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How to Structure a Global Social Media Campaign

Global social media campaigns take a high level of skill and experience to manage successfully. Brands and agencies can have wonderful, creative ideas, but without a solid system to deliver and measure them, campaigns can quickly descend in to chaos.

I’ve adapted the "hub and spoke" delivery model, which allows a large brand or company to take a central approach, yet personalise and localise it to individual countries or regions.

Managing a campaign at scale using "hub and spokes"

The hub:

Think of the hub as the command centre of your campaign. This is the place where you and your agencies define your strategic goals and implementation programme.

The central hub team creates the overall objectives and strategy for the campaign, as well as creative concepts and social media guidelines. It ensures consistent standards in reporting, providing templates for all countries to gather data effectively. It’s essential for members of this team to be available when local teams need guidance and support.

Managing social media at scale - hub and spoke model


The spokes:

The spokes are your local teams in different geographical areas. They will implement the strategy created by the central hub and feed back the response from your audience. The teams aren’t just passive conduits for campaigns.

You want them to take your creative concepts and content, and check translations against brand guidelines. You also need them to be able to judge how the local audience will engage with a campaign. The local team needs to be sufficiently confident to raise concerns with the hub, otherwise your brand risks making itself look foolish, and out of touch. (Back in 2003 Sharwoods spent £6m on an advertising campaign for its new range of “deliciously rich” sauces called bundh – the trouble is, bundh sounds a lot like the Punjabi word for…well, a**e.)

The spokes are responsible for implementing social media strategy and ensuring the consistent quality of the posts. These teams need to know the escalation processes, and know who they can contact at any time of the day. Finally, the spoke teams are responsible for measuring the success of the campaign against the objectives set by the hub team.

Every local team needs a project leader who will sit between the local and central team. This person will take a strategic view of the campaign, and have the authority to decide when something needs to be adapted for the local market, or to provide his or her team with more training.

The importance of a localised campaign

Local teams need to know their audience inside out. They need to know local customs, and the filters through which the local audience will see your campaign.

They need to understand local legislation, which may be an issue when marketing to children and teenagers, or if the brand sits in a heavily regulated sector such as the alcohol industry.

Local versus standardised marketing campaigns

Although the hub may be committed to the creative vision at the heart of the campaign, they need to understand that the local team knows its audience. Sometimes they will need to work with the central team to create a regionally targeted campaign. For this reason, it can be useful for the central team to create broader themes, which give the local teams flexibility to create regional content around.

For example, Coca-Cola’s Taste Happiness campaign has a central theme – that Coca-Cola can make people happy – but local campaigns are designed to fit the region. January 2014 saw the campaign bring heated bus shelters to Sweden. In 2013 Coke surprised families in Singapore by bringing their loved ones home for a visit.

Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign uses localisation by printing names on the bottle (well, if your name is one of the 150 most popular). The campaign originated in Australia, and has now been rolled out globally. Both the happiness and share a Coke campaigns use social media and offline elements to achieve maximum impact.

Continual content optimisation

Once your campaign is up and running, the local teams will report back into the central team. From there the hub team can monitor and instruct on responses to regional content. Sometimes it’s not the content itself that’s the issue, but that it doesn’t suit the community in question.

If the central hub doesn’t know how local fans are responding to the campaign, it can’t adapt the campaign to specific regions, and it risks the campaign failing in one or more regions.

Have the right tools for the job

Internal communications:

I’ve run global social media campaigns that have covered 20–30 regions and required more than 80 community managers to run. Without the right technical solutions in place, managing a project of that size would be challenging at best.

To run a project like this, you need a central database where you can store and share everything from team schedules to institutional knowledge. On the fly collaboration tools are also a great help. Emoderation uses Yammer as a kind of virtual water cooler, which helps team members check in with each other and share insights.

Social listening:

Social listening tools help you monitor what’s being said about the brand, allowing you to analyse the results and make appropriate changes to existing campaigns. The tool you choose needs to be able to interpret tone just as well as a community manager. Was that an abusive message, or a frustrated one? Is that person a huge fan of the brand, or being sarcastic?

A successful global social media campaign relies on five factors:

  • a good creative concept for the campaign.
  • a consistent supply of engaging content.
  • a sound community management structure and supporting processes.
  • clear and quick internal communication between local and central teams.

But most of all, those running the campaign need to be flexible. They need to be able to make changes to the campaign as the community members provide feedback. The hallmark of success for any brand is to show that it’s listening to the people it’s there to engage.

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