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5 Reasons To Treat Your Successful Social Media Campaigns like a Car, not a Rocket

successful social media campaignsPlanning a social media campaign should be easy, right?

“We are going to be tweeting three times a day, posting a picture to Instagram every other day, and updating Facebook once a week. The campaign will reach 10,000,000 people over the course of two months. It will cost $1,500, and bring in an estimated $5,000 in revenue.”

It would be nice if it worked exactly like that, wouldn’t it?

Unfortunately it doesn’t work anything like that. A social media campaign isn’t a rocket: you can’t just program everything and enjoy the ride.

The path to social media success is full of obstacles and tough decisions that need to be made along the way. If you treat your campaign like a rocket, chances are you’ll miss your target. Instead, treat it  like a car and steer your campaign to success.

What They Taught You in School Was Wrong

Back when you were in school, you were probably taught to make a plan, sort out all the details, set a budget, and you will achieve these results. This may work for launching rockets. Treating your plan like a rocket involves calibrating all the instruments and launching it. Then you just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Unfortunately, the industry of social media is much too volatile to treat like a rocket launch. If you think the path you have calibrated is going to work out exactly as planned you are wrong.

The path to social media success is full of obstacles, opportunities, and decisions that need to be made along the way. Rockets aren’t very easy to course correct, which means that if  you treat your campaign like a rocket and let it run its carefully planned course, you’ll likely look back and see all the problems you should have avoided and all the opportunities for success that were missed.

Jump Into the Driver’s Seat

Rather than setting the course, launching a rocket and simply enjoying the ride, jump into the driver’s seat of your social media campaign and steer it towards success. Now you can navigate around unforeseen obstacles and towards potential opportunities and give your campaign the best chance of success.

This also allows you to assess your campaign as it progresses. For example: are your end goals still the same? Are we  targeting the right demographic? Is our product in the right market segment?

And, by driving your social media campaign you also have the ability to hit the brakes. There are times when something is just not working, and you need to be able to stop and re-evaluate your plan.

Social media is not always a benefit to your business; it can also hurt your business! Sometimes you need to make the call to stop a campaign, potentially saving yourself and your business significant amounts of time and money.

Change Paths

When you are planning a campaign, there is no way to tell exactly how the campaign will turn out. Over the course of the campaign there will be numerous things that pop up, situations or challenges that you could not have foreseen during those early planning stages.

Facebook may change how your post reaches your audience. Costs of advertising on a platform may decrease, which would increase competition. Even the budget allocated to the campaign could change for one reason or another and completely alter the path of a campaign. Having the ability to steer around these obstacles is crucial.

Equally important is the ability to recognize new opportunities along the way.

How often have you learned about a new tool or platform and seen users that already have a significant following and strong grasp of the tool? It’s not because these users are more talented than you. It is because they got in early, used it to their advantage, and have developed successful social media campaigns on that platform.

By searching out and recognizing opportunities like these as your campaign progresses, you can find new ways to reach your audience and gain a head start on your competition.

Change Destinations

Have you ever reached a moment that you’ve worked long and hard for, only to realize it wasn’t really what you wanted after all? You may even have reached your original goal, but your vision changed somewhere along the way.

Marketing is no different. You may start a campaign heading in a certain direction, but a number of factors can change along the way. There is no shame in changing your mind as you adjust to circumstances.

You may find you’re doing better on one social media platform than another. After all, different companies and different strategies work better on different platforms. You may discover you are having a lot more success on Twitter than you were on Instagram.

Adjusting your goals accordingly isn’t a bad thing. It allows you to use resources more efficiently and gain more for your efforts.

On occasion, if your audience reacts unexpectedly to your campaign, you may be marketing to one demographic but seeing a lot more success in a different area almost accidentally.  By constantly examining and reevaluating your goals you can fine tune your marketing.

The key is to see a change of destination as a positive maneuver. You are not admitting your initial assessment and goals were wrong; they were right at the time you set them. What you are doing is reassessing the situation and adjusting to achieve an even higher level of success.

