These are the explanatory notes for the NET:101 Advanced Social Media Course strategy canvas exercise.
The canvas is made up of 8 elements: core objectives, strategic objectives, target audience content preferences, budget allocation, platform selection and visibility (organic and paid), audience conversion bridges/ CTA’s, and conversion actions. Theses elements form the backbone of a social media strategy – one which will align with your stated organisational objectives while also prompting you to consider organisational capabilities such as social media expertise, management buy-in, allocated staff hours and financial commitment.
My preference is to work through the elements of the canvas in sequence from left to right, but as each element has it own dependencies they can be approached in any order. For example, understanding your limitations around the production of content may influence your stated objectives, or vice-versa. Regardless, all of the elements are interrelated and should be viewed collectively.
1. CORE OBJECTIVES
An organisation – commercial, public or a not-for-profit – should have a social media strategy which measurably achieves one or more of three core objectives:
- Increased revenue
- Decreased costs
- Increased stakeholder satisfaction (internal or external)
2. STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES
Clarifying strategic intent is a must. Strategic objectives can be applied to your entire social media footprint, to an individual platform or to a specific organisational focus, e.g. a campaign, a brand or a specific market. Common social media strategic objectives include:
- Customer service*
- Crisis management*
- Prospects/ lead generation/ sales
- Thought leadership/ subject matter expertise (building brand credibility)
- Brand reach (building brand visibility)
- Event support (building the back-channel)
- HR/ recruitment
*Customer service and crisis management may not be strategic objectives for you but nonetheless public stakeholders may use one or more of your social media platforms as customer service touch-points – for questions, comments, complains or feedback – or gravitate to them during an incident or crisis affecting your organisation.
3. CONTENT FORMATS
Content is the ‘media’ in social media. People typically underestimate the ongoing time and effort required to produce quality content to feed through to their online audiences. The types of content produced will be determined by which social media platforms have been chosen, the content preferences of your target audiences, your resource and technical capabilities, and access to in-house or external subject-matter expertise. There are five main social media content formats:
- Short-form text
- Long-form text
- Streaming video
- Streaming audio
Capable social media practitioners should be comfortable producing and publishing across all five formats.
4. PLATFORM OPTIONS
The social media platforms listed below are the main options open to organisations operating within the Australian market in 2016. To keep this canvas exercise simple I’ve excluded relatively minor players. The option mix will change as new platforms are adopted by users and others fall out of favour. I’ve included the website as it plays an important hub role in support of your social media presence.
The major players:
- Corporate blog*
- YouTube* (generically, streaming video)
- LinkedIn organisational (company, showcase and tertiary institution pages)
- Podcast (generically, streaming audio)
*Content published through these platforms enjoys an extended shelf-life because it can be crawled, indexed and indefinitely resurfaced by popular search engines such as Google.
Maintaining an active organisational presence on social media is resource intensive: content production and publishing, reactive and proactive engagement, measurement, reporting, algorithm updates and new platform features.
Increasing or maintaining your visibility through social media is an important consideration. Content is the key driver of visibility, but if people are not able to discover your content it may as well not exist. Your level of visibility amongst your target audiences is known as aggregate reach and can be measured over different time-frames. Aggregate reach is the number of unique people who were physically able to eyeball (or listen to) your social media posts and advertisements.
There are three ways reach can be achieved:
Organic (Unpaid) Reach
Discovery of your social media post takes places organically i.e. without any financial support. People are able to view your posts for free by:
- Running a platform specific keyword or hashtag search
- Visiting your account/page directly
- Seeing your posts served onto their newsfeeds by being directly connected to you (your fans and followers)
- Seeing your posts served onto their newsfeeds as a result of their personal connections engaging with your posts (the friends of your fans and followers, known as viral reach)
Many social media platforms use algorithms to varying extents to filter newsfeed content as a quality control measure. Such newsfeeds serve a filtered stream of posts from your personal and brand connections based on the relative importance of each to you personally. Organic reach can also be achieved through promoted content and targeted advertising if users engage with them and push them onto the newsfeeds of their closer personal connections.
Your website and blog content and your public YouTube videos are also able to enjoy extended organic reach via search engines such as Google. Content published through these platforms gets crawled, indexed and is stored indefinitely within the search engine data centres. This is not the case for most of your published social media content, hence the requirement to publish consistently to maintain ongoing visibility.
Paid Reach – Promoted Content
On some platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest – there is an option to pay to supplement the organic reach of your natively published content. This is known as promoted, boosted or sponsored content. Promoted content can be targeted to existing connections or to specific users based on a varied range of sophisticated filters, depending on the platform.
