We hear about social media so often it’s easy to forget that it’s relatively new. It wasn’t until 1997 that Six Degrees entered the scene (and who remembers them?) and started a trend that shows no signs of stopping. Even within each social media platform new forms of content and new ways of sharing that content are emerging all the time, often organically through the use of their members. And it’s for these reasons that social media presents a wealth of opportunity for marketers, who have a diversity of ways to reach consumers.

But when putting together a social media campaign, the basic principles of great marketing still apply. And the core skills of a good marketer are just as useful as they always have been, even if it isn’t immediately obvious why.

Get under the skin of the consumer

Long before you even begin looking at creative or thinking about a social campaign in detail, you need to drill down into your target audience. You can do this very effectively with social listening tools, which grant you valuable insight into what individuals are interested in, what conversations are taking place, and what keywords you can incorporate into your strategy.

But digital tools are not the only means of painting a vivid picture of the people you’re trying to reach. There are more old-school practices, such as taking customer surveys, that are effective when use alone or in conjunction with something else. From the information you gather before you build and launch your social campaign you can create well-drawn customer personas which will inform that campaign and make sure you reach the right people.

Know the brand, know the product

Related to knowing the consumer is knowing the product and the brand, but though they overlap they can be very different. We worked with Rosetta Stone, the language-learning company, and found that a principal motivation for language learning was love. This sounds intuitive, but it was a major breakthrough to work out that there was scope to sell the product in a whole new way.

Come up with relevant ideas

At the tree we look to recruit people who are ‘interested and interesting’ and as a result of this we have a team of people who are curious, open-minded and engaged. So when it comes to generating ideas, we take a collaborative approach: everyone is free to give their opinion and to challenge the opinions of others, and together we can arrive at truly new ideas that are very relevant to what we’re trying to do.

Though one creative director might come up with a single brilliant idea, we’ve found that a collaborative approach generates many diverse and strong ideas. Social campaigns rely on this kind of diversity, and it is within the reach of any brand or agency to come up with a range of ideas which can either be combined to stand on their own.

Test, test, test

We live in a digital world, and that means marketers can test parts of their strategy before launching a social campaign. Before spending thousands, it makes sense to test a piece of copy or a headline across different channels and groups in order to see what resonates and with whom. And marketers can also harmlessly test concepts and creative output simply to understand the consumer better. If something doesn’t resonate, it might suggest that the personas you’ve created are off in some way.

Idea before channel

There are now so many channels for marketers to use that we can get channel-obsessed. But we need to remember that channel is only the activation. The idea is much more important and has to come before. Only occasionally will we have a great outcome if we do this in reverse, but it’s an easy habit to fall into. And it’s a classic example of why even in an era like our own, fundamental marketing skills and practices are so important. So lead with creative, and channel will follow.

Ultimately any social campaign will live or die by the ideas on which it’s built. But you can make sure you arrive at the best ideas your team is capable of by understanding the brand, product and consumer, collaborating with those around you and testing those ideas in the ways available to you. If you do that, you can be confident of putting together a great social campaign.

Daniel Andrews

Daniel Andrews


Daniel Andrews, CEO and co-founder of the tree.