How this year’s Warc winners can raise the bar for social marketing

We Are Social
WARC recently published this article by We Are Social’s Chief Strategy Officer, Mobbie Nazir, talking about the Warc Social Prize and criteria that will help distinguish the good from the ground breaking pieces of work. They’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce it below.

This year I have the pleasure of once again judging the Warc Prize for Social Strategy, the Prize designed to recognise work from all over the world that uses social ideas to drive business results. Last year’s brilliant, diverse winners proved just how much social marketing has evolved. In fact the work was so diverse it was difficult to distinguish a clear set of “best practice principles” – which is partly because the category is moving so fast but also partly because social has the power to impact so many different aspects of a brand’s business. From marketing to product and service innovation to customer service.

I’m really excited to see what this year’s entries will bring – and whilst I am sure the work will be as diverse as ever, I do have a few criteria which I think will help to distinguish the good from the truly inspirational and ground breaking work.

A powerful social insight
A great insight provides the foundation for great ideas and effective creative thinking – I don’t think anyone would argue with this. However, as a Social Strategy Prize, I will be looking for ideas that have gone beyond the traditional definition of an insight, to identify a ‘social’ insight. For me, a social insight is not just an observation about what people are saying or doing on social platforms. It is a deeper human truth about what makes us “social”. Traditional insights understand people in isolation, focusing on individual motivations. A social insight, on the other hand, puts this understanding in the context of our interpersonal relationships, communities and society, offering an understanding of people’s social needs and motivations. In today’s connected media landscape, getting under the skin of people’s social behaviour helps generate campaigns that people genuinely want to get involved with, share and talk about.

Longer-term strategic ideas
Great social ideas should bring people together, spark a conversation and drive action. There are lots of brilliant examples of how this is done to great effect in a tactical and short term way. However, for me social thinking has the potential to create much longer-term value for brands. Whilst I am always excited to see the creative and buzz-worthy ways in which brands are using social, I will be especially looking out for those examples of brands that have gone a step further than PR stunts in using social to really drive longer term behaviour change or impact culture. It’s admittedly a tougher job but all the more worthy of recognition.

Balance between paid and actual social impact
As social marketing has matured, and platforms have grown in terms of audience, brands are understanding that they can achieve significant business results by increasing spend on social platforms. But to really help you understand how well your work has performed, you should look for organic views, social shares and engagement, as well as results that can be impacted to varying degrees by media spend like reach and overall views. These are important indicators of a social strategy that has worked – I’m not looking for an advertising campaign that happens to have run on social channels.

Social ideas with a wider business role
While Warc is focused on marketing strategies, it’s even more impressive when businesses have gone beyond using social purely in their marketing, and placed it at the heart of their business. Consumers now play a greater role in building and maintaining successful businesses, and are far more likely to support and engage with an organisation that’s created a stronger, more motivating context for people to engage with them and to support and advocate what they do. Many organisations have a dusty document somewhere defining what their values and beliefs are, but very few have made these meaningful and core to how they actually behave as an organisation. I’d like to see more brands entering Warc who’ve elevated social from a channel strategy or primarily amplification role, to the driving behavioural insight behind a change in business strategy.

In conclusion
One of the Warc Social Prize’s greatest assets is that it’s free to enter, it’s open to businesses globally of any size, with any budget – so as a judge, you know that the work you’re experiencing will really be the best the world has to offer. Last year, winners ranged from charities, to regional business, to global blue-chip organisations and actually, sometimes it’s even more impressive to see big commercial brands ticking these boxes, getting (often naturally cynical) consumers to really care about what they’re doing and how they’re communicating. I’m looking forward to being inspired once again by the world’s most impressive social strategies.