As part of my NET:101 Advanced Social Media course I run a strategy canvas exercise which invites people to consider the different elements at play: core objectives, strategic objectives, content formats, platform selection and position (core, supporting, community), conversion bridges and conversion-point places with reportable measures.
Isolating and examining the different elements in turn assists in the formulation of a social media strategy which is aligned with your organisational objectives, and can be monitored and adjusted accordingly. Importantly, the objectives should be realistic against your organisation’s resource capabilities: level of social media expertise, management support, staff time and direct financial investment.
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 for consideration 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
Every organisation, regardless of its commercial or not-for-profit orientation, is seeking to achieve one or all of the following core objectives:
- Increase revenue
- Decrease costs
- Increase stakeholder satisfaction (in a commercial context, commonly referred to as retention)
A social media strategy should be driven by, and tangibly contribute to, at least one core objective. Identifying the core objective/s will determine the choice of strategic objective/s.
2. STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES
Strategic objectives can be applied across all of your social media, to an individual social media platform, or to a specific organisational initiative, e.g. a campaign or entering a new market. Identify the primary, and in some cases the secondary or tertiary objectives in line with your core objective/s. These include:
- Customer relations*
- Crisis management*
- Thought leadership/ subject matter expertise for brand credibility
- Event support, promoting the ‘back-channel’
- Leads & sales
- Brand building (as measured by reach)
*NB: Customer relations and crisis management may not be strategic objectives, but public stakeholders may nonetheless use one or more of your social media platforms as customer service touch-points (for questions, comments or feedback) or gravitate to them during an incident or full-blown crisis. You may not want this to happen but it’s difficult to prevent.
3. CONTENT FORMATS
Content is the ‘media’ in social media. Organisations tend to 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 preferences of your target audiences, your resource and technical capabilities, and access to in-house subject-matter expertise. The main content formats include:
- Short-form text
- Long-form text
- Streaming video
- Streaming audio
4. PLATFORM OPTIONS
The social media platforms listed below are the main ones open to organisations today. To keep this canvas exercise simple there are notable exceptions such as generic forums and wikis, and platforms such as Snapchat, Tumblr and Vine. Platform options include:
- Corporate blog*
- YouTube* (generically, streaming video)
- LinkedIn personal (profile and publisher)
- LinkedIn organisational (company, showcase and tertiary institution pages)
- Podcast (generically, streaming audio)
*Any content published through these platforms has the advantage of longevity because it can be crawled, indexed and indefinitely resurfaced by popular search engines such as Google.
5. PLATFORM FIRST OR CONTENT FIRST
Option A: Platform Drives Content
The selection of social media platform/s is determined by where the target audiences are already gathered (and in the mindset) against your stated strategic objectives. Then the focus becomes one of producing content in the appropriate format/s to publish through the platform. For example, Facebook requires short-form text (sharp copywriting) and images; a blog requires long-form text; Pinterest requires high quality images (that have been pinned from your website).
Option B: Content Drives Platform
The selection of social media platforms is determined by the formats of content your target audiences prefer to consume and engage with in line with your stated strategic objectives. Then the focus becomes one of choosing the appropriate platform/s to host and distribute your content, and to build your community. For example, audiences wanting subject-matter detail and depth might prefer long-form text, steaming video or audio which would necessitate a blog or YouTube or a podcast respectively. Or they might prefer image-based content in which case Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook could come into play as the host and engagement platforms of choice.
6. PLATFORM RELATIVE FOCUS
A subtle distinction can be made between ‘core’, ‘supporting’ and ‘proactive engagement’ platform positions, each requiring varying degrees of resource and commitment.
These are the platforms where the bulk of the content being published through them is native, i.e. content which has not been syndicated or cross-posted from another social media platform. It is your very best content, and is closely aligned with the preferences of your target audiences who gather around it.
