Social media loves it some case studies.
Social Fresh and myself have been just as big of a culprit as anyone. Hell, the Social Fresh conference series has used it in our marketing since day one.
The problem is, most case studies out there are little more than a couple descriptive paragraphs about a few tactics. Which, first off, is great. Don’t get me wrong. Keep writing, keep sharing.
But there are rarely results, there is rarely a problem stated that needs solving or a strategy being discussed.
Wanting to share these success stories is great. Wanting to read these success stories is great. But let’s look a bit closer at what is going on here and perhaps we can create a better system for all of us to benefit from.
Why We Heart Case Studies
We love case studies because they allow us a glimpse into causation. We hope that consistent underlying architecture of success will present itself.
Nothing wrong with that. It should be encouraged. These case studies can inspire others to create. Inspire experimentation and the confidence needed to try new things in the space. All that stuff rocks.
Education from case studies does not happen when they are not giving you the details you most need to reproduce their success.
When I say details are missing, yes, dollar amounts (investment and return) are one of the things I am talking about. But I do not expect every brand and agency out there to lay out a line item case study for us all to pick away at like a juicy Thanksgiving turkey.
What is missing? Try these on for size.
Timelines – How long did you spend on the planning, strategy, execution?
Personel – Who all helped from the brand or agency? Who was crucial to the project? How did other stakeholders get involved?
Dilemma – What was the initial problem presented that you had to solve
Simple Summary – In a FEW words, sum up what you did.
Steps Along the Way – Don’t tell me you engaged on Twitter more, tell me how your tactics changed.
Tell a Story – Summarizing and bullets are helpful, but if you can, add some heart to the case study. Pull at least one insightful story out of the overall tale and it will all make that much more sense and stick with the reader longer
Lessons Learned – What little tricks did you pick up along the way? Where did you get surprised? Where did you make mistakes?
An Example. I love how Concentric Marketing out of Charlotte, NC has put together a couple simple case studies on their site, check out this one, a Gerber Childrenswear social media case study, that gets really close to this template. Valeria Maltoni (@conversationage) also has a great write up here.
The following is a simple template that all social media case studies can feel good about. Stick to this, and allow others to easily learn from your win.
Start With A Quick Summary
Tell us (in 140 character or less) what this bad boy is about. It will help us remember, help you drill down, and hook the case study and readership around the right theme.
This is your why. State, in two sentences, the goal that is trying to be achieved or the problem that is being solved. State where the goal/problem is coming from, who the stake holders are. Then feel free to add some bullets to details the goals, with number if possible.
This is your when and where. Is this an ongoing solution, like a community management plan? Is it a short 3 month campaign? Or is it a 3 day response to a PR blowup? Give specifics on the timeline and why it is what it is. Is this specific to a country? State? City? Give context here.
This is your how. What is the overall assumption of this campaign. That by getting users to connect via social networking relationship on an ongoing basis, they will be more committed to spreading the brand’s praises to other and more likely to buy more products consistently? State briefly the strategy.
This dives into the actionable steps of your strategy, of your how. Details about how you solved the problem or accomplished the goal are very important. If you used blogging and twitter and influencer outreach, sum up each of these with some insights for the reader.
This should also be your who. Who helped, who did what from what stakeholder groups?
Again, bullet points are your friend here.
What was the result of your efforts? Was the PR crisis solved? Did sales go up? Was user engagement increased by 100%? Was your share of conversation doubled?
Give us numbers here whenever possible, and yes, again, dollars would be great. But dollars are not mandatory to explain a real result to the reader.
And revert back to talking about the stakeholders. Were they (brand, customers, partners) happy? And why?
1. Rich Media
Add some photos of results/stakeholders, some screen grabs of your tactics, or some video assets to the table. Rich media is not required but could certainly help us get there.
2. Lessons Learned
A few simple bullets on new insights that were learned in this case add some flavor to the details of the case study. Again, bullets are your friends. But if you need to expand, it is always your call.
3. Selected Stories
Pull out a few more detailed descriptions of some of the stories that took place during this campaign or PR response. Were there important moments that help tell the story? Are there a couple specific customers that had very touching experiences that are appropriate to add? This is where you can incorporate some emotion and story telling into the case study. Testimonials or selected quotes can also be used here.
That’s It, Simple Right?
Ok, so you are probably saying ‘thanks Jason, you successfully complicated another aspect of my job.’ Fair enough, but this template can easily produce a results, say a 300-500 word blog post, or if you add lots of in depth detail available, it could go for dozens of pages.
Either works, sometimes you just need to get something simple out there and sometimes your next promotion may depend on a more in depth final product. You choose. On SocialFresh.com we are going to start using this to identify social media success stories in an actionable way. The goal for us is to educate. This template is intended to work for all these perspectives equally.
So if you decide to use this template, help us all out and link at the bottom of your case study to this post with “Based on the Social Media Case Study Template” so others can use it to.]]>