How to use social media effectively in the media mix

Special reports
WARC published this paper by our Chief Strategy Officer, Mobbie Nazir, which became the third most read paper on the site of 2017. They’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce it below.

This paper explores the use of social within the roster of a campaign’s media use; a broad term, it refers to a collective of online communication channels built on community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration.

Social media is a broad term which refers to a collective of online communication channels built on community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. These include social networking sites, video sharing platforms, blogs and micro-blogging platforms, forums and messaging platforms. Unlike traditional broadcast channels, social media channels are two-way communication platforms that enable people to respond and react to information. Primarily a medium for people to connect with each other, social media provides a unique opportunity for brands to leverage the power of peer-to-peer recommendation and word of mouth.

Where to start
There’s been a huge growth in social media penetration and usage amongst consumers in the last decade and that growth is showing no signs of slowing down. There are 2.31 billion social media users globally – representing 31% global penetration – up 10% since 2015. The number of mobile users of social media globally is growing even faster, at 17% since 2015.

In response to this growth a recent CMO survey has revealed that marketers plan to double their spending on social media in next 5 years, yet nearly half believe they’re not prepared to manage the challenges of social media. Much of this lack of understanding is due to social being a constantly evolving medium with new platforms, features and behaviours surfacing at an ever-accelerating pace. This makes it challenging for brands to keep pace and establish clear models of what works and what doesn’t.

However, as the reach and impact of social channels has grown and advertising models become established across key platforms, social media has evolved from being fan and community building platforms into highly powerful paid media channels capable of driving real business results at every stage of the customer journey.

Yet, whilst social is a powerful channel in its own right, it works most effectively when integrated into the media mix. Siloed approaches can lead to cost inefficiencies, strategic conflict and missed opportunities. To achieve this integrated approach, it’s important to take an audience-led, holistic approach to social media planning.

1. Understand how and where social media is influencing your customer path to purchase.
Starting to plan an effective social media strategy begins with defining the role for social communications at every stage of your customer’s path to purchase. As consumers spend more time online and on mobile, social is now an increasingly important source of discovery, intention and action at a time when arguably there are more products and brands to choose from than ever before. And Forrester Consulting, found 85% of Americans have used at least one social media channel for discovery and exploration prior to purchase. Of those consumers, 81% have been influenced by social posts from friends and 58% by social posts from brands.

With the increased volume of communications from brands and increased competition for customer attention, brands must work hard to retain customers. Brand loyalty is not a given. According to reports from Accenture $6.2 trillion globally is in near-constant play due to accelerated shifting of brand loyalty, a 29% increase from 2010. People are open to being influenced by new brands, and social media provides a great channel to tap into this opportunity.

To tap into these opportunities, it is vital to understand your customer’s path to purchase and define the key moments in people’s lives where social can play a role. For example, in the travel sector, social is used heavily for inspiration and planning pre-trip as well as post-trip to share experiences with friends and family. Understanding this starting point can enable brands to define clear business objectives for social strategies to ensure social media activity is delivering clear business value beyond executional measures such as likes, shares and comments.

2. Understand your audience’s social behaviours and motivations.
While paying to boost content is a great way for brands to scale the impact of their social media activity, brands cannot take a purely “pay-to-play” approach in a world where people are increasingly avoiding advertising content. Globally, 60% of internet users have ad blockers enabled. In the Warc report Seriously Social 2015, two currencies for effectiveness in social media were identified. The first was paid media to drive campaign reach. The second was the innate ‘sharing power’ of the social idea which can drive organic reach as well as facilitate paid reach.

Strong social ideas are based on a genuine understanding of the social needs, motivations and behaviours of your audience. Typical consumer social drivers include building relationships with others, defining a sense of identity or defining their role in a wider community or group. These insights are powerful drivers of social communications as they tap into people’s’ need to connect with each other. It is essential to think about people in the context of their social and cultural relationships, not just in the context of their brand relationships.

Social listening is an excellent way to inform your approach. Tools such as Crimson Hexagon, Sysomos and Brandwatch can mine conversations to validate hypotheses about brands, categories or audiences. Alternatively, conversations can be mapped against the consumer journey for particular brands or products to compare them to competitors or the category average.

