There Is No “Campaign” in Social Media

When marketers use the word “campaign,” it tends to suggest an initiative to get a message out to a targeted group of constituents. It also implies there will be a beginning and, somewhere down the road, an ending.

This kind of thinking creates a danger zone for marketers when it comes to social media. Let me explain …

When starting a blog, podcast series or even a community, marketers have to think in longer terms than a standard campaign. A podcast series may not catch on for several months, heck, for even a year! I have been writing this blog for two years now, and it recently earned distinction as a Top 50 Blog to Watch in 08! (ok, shameless plug, yes, but it’s hard work!)

Here’s the point: There is no overnight success when it comes to social media. Sure, we all are reading about some superb viral results out there, but they are the exception, not the rule. And to say you can systematically achieve those results for your clients (either internal or external) is not accurate.

Another aspect of this is the idea that social media can be incorporated into every campaign you are doing. It’s like “slap a podcast onto that campaign, and we’re going social.”

That’s wrong. You need to prepare for social media with a strategy. See Forrester’s social media guidelines, which they call POST, for ideas on how to formulate your own social media strategy.

Another point of differentiation between campaigns and social media is the latter’s endless need for content. When your content runs out, so does your social media audience. That means you need to be prepared with much more content then you ever anticipated.

2008 is going to be a big year in terms of dollars migrating to the Web and to Web 2.0 tactics aimed at creating a more social version of many companies. Marketers are going to need to adjust their thinking about typical campaigns and what they mean in the social media realm.

The bottom line: If you want to go Social, it takes time, content and a strategy to measure success.

30 comments to There Is No “Campaign” in Social Media

  • Joe Pulizzi

    Paul…interesting take about the “when the content runs out, so does the social media.” Do most companies realize this as they launch a social media strategy?

    I would assume that most companies who are really excited about getting into social media have no idea of the content commitment it takes to create a real presence.

    Great post!

  • Paul Dunay


    I don’t think most companies realize this – which is why I posted this.

    My advice is – Content is absolutely critical in any social media strategy.

  • Gil


    I agree, the content can run dependent or independent of campaign(s). It must have a heartbeat all its own.

    Great content ideas can also be suggested by readers / listeners / watchers over time. It’s hard to coax out the ideas via comments, etc. but 1) it shows the audience is relevant 2) is paying attention and willing to take issue (good or bad)with the content and 3) gets to the heart of what content areas the audience is most interested in.

    Over time, audiences could participate in podcasts or guest blog more often.

  • Paul Dunay


    Totally agree – at least in the beginning you need to be prepared to ramp your content to the point that you can carry the conversation until such time that you can begin to engage a “community” you have built to contribute content.

  • Spike Jones

    Campaigns have their place, but it’s a small one when it comes to actually fascinating, inspiring, rewarding and engaging your customers.

    I wrote about the differences between campaigns and movements a while back:

    Nice post!

  • Tom O'Brien

    Hi Paul:

    Nice post. The reason “campaigns” make no sense is social media – as you described – is because social media is really a conversation. And if you want to contribute to the conversation – it can’t be a pre-planned one-way megaphone.

    Conversations require both listening and respond – not just expounding.

    Further, if you want to be a valuable member of a community – you have to hang around a while, contribute, listen, build some credibility, etc. THIS IS NOT A CAMPAIGN – but a committment.

    Tom O’Brien

  • Tuhfa

    Finally, someone reaffirm the old school strategy instead of get-famouse-overnight things.

  • Laurel Papworth

    Sorry, totally disagree.

    Social Networks have a number of fundamental features that lend themselves very well to short term campaigns. One is Events (viral spiked time limited, such as competitions, fundraising days) and the other is Rituals (birthdays, Valentines). Social networks online are no different from communities offline. We use Events and Rituals offline for campaigns why not online?

    Also(I realise I am being a little brief here, sorry) campaigns are used to experiment. And my goodness, we need companies to experiment in social media more! Fun Run for Breast Cancer awareness day in Second Life is a great ‘babystep’ introduction for sponsoring and being involved with a community over a ‘short’ period of time.

    Forrester’s made the same mistake – assuming marketing is the same now the consumer has a voice as it was when they were just eyeballs. i.e. that marketeers can try something, look at the statistics and feedback and then adjust. This is uncharted territory. What didn’t work last year, may well work next week. Ongoing engagement may well mean throwing out a bunch of campaigns and having fun with it.

    And Foresters of all people should understand that – they assessed GM’s ongoing campaigns and Ford and Proctor and Gamble. All of whom jumped in, made mistakes, tried again with no clear direction other than they wanted to be engaged.

    The Dialogue is the Content – the content won’t run out, the opposite: tracking it all is gonna be difficult.

