Planning and Evaluating Digital Media Campaigns for the Public Sector

As marketers, we are at a point now where it is clear – social media is not a fad. It is being used by a variety of types of campaigns that span the public and private sectors. To put it simply – it is ubiquitous. In fact, Forrester states that 3 out of 4 Americans use social technology. Moreover, BzzAgent released a report that found that 1 word-of-mouth conversation has the impact of 200 TV ads. And Nielsen says that 2/3 of the global internet population visit social networks. And as Nick Schaper said, “This is no longer a gimmick. This is how the American people want to receive their news and want to hear from us.” Clearly, social media is having a direct impact on how people get their information and therefore, how we talk with them.

What is exciting for public sector campaigns, however, is that social media presents an opportunity – social media has leveled the playing field offering up both paid and earned opportunities. As Alex Bogusky, co-chairman CP&B, says, “You can’t buy attention anymore. Having a huge budget doesn’t mean anything in social media…The old paradigm was pay to play. Now you get back what you authentically put in. You’ve got to be willing to play to play.” This allows public sector campaigns an opportunity to have a voice alongside competitors – often including the bigger brands that we may be competing with for audiences, such as fast food giants, sugary drink companies, and big tobacco. So, whereas previously, budgets have been a defining factor is a brand’s share of voice, social media really offers a chance for a “the little guys” to have a more balanced share of that voice.

But where do you begin – how do you start to plan a social media campaign? One way to start is by using the S.O.C.I.A.L. Framework.

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Standing for Strategic Online Communication, Insights, and Learnings, S.O.C.I.A.L. is centered in basic program planning. What I mean by this is that digital media should always be part of a larger campaign strategy and it represents one strategy amongst many that marketers can choose from.

S.O.C.I.A.L. begins with an upfront planning process. When beginning to plan your social media program, there are a few things to consider before identifying the channels you want to use. Key to setting up a successful program is to identify the digital goals for the campaign. Ask yourself what success looks like? And your social media goals should align with your overall programmatic goals. As John Lovett from WebAnalytics Demystified says, “The performance of social media needs to be contextualized by the larger business objectives within which social media is a channel contributing to the achievement of those goals.”

As well, the identification your target audience(s) is important as you need to know who you want to reach. These may be the same as your overall programmatic target audiences; however, you may also want to think about intermediary audiences who may be more easily reached online. An example of this would be if you were trying to reach older adults, you might consider using digital media to reach their children or parents/people ages 35-50 to help share the message to the target group.

As well, it is critical that you find out where your audiences(s) are and what they’re doing there – are they online, offline, do they use mobile phones, do they prefer barbershop conversation? Do they watch videos, read blogs, or visit social networks? All of these things need to be considered when looking at how best to reach your audience. This can be done by using research from reputable sources such as Pew, eMarketer, BzzAgent, Mashable, and MediaPost. As well, you can pull audience insights from sources such as,, eMarketer, Forrester, Comscore, and Lotame.

Once you’ve done this research and you know where your audience is and what they are doing – and if through this process, you discover that, in fact, digital media is a good channel for your campaign – then you can begin to look at your budget. If you are determining a budget, then there are some factors to consider – length of time in market, how many people you want to reach, what channels you may have in mind, what the LOE is for the management of the campaign.

If you are working with a set budget and trying to integrate social into that, identify what your budget might be and work from there. Don’t be afraid if you do not have a lot of money to allocate – social media can accommodate almost any budget level – and there are plenty of earned opportunities. Remember, though, to budget LOE for all campaign elements – especially the earned ones.

Then you can begin to define what types of tactics you should use. S.O.C.I.A.L. considers that the brand/campaign/program (or however you personally refer to what you are working on) first has to put its content out there in some way. It can do this through 4 distinct mechanisms – through-publisher communication, direct-to-consumer communication, sustained paid media, or episodic paid media to support key brand events. The first three are longer-term initiatives and the last one will reach masses, drive visibility and create buzz when the campaign or program needs it most.

But once you have determined what you will do, the question becomes, how will you evaluate it? And for the record, there is no industry standard for measuring social media. Many different people and agencies have their own ways of measuring or evaluating success in social media. However, due to the fact that the industry has evolved with different types of platforms and different metrics that do not necessarily translate easily, evaluation frameworks have evolved similarly in that they are fragmented without one industry standard being held above all else.

And while measurement and evaluation is an important question, as Scott Monty, Director of Social Media for Ford Motor Company, says, “what’s the ROI of putting your pants on in the morning?“ That is to say, there is an inherent value to being in social media – and that value may not be able to be fully quantified. An old colleague used to ask the question, “If you had 1000 of your biggest fans standing in your parking lot, would you go down to talk with them or would you stay in your office?” Most likely, you’d go down and talk with them.

Having said that, social media is measurable – so where do you start? There is a lot of data that can be collected in digital media but depending on what the goal of the campaign is, the data that will be collected may be different. Not all campaigns are the same and not all metrics are valuable depending on your goals. For example, click through rates on a display ad campaign may provide you data on how many people you drove to the website but it is not going to help you understand people’s intention to do a behavior based on seeing and clicking on the ad. So make sure to only measure the metrics that matter.

S.O.C.I.A.L. posits that digital campaigns can be measured through the three-pronged paradigm of Reach, Insights, and Actions.

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Reach looks at the visibility of the campaign as measured through impressions delivered, click-through-rate (CTR), etc. Insights looks at what was learned throughout the campaign using survey results, sentiment analysis, etc. Finally, Actions looks at what tangible actions resulted from the campaign- either taken by the brand or the consumer – and could take the form of Facebook comments, responses posted, etc.

In summary, social media presents an opportunity for public sector campaigns– offering a variety of ways to reach campaign audiences that fit varying objectives and budgets. It is an efficient and effective medium and can work alongside all the other channels you consider for your programs.

This post was originally posted on SMQ’s MarketMavens blog

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