A great example of how brands can use social insight to inform creative approach is the #ThisGirlCan campaign from Sport England. Sport England wanted to engage women aged 14-40 in sports, and previous attempts to boost engagement around the Olympics had only resulted in short term spikes in interest, rather than long-term behaviour change. To do better, the organisation needed to understand the deeper motivations and barriers around the topic. Sport England used social insight data, focus groups and Crimson Hexagon’s social media analytics to develop a key social insight around the fear of judgement that hadn’t emerged as strongly in traditional research methods. The campaign was a great success; Sport England saw a 19% increase in social conversation around the brand and an increase in activity levels of people in the target age range of 14-40 that out-performed other age groups.

3. Define your social media channel strategy.
With so many social media channels to choose from, it’s key to identify which are most relevant for your brand and the objectives of your activity. Optimal channel selection varies by market, audience and budget. Tools such as Global Web Index (GWI) can be used to help select the right channels for your social media strategy.

It’s important to remember that different social channels fulfil very different roles in people’s lives. So strategy should be aligned against the different roles each platform plays. For example, Facebook is a platform for connecting with friends whilst Twitter is a platform for news and opinion. General Electric (GE) are a brand with a great track record of adapting their creative approach to different social channels. As Sydney Williams, global digital marketing manager of GE explains “my focus is to make sure that the GE brand shows up in really interesting and relevant and entertaining ways on social media, as well as any new emerging platforms”. GE regularly makes use of doodles, emojis, filters, and fun text on Snapchat to entertain fans by creating content exclusive to the platform and has even placed a wireless sensor network in a live volcano to predict when it would erupt which was broadcast on Facebook and Snapchat. By adapting its content approach to the format and audience behaviours of each social platform General Electric are able to connect and engage consumers more effectively.

Another consideration in social media channel strategy is coordinating campaign activities across multiple social channels. For example, Lay’s, the snack brand in the US, ran a campaign across Facebook and Instagram, aimed at increasing offline sales at a low cost per impression. Working with Datalogix, Lay’s found that adding Instagram to the Facebook activity increased reach by 5%, gave a 3% lower cost per impression and lifted sales by 5% more than what would have been the case if the brand had used Facebook alone.


Using social media alongside other media
As highlighted in the aforementioned Warc Seriously Social 2015 report, socially-led campaigns are most effective when combined with other channels. The report found that 41% of cases reviewed had used 3 to 5 other channels in addition to social. This is a reduction from 2014 when a greater number of additional channels were used – typically 6 to 8. The data suggests that brands are wise to adopt this new pattern, rather than trying to spread limited budget across too many channels. Those campaigns combining social media with 3 to 5 other communications channels were, by a large margin, the most effective in business terms. The choice of channels to combine with social media will vary based on the nature of the campaign, but the report provides some guidance on which channels should be considered. The most popular channel to combine with social was TV which was used by 75% of high budget campaigns followed by outdoor (63%).

Social and TV
While TV can be an effective awareness driver, increased media fragmentation means that certain audience groups are becoming harder to reach via traditional channels. For example, 81% of Millennials in US are likely to be light TV viewers. Social media can be used to help amplify the reach of TV to these elusive audiences. Research from Nielsen, commissioned by Facebook, analysed the daily reach of the top 10 TV networks in the US used by FMCG marketers and compared this with Facebook. Amongst Millennials, Facebook was able to extend the reach of TV campaigns by 14.2%. This incremental reach represents a potential $2.8 billion in CPG spend. Similarly, in a study of 656 campaigns, brands that added YouTube TrueView to TV saw relative lifts of 23%, 18%, and 13% on ad recall, brand awareness, and consideration, respectively, among their audience. (

In terms of campaign planning, social media has been shown to work most effectively as a priming medium for TV – with consumers who see a brand ad on Facebook before they see it on TV being more likely to purchase the brand than those who saw it on TV first. In this way social can act in a similar way to a trailer for a movie. Priming the audience for a higher response to the TV advertising.

