrities for your next campaign. But we are saying that you should tap into the storytelling angle behind your brand and product. Adidas did this beautifully, highlighting and honoring their audience, history and product in this campaign.

​​More social media campaign examples by network

Like these examples, many of the most successful social media campaigns span multiple networks simultaneously—with most translating to channels outside of social. But if you’re looking to create a network-specific campaign or tailor your campaign to different network specifications, here are some helpful resources.

How to create KPIs and benchmarks for a social media campaign

Two of the most important parts of a social media campaign are setting the appropriate social media goals and measuring performance. This is crucial if you want to create stronger campaigns in the future, quantify ROI and business results and report to stakeholders.

Here are a few tips that will help you set KPIs and benchmarks for your social media marketing campaigns.

Identify the “why” behind your campaign

Knowing the key outcomes that matter most to you will help identify and inform your KPIs. If your goal is awareness, then impressions, reach, share of voice and video views will be key for you.

If your goal is to drive sales and website traffic, then leads, clicks, trials, downloads, conversions and website traffic will be key. And many of these are easy to track in Google Analytics by using UTMs.

If your goal is a better brand perception, tracking sentiment will be crucial.

Pro tip: There are three engagement metrics that are universal among the major social networks:

  • Clicks: Users are only going to click on content that interests them. If you experience high clickthrough rates, your content is intriguing enough for users to want to see more, meaning that your content is effective.
  • Likes: If your content resonates with an audience and is receiving a high number of likes, it will naturally gain popularity (and hopefully collect more clicks).
  • Shares: Clicks and likes are good indicators of audience interest. However, when users like your content enough to share it, you’ve achieved the holy grail of relevancy and will increase your visibility.

See how you stack up against competitors

Once you know the “why,” the next step is to put a number to your goals. And one of the most helpful ways to do this is by benchmarking against your industry, competitors and yourself.

First, see how your brand stacks up against the competition—what’s your share of voice? And how is your content performing compared to theirs? Using a tool like Sprout’s competitive analysis listening tool or competitive analysis reports does this automatically, so you don’t have to do all the math yourself.

Sprout Social's social listening tool showcasing metrics like share of voice, total engagements and average positive sentiment.

You can also measure campaign performance against industry benchmarks, like those found in Sprout’s 2024 Content Benchmarks Report. And don’t forget to benchmark against yourself, as well. Where is your share of voice and brand sentiment now? And what are your current performance metrics like? Pair where you’re at with your campaign’s purpose to understand what goals you need to achieve, and where you want to see that impact.

Set SMART goals

SMART goals are a framework to use when setting goals for your campaign, and social media channels overall. They are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-sensitive.

Ensure the goals you set for your campaign follow this framework to ease the process of setting goals, and to better track success.

Report on success

Don’t keep your campaign results to yourself—share them with your team and relevant stakeholders outside of it, from senior leaders to customer care teams.

Reporting on your campaign will help you refine how you set goals in the future, and refine future campaigns. It will also give you the chance to celebrate and communicate the success and learnings of your current campaign.

From different channels to influencer content and paid vs. organic posts, there’s a lot to measure across campaigns. A tool like Sprout enables you to report on your campaign across channels, posts and types of content in one place with a robust suite of analytics and reporting tools.

A screenshot of Sprout Social's analytics and reporting home screen where there are options for multiple types of social media reports.

20 factors the most successful social media campaigns have in common

As you prepare to run your social media campaigns, keep these 20 factors in mind.

1. Talk to customers

Gather insights to learn what customers think about your products and industry at large. Then you can create tailored social media campaign strategies that address specific challenges.

How to do this: Partner with your sales and success teams to learn about your customers. Whether you join a call, send out a survey or consult with your internal team, stress how customer intel will help you create better campaigns (and more sales).

2. Learn from people outside your business function

Some of the best creative ideas you’ll find for social media campaigns come from outside the marketing department. Remember to consult internal teams like sales, R&D, product development and HR when crafting your campaigns.

