How Long Does a Typical Social Media Campaign Last?
The second question of the marketer’s foray into social media series, was: “How long does a typical social media campaign last?”.
I have to admit that this might be one of the hardest questions we get asked as a social media agency. (When I worked in advertising it was hard to answer there, too.) Marketers who are looking into social media are still a little unsure about how much of their budget to allocate, and equally unsure about how long they should expect the “campaign” to last.
Of course with every client, timing and length are entirely dependent on the goals and objectives of the company. But we know that isn’t the answer you are looking for. So to give you a general rule of thumb, we think a “campaign” centered around content creation needs at least 90 days to really build momentum and start showing results. (This is in part a function of how long it takes to build SEO credibility if you’re starting fresh.) That being said, however, most of Ignite’s clients have signed on for 6-month and 1-year contracts. We’ve found that things tick up nicely at 90 days and then hit another level at 6 months and then build from there.
Now for the more “abstract” answer to this question – and that is to look at social media marketing from the marketing objectives. The following are some of the most common objectives that we’ve run into, and how to answer the timing for each:
1) Social Media as a Long Term Platform: We believe that social media is more of a new communication tool than it is just a “campaign”(which implies short term) or a “channel” (which implies you can use one-way tools).
Companies that need/want to improve communication with customers or seek to improve overall perceptions of a company or product, need to realize this takes time. Six months at the minimum – with the realizing that “talking this way” should not have an end date. This doesn’t mean the social media agency has to be on contract for more than a year, but it does mean that companies should allocate resources to sustain this for the long-term (like you’d sustain PR or trade shows year-to-year).
2) Social Media to Accomplish a Short-Term Goal: At this point in the lifecycle of social media marketing, we’re seeing a lot of interest in shorter-term stuff. A company needs to accomplish an objective, and they want to do it through social media. (Plus they only really want to tip their toes in the water.) Depending on what these objectives are, your timing will vary. Again, in order to develop an audience from scratch – we require at least 90 days. Anything less and we would advise client’s to seriously consider advertising. If you have some existing assets (blogs, followers, Facebook groups, whatever), then you might be in a position to do an activation campaign that is shorter.
3) Social media promoted by other assets. Of course, there can be shortcuts, if you’ve got other resources. You can launch a social media site with a SuperBowl ad and jump start it (nobody did in 2008, but you can). We’ve got clients whose campaigns got great traffic on day one because they bought TV and did great PR. So if you’ve got other ways to drive traffic (and you’re ready with something interesting to engage people when they come), then you can either shorten the campaign (or at least front-load the work).
4) Social media that is truly social: Many “campaigns” online can really be platforms for communities to engage. The marketers jump starts the conversation and promotes it for a while, but over time the community does a lot of the work and the marketer just has to listen and monitor a bit. Dell IdeaStorm is a great example of that, as are many, many user forums. Those live on forever, but don’t require the marketing teams to feed them forever. (Which is not to say you can or should ignore them, of course. If you want to do that, why would you build it in the first place?) These platforms can be great brand builders.
I wish there were an easy answer, but like most things in life, your answer depends on your situation, your goals, your abilities and what you have to offer. If you think about it that way, and then factor in the realities of building credibility online, the timing for you just might reveal itself.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on campaigns you’ve done, how long you’ve allocated for them, and how they did.
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