Social has also been fundamental to the phenomenon of “second-screening” which is using a digital device such as smart-phone or tablet to enhance your content experience on another platform such as TV. As TV and digital platforms and viewing behaviours merge with each other such practices will continue to evolve and provide marketers with challenges in terms of ensuring they are delivering the right multi-platform creative ideas and experiences to capture and engage their audiences. An early example of a brand creating an effective multi-platform TV and social experience is the WARC Social Strategy award winning Mercedes #YouDrive campaign. This campaign helped drive awareness and enquiries from a specific target audience using real-time social interaction by combining TV, Twitter and YouTube. The campaign generated an outsized return of 9-to-1 on marketing expenditure, demonstrating the effectiveness of cross-channel campaigns when executed well.

Social and Search
Search and social are highly complementary in the customer purchase journey. With 58% of customers saying they use social and search together, strategies that account for both channels present a strong opportunity for brands to drive value for customers throughout their life cycle. Social is also an important aspect of how well organic search performs, with search engine algorithms favouring sites that have social content as part of their offering. By understanding that customers will respond to social content while they are searching for information on your company and its products or services, you can build deeper engagement with them by delivering the right content in the right context in these customers’ moment of need.

A great example of this is Halifax, a UK bank, which used social to rebuild its search credentials after being penalised for out-of-date search practices. Millions of links had been removed, leaving a gap in Halifax’s search marketing approach. In its Making Money Extra Easy campaign, Halifax carried out social listening and identified that banking industry jargon confused customers. Halifax then used Google search insights to establish and quantify what jargon definitions people were searching for. Based on this data, the bank created 41 video jargon busters, which were distributed through search marketing on YouTube and contextually within money content. The campaign proved highly successful, with pre and post-exposure surveys showing an increase in 200% of targeted brand perception metrics.

Social and Email
Existing customer data is incredibly powerful and can be used to better target people across different channels. Co-ordinating messages across social and CRM can help increase the likelihood of purchase. Research from SalesForce and Facebook amongst retailers in the US showed those reached by email and Facebook were 22% more likely to purchase than those reached by email alone. Social can also be used to extend the reach of email campaigns. In the same study the increased reach for campaigns with Facebook and email compared with email alone was 77%.

Creative Optimisation
To optimise social media effectiveness, creative content should be adapted for social media channels to account for the differences in media consumption behaviour. For example, in the case of video content, audience consumption behaviours on TV are very different to social, with more differences between desktop, tablet and mobile use. For example, 50% of mobile Facebook users watch online video with the sound switched off and spend on average less than 2 seconds per content item. So taking creative from TV straight to Facebook will not always work.

Optimisation of creative content for social platforms can have a huge influence on campaign effectiveness, as demonstrated by neuro-insight research from Facebook on the cross-channel impact of mobile and TV. They found that TV ads that were optimised for the platform (in this instance that meant they were shorter and with branding early in the creative) performed better at driving memory encoding metrics and levels of association with the brand than running TV creative with no optimisation or adaptation.

A great example of a brand adapting their creative approach for social channels was Geico who developed a series of “Unskippable” ads for YouTube. Knowing that in the YouTube pre-roll adformat viewers could skip the ad after 5 seconds they developed creative where all the ad messaging was captured in the first 5 seconds. Once the messaging was over, the camera remains capturing a “still” of the scene. The ads garnered acclaim and received over 1m organic views in the first 24 hours. In one month the ads were viewed 10m times on YouTube and over 30 million in total.

Social media also provides great opportunities for brands to test creative variations and optimise campaigns based on which are performing the best against campaign objectives. For brands with limited budgets, organic posting of content to see what works without paid media and then boosting the content which performs well can be a great way to optimise media spend, as well as identify creative ideas that could be amplified beyond social media. A great example of this was the Emoji Science campaign from General Electric which started as a small Snapchat based activation. It was so successful GE decided to amplify this into a full scale digital campaign featuring US actor, Bill Nye.

Media Optimisation
Digital allows for smarter planning through better and more accurate targeting than traditional channels. Less waste means a greater opportunity to increase the reach and frequency of your campaign and deliver more value. On traditional mediums, it can be difficult to accurately increase the reach or frequency of a campaign in a controlled manner.