How to do this: Regularly convene with teams outside of social media to boost your strategy and further your impact. Consider hosting a “social media council” for key stakeholders to bring ideas to the table.

3. Give it a sustained effort

Being able to pivot quickly according to data findings is important. But abandoning a campaign messaging angle or visual approach within the first week or month doesn’t give your content enough time to saturate the market.

By pivoting too quickly, you risk diluting your brand story and recognition with too many different messages. This confuses your audience and ultimately gives your competitors an advantage.

How to do this: We recommend making campaigns at least three months long, and breaking your campaign plan into multiple phases. At the end of each, formally evaluate the data and come up with actionable steps to modify your plan if needed.

By using Sprout’s analytics tools, you can efficiently provide regular reporting updates to your team.

A screenshot of the Sprout Social Profile Performance Report, which displays impressions, engagements, post link clicks and changes in audience growth.

4. Bring in the music (and trending sounds)

Music (and trending sounds) can be a source of inspiration for your social media campaign. In some cases, you can even build campaigns around the perfect song. For others, content made with trending sounds makes for a timely complement to an ongoing campaign.

How to do this: Use resources like the TikTok Creative Center to stay in the know and browse sounds currently trending in your country.

5. Think beyond social

Like many of our favorite social media campaign examples demonstrated, the most effective campaigns have an omnichannel component. Where else would your audience want to interact with your content or your product?

How to do this: Consult with teams in charge of event planning, advertising and product design during your campaign brainstorm to make a business-wide impact.

6. Inspire on social, close in store

Even if your audience is made up of digital natives, there are no replacements for the in-person experience.

How to do this: Whether you have a brick-and-mortar location, pop-up shop or you’re sponsoring a booth at a conference, make an aspect of your campaign face-to-face wherever possible.

7. Maximize opportunities to create content

Thinking back to the LEGO example above, use real-life experiences as a chance to fuel your campaign content pipeline.

How to do this: Capture content of people interacting with your products, team members and spaces. You could even create a meet the team series, if it fits the goals of your campaign.

8. Make conversions a focus

Stay zeroed-in on your conversion strategy to fill the gaps between building brand awareness and driving purchasing decisions. Design campaigns built to have a tangible impact on your bottom line by optimizing your content and distribution strategy for conversion.

How to do this: Fortify your campaign content with strong call to action phrases and measure conversions. Adding UTMs to links makes measuring clicks, conversions and website traffic in Google Analytics easier. And monitor your performance metrics—especially for paid content.

9. Use AI and automation

Hear us out—we’re not saying you should design your entire campaign using AI copy unchecked (see: the Glasgow Willy Wonka experience). But AI and automation can make your workflows and ideation processes more efficient. Use these tools to speed up your campaigns from start to finish.

How to do this: Before your campaign launches, use AI-powered social listening to better understand your audience. During, use AI to help you generate customer care responses to your campaign content faster, and to measure ongoing sentiment. And after, measure your campaign’s success and how people felt about it with social listening and analytics automation.

Investing in a tool that does it all ensures you get the most bang for your buck. Check out Sprout’s suite of AI and automation capabilities.

10. Experiment with ephemeral content

Think beyond your primary feed when designing your campaigns. Today, almost every platform has their own version of ephemeral content. Use these capabilities to infuse your campaign with personality and less-polished, more personalized content.

How to do this: For inspiration, check out our complete guide to Instagram Stories.

11. Identify the influencers and creators to partner with

This is your sign to partner with influencers and creators as part of your campaign. They lend an authentic voice to your content and expand your reach into their relevant audiences.

When looking for influencers and creators to star in your campaigns, keep three things in mind: reach, resonance and relevance. The people you feature should understand each one.

How to do this: According to a Q3 Sprout Social Pulse Survey, over half of marketers use dedicated influencer marketing platforms to help offset the challenge of finding influencers for their campaigns.

Read more about how you can find and vet creators for your next campaign. And remember, influencers and creators aren’t always external. Internal influencers and employee brand advocacy efforts can supercharge your campaign.