Hit the Brakes

“I will turn this car around!” I bet most of us have had this threat from parents on car rides growing up. It’s usually a result of someone misbehaving in the back seat. On family trips this maybe an idle threat, but when it comes to marketing, it needs to be taken seriously.

Sometimes something is just not working. That’s simply the name of the game when you’re in online marketing, and especially in social media. There can be a lot of unexpected changes in the world of social media. Some good, some bad, and some disastrous. When the worst case scenario happens, there may be nothing much you can do about it.

If you are in the driver’s seat it is your responsibility to hit the brakes, before the situation gets worse.

It is tough to admit that something is not working, but it is something that needs to be done from time to time. The key is to learn to deal with failure and to grow from it.

Plan to Plan

There is no plan that will give you all the answers from the beginning. The best plans leave room for multiple stages of assessment and changes in direction. The path you thought was the best could very well run into obstacle after obstacle.

Your campaign needs to be agile, able to maneuver around obstacles and take detours when you recognize an opportunity.

Plan to make decisions as you move forward, not just at the beginning and end of a campaign. Making decisions as you go allows you to avoid costly mistakes and take advantage of opportunities.

The More You Drive, the Better You Become

Having a good plan and guiding your campaign along the way will greatly increase your chances of success. Unfortunately this is not always enough. Sometimes you get to the end of your campaign and you are not entirely satisfied. Do not get down on yourself – you’ve learned something valuable along the way! You might not have learned it at all if you had simply launched your social media rocket into space. But since you took the time to navigate the road, you gained incredibly valuable information.

And having navigated the path once, you have a head start for the next campaign. You know what to look out for to maximize the effectiveness of future successful social media campaigns.

The more campaigns you drive, the better driver you become. The better driver you become, the more success your social media campaigns will have!

I’m a strong believer that you can learn as much if not more from other people’s mistakes than from their successes.

Have you ever looked back on a social media campaign and wish you had changed something as it was progressing? What was it? How do you think it would have changed the outcome? I’m looking forward to your answers in the comments below!

About Sean Reibeling

Sean Reibeling is a 4th year marketing student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. He currently works as a Marketing Coordinator at a web design and digital marketing studio. Between work and school he works with small businesses developing their social media presence and writes about business and tech, focusing heavily on social media marketing on his personal website. He can be found on Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn. He is always looking to make new connections and would love to chat!

7 thoughts on “5 Reasons To Treat Your Successful Social Media Campaigns like a Car, not a Rocket

  1. I loved this article. A great metaphor for what really happens with social media. You’re right, everything with the internet moves at a lightning pace and is constantly in flux. Without being able to change course, you might find that the course has changed away from you.

    • Thanks! Pinterest is my favourite example of the speed the internet changes. Went from nothing to one of the biggest sources of site traffic, and left marketers scrambling to figure out how to utilize it.

  2. This was great, Sean. I really liked the car vs. rocket ship comparison. I got sucked into “rocket ship thinking” with my business blog when I just started online – set a schedule, started publishing content consistently, etc. But I had to change course when I wasn’t getting the results I was looking for. Things move even faster on social media!

    It’s nice to have a road map in place before you start driving. But not even the best road map will account for all the unexpected obstacles (and opportunities!) that come up along the way. Thanks again, Corey

  3. Love this (and tweeted it :-). I’m definitely taking the scenic route through life, and my relatively new freelance writing career is no different. I love the changing paths section especially. As a “pantser”, I never really know what’s next (who does?), but I’m darn sure going to enjoy the ride.

    I’ve just revised my ideal client from lesson 1 in the Audience Business Masterclass. The person has morphed from the owner of horses into the owner of a horse business. I’ve discovered I really like content marketing, so I’m traveling that path right now.

    Perhaps my life philosophy and the way I approach my business also helps to explain my car ~ a 1979 MGB that occasionally comes home from a journey on a flatbed, but we always figure out what’s going on and pretty soon we’re ready to hit the road again.

    Happy driving!

  4. You are right on Sean! So many of us think we can pre-program a launch or campaign and sit back and enjoy the ride. I’ve experienced much frustration doing things that way. The metaphor of driving a car vs launching a rocket is very valuable! Thank you for sharing your expertise!

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