In the digital space, advertisers often have the ability to define their target audience using a variety of different signals, such as demographics, interests or behaviours. While very precise targeting may lead to a higher response within a target audience, it’s important to understand the trade-offs. Facebook, in partnership with Oracle Data cloud, conducted research to measure the impact of Facebook activity on offline sales in the CPG sector. The study found that campaigns in the top reach quartile drove 3 times the number of total people impacted at 10% less cost per person impacted. Demonstrating that when it comes to media planning in the social space, brands need to balance scale and precision. While highly targeted campaigns may see a higher uplift in terms of behaviour due to content being more relevant, the restricted scale of the campaign will limit the size of audience impacted.

It is also important to consider the optimal frequency for the reach of your campaign to drive impact. Factors to consider include – established vs new brand, length of purchase cycle, message complexity and uniqueness, and whether the campaign is multi-channel or social only. Frequency levels will vary by brand and campaign but research from Facebook with large brand advertisers showed that a frequency cap of around 1 a week captured 85% of total potential brand lift for ad recall. And for purchase intent, a frequency cap of 2 a week captured 95% of total potential brand lift.

1. Understand how and where social media is influencing your customer path to purchase: It is vital to define the key moments in your customers’ lives where social can play a role.

2. Understand your audience’s social behaviours and motivations: Brands cannot take a purely “pay-to-play” approach in a world where people are increasingly avoiding advertising content.

3. Define your social media channel strategy: Strategy should be aligned against the different roles each platform plays.

4. Plan social media alongside other media activity: Socially-led campaigns are most effective when combined with other channels. For example:

5. Look for a balance between scale and precision: While very precise targeting may lead to a higher response within a target audience, it’s important to understand the trade-offs.

Case studies
Deutsche Telekom: Travel & Surf
Deutsche Telekom, the German telecoms provider, had two objectives. It, wanted to encourage customers to buy its ‘Travel & Surf’ holiday roaming package, and change the behaviour of 58% of customers who turn off data roaming while abroad and used free Wi-Fi instead. To do this Deutsche Telekom teamed up with DDB Berlin GmbH to create a humour-laden mockumentary rooted in the fundamental truth that switching off data does not reduce people’s desire to be connected.

Research showed customers had an irrational fear of data roaming costs. For Deutsche Telekom to meet its business objectives – increasing revenue within markets and first time users to 20% and increase overall market share by 10% – the provider realised it needed to reach people before they went on holiday.

To achieve this Deutsche Telecom put 65% of their media spend online, reaching people as they consciously thought about their holidays. Targeting customers on social media, specifically holiday booking and destination sites, it encouraged travellers to book their ‘Travel & Surf’ pass. The campaign then followed them throughout their journey; in airports lounges, as inflight entertainment and even at the baggage reclaim.

The campaign was a huge success. Over 30m people viewed the online campaign video, helping exceed the campaign KPIs and grow overall market share by a staggering 115%.

Toyota Aygo: Go fun yourself
As a brand, Toyota in France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom was not visible or relevant to younger buyers 20-30 years of age. Recognising the need to differentiate itself in a crowded and highly competitive and astute market, Toyota developed a new communication platform Go Fun Yourself to promote its Aygo model.

Key to this was Toyota’s research, which found young people wanted authentic branded experiences and not self-centred-hipster-communication about self-expression, or superficial customisation. “Go fun Yourself” was much more than a tagline. It was an authentic mantra that defined the attitude and content Toyota would serve its audience.

Researchers found that this generation was turning away from the traditional ideas of “brand ambassadors” and instead partnering with new media moguls on content channels like YouTube and Vice. So Toyota partnered with key young media influencers on channels like YouTube and Vice to generate fun and irreverent content with Aygo being part of the fun.

The key to Toyota’s success was both its influencer strategy and the quality of content, designed to excite and inspire a generation on channels they were already on and wouldn’t mind going to.

In the first six months of the campaign the average age of a Toyota Aygo’s buyer reduced from 55 to 35 years old, Aygo page traffic went up by 230% across Europe and its sales increased by 66% year-on-year.