An influencer management platform like Tagger can make finding influencers and managing your partnerships easier—learn more about Tagger here.

12. Make customer care a priority

This may seem like putting the cart before the horse. But if you don’t have a robust customer care and engagement strategy during your campaign, you may be missing out on connection opportunities and the chance to convert an audience member into a customer.

According to the Index, 76% of consumers notice and appreciate when companies prioritize customer support. Ensure you prioritize this as you launch your campaign.

How to do this: If you work with a customer support team alongside your social team, get them up to speed on the campaign—especially if it may result in an influx of messages.

13. Look to innovators

If you’re struggling to design high-impact campaigns, take a marketer you know and admire out to lunch, or approach them on social and ask for a quick chat. Come prepared with a set of questions and be as specific as possible. We recommend choosing the marketer(s) behind a particular campaign you were impressed by, and digging deep to find out what you can learn for your brand.

And research how top brands and marketing executives (including yours) operate. Stay alert to top campaigns (like the ones shared earlier in this article) and read interviews with CMO’s from best-in-class brands.

How to do this: We have some social media experts on our staff who are always happy to talk about how Sprout’s full suite of social media tools can help you leverage data to come up with new campaign ideas. And subscribe to blogs and newsletters that feature interviews and advice from leading execs.

14. Partner up

Can you think of any brands that would make good partners during your next social media campaign? These should be brands that:

  • Overlap with your brand’s target audience
  • Don’t overlap with your product offerings

How to do this: Build out a co-marketing strategy to expand your awareness with your target audience.

15. Plan for retention and acquisition

Retention and acquisition should be two different tracks in your social media marketing campaigns.

On one hand, you’re trying to keep and engage with the customers you already have. On the other hand, you want to acquire more customers.

Some content might appeal to both customers and prospective customers, but you should also create unique content to target each of these segments.

How to do this: In your content calendar, make sure you have posts and mini-campaigns devoted to each of these categories. Use a tool like Sprout’s internal tagging feature to group and categorize your social media posts based on retention and acquisition objectives. That way you can strike the right balance, while keeping an eye on performance.

Social Sprout's content calendar feature

16. Understand the digital customer journey

As a social media marketer, you need to understand the unique digital customer journey your followers are taking through the marketing funnel. Make sure you know how people interact with your content at every stage in the journey and across all your social channels.

How to do this: Create a customer journey map to guide your campaign’s content creation.

17. Better understand cultural norms on social

Take time to learn about the unique culture of social media. By being immersed in the culture, you will create campaigns that are better attuned to audience expectations and norms.

How to do this: Subscribe to industry newsletters and blogs, spend time on different social media platforms and learn to speak their language (and your audience’s) fluently.

18. Use SEO to inform content themes

The words and terms you want your brand to rank for on Google can overlap with what you want to be associated with on social. Connect with your SEO team to find out which search terms your brand is focused on and weave them into your social media campaign strategies.

How to do this: Read our guide to YouTube SEO strategy to learn how to use SEO best practices in your content development.

19. Stay on brand

Maintain a consistent brand voice across channels, and stay true to who you are. Even if the internet is talking about the Oscars or the latest TikTok challenge, you should only jump on those trending conversations if they make sense for your brand and are relevant to your campaign.

How to do this: Define your brand’s core values, and keep them in mind whenever you create social content.

20. Take care of yourself

Social media burnout is real. It can be easy to get caught up in campaign prep, but working yourself too hard will lead to creative blocks.

How to do this: Take a break. Move around your space. Take a walk around the block. Try a yoga class. Do whatever it takes to reinvigorate your brain so you can create your most successful campaign yet.

Design an industry-leading social media campaign

Running outstanding social media campaigns requires incorporating insights from across your organization and applying them to build compelling, attention-grabbing content.

With this guide, you will be prepared to conduct meaningful research, design creative content and report on metrics that demonstrate impact—the essential steps for building a successful campaign.

For an extra leg up, we designed a social media campaign brief template to help you stay organized, launch on time, keep your brand on budget and align with stakeholders.