These platforms play a supporting role by amplifying the content being published through the core platforms via syndication (cross-posting and cross-linking). Syndication is the process of manually or automatically pulling content from one social media channel and pushing it into another, e.g. cross-posting a YouTube video which is playable within Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn without the need to click back to YouTube. Cross-linking is posting a summary – usually a title, short description and an image – of a piece of content sitting elsewhere which the user is invited to click across to, e.g. a link from Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to a blog post. Systematic syndication can extend the reach of your branded content to different audiences, and increase your follower and subscriber numbers.
Proactive Engagement (Community Building)
The chosen platform/s through which you organisation will proactively engage your target audiences – this is the ‘social’ in social media. Pushing content to followers, fans and subscribers is increasingly complemented with dialogue and self-generating conversation treads. It can be a large input of time and commitment to establish and maintain a community, but the rewards are many. The rules, guidelines and KPI’s of community engagement should be codified in the form of an organisational social media policy.
Social media platforms are places for people to discover, consume and engage with your branded content, talk to you and to each other. At times however you will need to mobilise your followers or fans to perform an action of value for the organisation, e.g. contact us, buy something, complete a survey, visit a location, attend an event, sign up to your newsletter, apply for a position, make a donation, volunteer. Depending on your strategic objectives your goal conversions might necessarily take place away from your social media platforms. If this is the case you will need to build visible bridges from your social media ‘islands’ (or install clear calls-to-action within your posts) which lead people across to one of your conversion-place ‘mainlands’. Mainland bridging examples include:
- Visit our website (hyperlink or display URL)
- Visit one of our physical locations, e.g. our store, office, showroom, venue, tourist attraction
- Email us or submit a contact form
- Telephone us or live chat
- Redeem a code (online)
- Claim an offer (offline)
8. CONVERSION-POINT PLACES
Bridges carry people across to conversion point places – environments where the pointy-end of organisational level social media takes place. There are four main conversion-point places: your website, including microsites and campaign pages; physical locations; your contact centre; or another social media platform. Each conversion-point place provides differing conversion opportunities (and measures), as well attribution insights.
Conversion place metrics should be the key indicators of social media success, not the activity or ‘vanity’ metrics contained within each social media platform.
A. Your Website
Get them to your principal online asset and which offers greater control over the user experience. There’s no distracting third-party advertising, you can self-style your CTA’s and conversion paths, and have direct access to your own website analytics, including referral traffic by channel (inc. social media) and conversion goal tracking. Easily measured goals including reverse source analysis of ecommerce sales, downloads, page views, enquiries via contact forms, applications, donations and email subscriptions. The website can also serve as an intermediate bridge to the 3 other conversion-point places listed below.
B. Physical Locations
Get them to travel somewhere. Compared to a website visitor a physical location visitor is more difficult to identify as having directly or indirectly originated from a prior social media touch-point (commonly referred to as the ‘attribution problem’). Goals within this context may include onsite visits and onsite sales – in both instances redemption codes are one possible means of identifying a specific social media activity or platform as the major contributing factor.
C. Contact Centre (Telephone & Email)
Communicate with them directly and fast-track the relationship building process. Goal conversions may include telephone and email enquiries or sales, but may not be attributable to any social media activity unless campaign specific redemption codes are used. In some instances a contact centre member may openly ask how a caller or sender found out about the organisation or offer.
D. End Destination Social Media Platform
Get them to the principal social media gathering place. For example, an organisation that positions and resources Twitter or Facebook as a customer service channel, or uses a LinkedIn company page for recruitment purposes. Conversion-point place metrics in this instance could include engagement triggers such as the number of questions, comments, compliments or complaints received, post engagement activity, individual or aggregate post reach, competition entries, surveys and polls completed or direct sales, e.g. Facebook commerce.
9. ALLOCATION AND REALLOCATION OF RESOURCES
Once your social media strategy is launched you’ll be in a better position to adjust allocations of staff time and money (typically more than you think) against your resource capabilities (typically less than you’d like). Or alternatively adjust your goal conversion targets up or downwards.