A half-dozen times a week, I meet with folks to sit down and take the first steps towards a social media strategy. Sometimes, there is a level of expertise; sometimes not. Sometimes the organization has captured the brand across online properties; sometimes we're starting from scratch. Often, the questions, "do I need a Facebook page?" or "how do I use Twitter?" arise.
Here's the dirty little secret: we social media managers each have some type of process for determining which strategy will work best for each organization we work with. It's not rocket science. Or brain surgery. Or rocket surgery. It's just a matter of mixing a bit of expertise and familiarity with the space with some field research and going through a series of questions and brainstorming sessions with the client to determine which approaches have the best likelihood of being successful, based on stated goals.
This is the first in a series of posts detailing the process. We'll start with the simplest first step, tried and true: Forrester's POST analysis. This is a great place to start, whether you're an individual entrepreneur or a larger organization. Why? Because no one can implement a social media strategy without first determining who they want to reach and why. It's the very first step in brainstorming, and it will be refined many times over the course of implementation.
Here's what it looks like:
Who are we trying to engage with? Who is the ideal customer? Where do they work? Play? Where do they hang out online? Where do they hang out offline? What do they want? Are they critics, joiners, collectors, spectators? What content do they ingest? (Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, audio, video, YouTube, Digg, etc.) What type of content do they create? Are they involved in social media? To what extent? Who are the influencers in this space? What do the influencers care about?
What are your objectives? To listen? To communicate a message? To support your people/community? To increase sales? Traffic? To extend your brand? To increase attendance at an event? To garner positive WOM?
Where is the best place to listen first? Which communities already exist? Do we create a new community? How do we plan on participating in their existing communities? Which organizations can we partner with? Will content tone be professional? personal? Informational? promotional? What content appeals most to them: audio, video, Tweets, podcast, blog?Technology
Which technology do the people prefer to use? Are they active on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, LibSyn, Digg, Delicious, Eventbrite, blogs, podcasts, Foursquare, Gowalla?
When I go through these with a client, I usually create a mind map or some type of visualization of the data. It's not yet organized, and creating some type of diagram as we brainstorm and freewrite eventually helps to create a focus. For example, this week, we looked at how we might help a local pet boutique increase its contact with its regular customers. The People diagram looked like this:
Now, for the Strategies, we hadn't yet researched to determine where these people consume their media. So that step will require a bit of research. Before we can create strategies, we need to discover how these people consume media about pets and where they hang out, both online and offline. To that end, we created a map of topics to guide research on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other social media community sites in which we suspect these people might be engaging:
The next step is research to hone down the best strategy. This step can be quite labor-intensive; in most cases, 10-20 hours of research is appropriate. Allow 5-10 hours to discover the most active community sites in each category and 10-15 hours to monitor those sites for two to four weeks to get a feel for the level and tenor of activity. And always use the social media manager's favorite tool to organize them: an Excel spreadsheet.