05/12/2015 12:34 EDT | Updated 05/12/2016 05:59 EDT

Not All Social Media Campaigns Are Created Equal


Co-authored by Anup Rao

The emergence of video as the content form of choice on social media is hard to ignore.

Facebook and Twitter both recently planned a switch to native video, giving YouTube a run for its money. Facebook has even gone one step further with Auto-play, and Twitter is currently testing the feature for iOS.

At the same time, an increasing number of brands are stepping up to support important social issues.

With video continuing to dominate on social media as a more relatable, engaging and effective alternative to static forms of content, brands have a lot to win in this sphere, especially those with causes to promote.

But not all videos are created equal, and not all campaigns know how give a video the leverage it needs to be seen.

Using previously successful campaigns, we've pulled some key insights to help you create and seed compelling content in a video-driven, social marketplace.

1. Inspiration

Wood floors, natural light, muted furniture, and accents of white give this piece an open feel that aligns with Dove's brand values of natural and honest beauty. The simplicity and natural settling that they've chosen for their experiment is what we found most striking.

The director was able to string the interviews together in a way that drove the narrative, without an obtrusive voice-over that might be contrived. Most importantly, there is a natural cadence and timbre in someone's voice that doesn't come across when they're acting, unless they are incredible acting talents.

The idea behind the video, was to force the audience to consider the way we view ourselves, and the cinematography, music, and flow of the video did an excellent job of conveying that.

2. Shock & Awe

CIDI - Luge from TOPIX on Vimeo.

The 2014 Winter Games in Sochi brought about much controversy for Russia's stance on LGBTQ rights.

When the Canadian Institute for Diversity and Inclusion (CIDI) wanted to raise awareness of the issue, and promote a statement that stood in solidarity with the LGBTQ community in Canada -- they worked with their agency to produce this video, which received one-million views on the first day it was launched.

The production for this piece is less complex than the Dove piece. The strategic camera angles, and the music pairing are very important to ensuring that the joke hits -- and the producers absolutely nailed it.

They knew their audience. "Don't You Want Me" by The Human League was a great song to choose, as a well-recognized gay anthem from the '80s. It references their target audience in a meaningful, clever way.

The biggest lesson in both of these pieces is that there was enough time put into the strategy and execution. The videos spoke directly to the target audience because the subject matter was relatable, and the final product captured that audience's attention in a meaningful way.

However, equally challenging in designing an effective change-oriented video campaign, is giving your video the lift it needs to reach as many people as possible.

In this case, social media will be your best friend. Conversations happening on social media are powerful, and having a plan to harness that can be the difference between a campaign that takes off, and one that falls flat shortly after launch.

3) Timeliness, Relevance and Social Currency

Social currency goes beyond aligning your cause with a relevant social issue, to keeping an ear to the ground for events in the world which are related to your campaign's message.

Riding trending news topics can go a long way toward giving your campaign serious lift, as we saw with the CIDI example. Real-time, real world implications of the cause you're supporting will make the issue relatable for people. It shows that you're in touch with what's going on in the world, and that your campaign and brand have a place at the table.

4) Community Engagement

Encouraging and rewarding audience participation is another key factor to campaign success. Without online discourse, your campaign will lack the vitality needed to make waves.

Engagement usually starts with your best brand ambassadors -- your employees. But beyond your own internal network, you'll also want to activate your fans, and other supporters of the cause. There are a number of ways to do this, including through regular creation of supporting content, media buys, influencer outreach, and good community management practices.

The Advocate did a brilliant job of reaching out to influencers with customized GIFs that incorporated the user's Twitter avatar.

Just be weary of automatic responding (or bots) -- they could land you in trouble, as Coke saw just this year.

5) Measurement, Insights and Actions

Finally, once your campaign is off the ground, you'll want to do some digging in the data to see how you're progressing. By analyzing various sources of data, you can identify where efficiencies can be made. Social media offers a plethora of data, both structured (through clicks) and unstructured (through comments).

This data should give you a detailed understanding of your campaign's reception, and will allow you to increase or decrease the frequency of particular types of content based on that reception.

It's also a great idea to formalize your measurement strategy, so that you're checking performance regularly, and acting on those insights.

6) Focus on the Message & Experience

Finally, it's important to note that virality is an exceptional outcome based on careful planning, skilled execution, and a bit of luck.

Above all, focus on delivering a great experience by adhering to some of these basic principles, and you'll succeed at showing your audience what you stand for as a brand -- whether or not you achieve viral fame.

Anup Rao is the VP Operations of Crucial Pictures, a digital content house in Toronto, ON.