Social media is not difficult to do and it’s not really new, though the way we treat it, analyze it and talk about it certainly is. It has been a fundamental of human conduct throughout history and if I were willing to go back and examine the moment in time when Socrates chose to drink hemlock I am pretty sure we shall find that there was social media at work creating the pressures necessary for an outcome which, in hindsight, appears to be incomprehensible.

A little more recently in terms of history I took a look at the Reformation and its astounding success against all possible odds (and the forces arraigned against it were many) and again, there, social media seemed to play a pivotal role in bringing it about. I put the study and its juxtaposition with today’s social media imperatives in a video which if you have time to see will be as enlightening as it is educational.

The essence of the exercise was to use history to attain the distance necessary for valuable lessons to be learnt. Where social media is concerned the seven magic little ingredients at the heart of every successful social media marketing campaign are:

01. A focal point. This is never a product or a service, though these can be the catalysts for creating one. A focal point is always aspirational. It resonates with the public at a deeper level than just their need to change something immediate. Apple products, for instance, do not talk so much about their features (though obviously they present them) precisely because their focal point is not so much as whether they will have 10 or 20MB of extra memory or are a few seconds faster. They, instead, use the focal point of their design to unlock the aspirational desire in the minds and hearts of their target audience. This then translates into that ever so hard to define ‘cool factor’ and the rest becomes a lot more automatic.  

02. Use the latest technology available. You could try to run a social media marketing campaign using the snailmail system and some posters stuck on lampposts near your neighbourhood  but my guess is that it would not really work all that well. Technology and social media go hand-in-hand because the former has the ability, in each iteration, to include more and more of the latter and it is this inclusion which helps create connectivity, break down traditional barriers and bring about change.  

03. Create accessibility. Make anything you publicise difficult to understand or difficult to get at and the uptake of it will be poor. Logical as this may sound human beings thrive on creating barriers, sects, cliques, societies and institutions whose very existence seems to depend upon a degree of exclusivity (just think a little how the SEO industry behaved between 2005-2010 and you’ve got a good idea of what I mean).

04. Generate engagement. When it comes to social media we all talk about engagement. How we think we do not get enough, how to get more, how others seem to be getting more than us or how we think they are getting less than they tell us they get. Our obsessions, as marketers, with engagement is such that we hardly stop to think why we should get it, which then would naturally lead us to how. Engagement happens when what we address finds resonance with a broad sector of our audience.

05. Create a meme. Memes can be any format. From an icon to a logo. From a slogan to a photograph. From a video to a song. The real requirement is that they should work in an instant and be instantly re-shareable.

06. Use Social Networks. This is a no-brainer. Yet I have been present when planners of social media campaigns the cost of which ran in the six figures were suggesting to use the wrong social network. The requirement here is not to just use a social network but to use the social network(s) which will work for you.

07. Foster gamification. This is the final requirement and it is a tricky one. You don’t nned to have an app or some kind of online badge game which will tick the gamification box. What you really need is to create a sense of ‘play’ out of the very act of participating in your social media campaign. If you manage to make your product, service or message a badge of sorts which confers implied status and a sense of fashion (think Apple products, the #Occupy movement, the ‘Yes We Can’ slogan of Obama’s election campaign) then you have the final ingredient guaranteed to help make your social media campaign, viral.

It sounds easy. It’s not. We know all the ingredients which go into the make up of a human body but the art of creating one by mixing them altogether still eludes us. Thankfully social media marketing is a little less demanding.