Paid Reach – Targeted Advertising
On some platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube – there is an option to pay for reach using a range of advertising formats. Ads can be targeted to existing connections or to specific users based on filters. Most ad formats incorporate a call-to action button or embedded hyperlink to bring users to an external landing or campaign page of your choosing.
6. BUDGET ALLOCATION
Given the variability of the newsfeed algorithms which underpin organic reach you might find difficulty meeting your core objectives without a social media budget, i.e. to promote select content and to run targeted advertising campaigns. Budget allocations do not have to be large and can be applied on a campaign, monthly or per annum basis. An investment of time or money should be supported with some form of return on investment (ROI) analysis.
7. BRIDGES & CAMPAIGN CTA’s (Call-to-Action)
Social media are the means for people to discover, consume and engage with your branded content, communicate to you and to one another. At times however you will need to invite your followers or fans to perform a meaningful action of organisational value, e.g. contact us, make a purchase, complete a survey, visit a location, attend an event, sign up to your newsletter, apply for a position, make a donation, volunteer time, etc. Achieving your strategic objectives often requires you to move people away from social media. To facilitate this flow you will need to build visible bridges and campaign calls-to-action (CTA’s) from your social media islands to one of your conversion-place mainlands. Bridge and CTA campaign examples include:
- Visit our website, campaign page or another social media account via a hyperlink, CTA button or display URL
- Visit us physically, facilitated through street address information, a map download or a customised hyperlink to a mapping app
- Contact us via telephone, email or direct message (DM)
8. CONVERSION-POINT PLACES
Bridges and campaign CTA’s move people across to any of four conversion places:
- Your website, microsites and campaign pages
- Physical locations, e.g store, office, showroom, venue, event, attraction
- Your contact centre
- Another social media platform
Conversion places are positioned to further drive any number of conversion goal actions. Conversion goals will vary depending on the conversion place and your underlying strategic objectives.
Conversion Place 1 – Website
Bridge people to your principal online branded asset, your website. You now have more control over the visitor experience, away from third-party advertising and other social media distractions. Your website also offers full control over your web page call-to-actions and set-up of your conversion goal pathways. The website can also serve as an intermediate bridge to other conversion places, i.e. physical locations, the contact centre and other social media platforms.
Website Conversion Tracking
Your website analytics, most probably it’s probably Google Analytics, will automatically break visitor traffic down by source – the social media channel or specific social media campaign if you have campaign URL’s installed. Website goal tracking enables attribution back to the specific channel and source which drove the conversion, which in turn enables return on investment analysis.
Simply measured conversion goals on your website include visits, ecommerce sales, donations, contact and generic form submissions, application submissions, email subscriptions, downloads, page views, hyperlink and button clicks, time spent on site (+ or – value) and rich media player views – video or audio.
Facebook also enables landing page and conversion tracking on your web properties from all Facebook derived traffic if you have their tracking pixels installed (sourced via Facebook’s Ad Manager). Facebook conversion reporting includes view content, search, add to cart, add to wishlist, initiate checkout, add payment info, purchase, lead and complete registration.
Over the short to mid-term ecommerce sales directly within social media will become more common, obviating the requirement to move people away from social media and into your own ecommerce gateway.
Conversion Place 2 – Physical Locations
Invite people to travel somewhere – by foot, public transport or car – to attend, sample, view, discuss or make a purchase. Compared to a website visitor a physical visitation is more difficult to identify as having originated from a specific social media channel or campaign. This is commonly known as the ‘attribution problem’. Redemption vouchers are one means of identifying the channel or campaign source of a physical visit.
Conversion Place 3 – Contact Centre
Make it easy for people to communicate with you beyond public social media – relationships form faster with direct one-on-one contact. This can be facilitated with the prominent display of important telephone numbers, email details, contact forms, live chat modules or private direct messaging. The attribution problem mentioned above applies here also.
Conversion Place 4 – Another of your Social Media Platforms
Move people to one of your other social media platforms to help meet a strategic objective, e.g. to Twitter as a customer service channel, to a LinkedIn company page for HR/recruitment purposes, to a Facebook page or group as a community gathering place. Conversion place goals in these instances could include level of engagement, e.g. the number of questions, comments, compliments or complaints received, engagement activity on your own posts, individual or aggregate post reach, competition entries, surveys or polls completed.
9. REALLOCATIONS OF RESOURCES
Once your social media strategy is launched you’ll need to adjust allocations of staff time and money (typically more of both than you first thought) against your resource capabilities (typically less than you’d like!) Alternatively you can adjust your goal conversion targets and/or the timeframes expected to meet them.