    Heh. At least it’s another point of view. 🙂

  • Paul Dunay


    thanks for sending your link – great post on the difference btw a campaign and a movement

  • Paul Dunay


    thanks for your comment – agree it is a two way street and it takes work like any relationship

  • Paul Dunay

    Excellent Laurel

    thanks for posting your comment and pointing out perhaps some flaws in our thinking

    2 things I would mention in response and perhaps I should be clearer on my point of view that I am thinking of this from a very B2B perspective. Some of the campaigns you mention seemed B2C to me.

    also defines a campaign – as a systematic course of aggressive activities for some specific purpose: ex a sales campaign which infers some longevity to it.

    Thanks again for your comment I think you make some very valid points and are continuing the conversation!!

  • Laurel Papworth

    Oh it works for B2B too. I was also thinking of 6-9month campaigns – a Telco blogging to educate/prepare resellers for a change in the telecomms act. It wasn’t really plugging into their longterm strategy but they suddenly had a message and needed to get companies on side, up to speed, and vocal about an issue. Particularly as the press backlash was going to be great. Ads wouldn’t have done the job. But nor would waiting to develop a “long term strategy of engagement and conversation”. Sometimes just doing a campaign leads to a strategy that really works.

  • Lisa

    What an amazing time we live in, with the internet connecting us all and bringing marketing to an arena where conversation is possible! As a consumer I know I love being able to have more choices and more of a voice.

  • Karen O'Brien

    Its a huge paradigm shift for marketers to realise that they are no longer just pushing out campaigns and measuring them… they are now involved in an ongoing dialog with their market that they are no longer controlling. The big difference that I see in B2C vs. B2B is that B2C have had more exposure to social media and are participating. A lot of B2B companies are still resisting and treating social marketing like its a campaign or a PR exercise.

  • Paul Dunay


    thanks for the comment
    that paradigm shift is exactly the core of my post!

  • Kevin Dykes

    Great article and I agree about the need for companies to commit to a content strategy. From our experience, this can be a major hurdle for small companies who are just beginning to make the transition from old-school traditional marketing to content & social media marketing.

    We are using what we call the Content Synergy Method to help a company develop a core content idea each month, then explode that into written, audio, video/camtasia, PDF Tip Sheets, etc. Our experience is that it helps to jumpstart a company’s thinking about how to engage in this ongoing conversation without constant struggle for new ideas.

  • dominic

    Actually I think marketers need both .

    In the term campaign (web1.0) people include both generating the content and driving traffic towards the content. (message &media)

    My experiment lead me to think that in the web2.0 world:

    – people have to build highly targeted content micro sites with rich content not linked to a “campaign as such”

    – people also need some kind of campaigns to drive or reinforce traffic going to the micro site (ex: you just publish an article on refinancing, you may reach out to the “refinancing reader community”) and highlight the new message.

    Great Post and great blog.

  • jebworks

    Interesting comments on this topic. In my opinion, terminology is less important than the mindset of companies when it comes to engagement in social media.

    The ongoing conversation creates “content”, i.e. user generated content and being engaged means certainly more than a “campaign” but it could consist of multiple campaigns. I agree with Paul that there is no end to participation in social media. You can’t suddenly tune out. Content, however, should not be in issue as it is constantly being generated.

  • Chris Slocumb

    Excellent post about the commitment needed make social media successful. Everyone is realizing there is no free lunch in online marketing – it’s all hard work.

  • Mberenis

    Thank you for posting this amazing blog!

    Search Engine for Internet Marketing ADD URL FREE to 6,000+ Websites viewable by popularity, traffic, quality, reach, and more!

  • SBL – Audio Tagging

    Great post…
    Thanks for the nice information about campaign in marketer’s view…..
    Very helpful post…
    SBL – Audio Tagging

  • Aparna

    Thanks for this interesting post.

  • […] Media not a campaign it’s a commitment A while back I created a post called – There is no “campaign” in Social Media because when marketers use the word “campaign,” it tends to suggest an initiative to get a […]

  • […] admin on February 20, 2010 A while back I created a post called – There is no “campaign” in Social Media because when marketers use the word “campaign,” it tends to suggest an initiative to get a […]

  • […] content are difficult to find in traditional marketing departments. I agree with Paul Dunay’s comment “When your content runs out, so does your social media […]

  • […] Dunay has written, “there is no campaign in social media,” while Joe Pulizzi said in a video interview that “content marketing is not a […]

  • […] Dunay has written, “there is no campaign in social media,” while Joe Pulizzi said in a video interview that “content marketing is not a […]

  • […] Dunay has written, “there is no campaign in social media,” while Joe Pulizzi said in a video interview that “content marketing is not a […]

  • […] Dunay has written, “there is no campaign in social media,” while Joe Pulizzi said in a video interview that “content marketing is not a […]

  • […] Dunay has written, “there is no campaign in social media,” while Joe Pulizzi said in a video interview that “content marketing is not a […]

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>