As part of the NET:101 Advanced Social Media course, I run a strategy canvas exercise which invites people to consider each of the different elements at play: core objectives, strategic objectives, content types, platform selection and position (core, supporting, community), 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 organisational core and strategic objectives, is achievable, and can be measured. Importantly, the objectives must be realistic against an organisation’s resource capabilities, namely, levels of social media expertise, staff time and financial investment.
My preference is to approach the elements of the canvas in the order as laid out below, 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.
1A. CORE OBJECTIVES
Every organisation, regardless of its commercial or NFP orientation, is seeking to achieve at least one – and usually all three – 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. Determining the core objective/s will determine the selection of strategic objectives.
1B. STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES
The strategic objectives listed below 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:
- Customer Relations*
- Crisis Management*
- Thought Leadership (Brand Credibility)
- Event Support
- Leads & Sales
- Brand Building (Exposure)
*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.
2. CONTENT TYPES
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 the target audiences, the resource and technical capabilities of the organisation, and access to in-house subject-matter expertise. The five content types are:
- Short-form text
- Long-form text
- Streaming Video
- Streaming Audio
3A. PLATFORM OPTIONS
The list of social media platforms below are the main options used by organisations today (notable exceptions include Tumblr and Vine).
- Corporate Blog*
- LinkedIn Personal (profile and publisher)
- LinkedIn Organisational (company and tertiary institution pages)
*Content published through these platforms has a significant advantage: because it can be crawled and indexed by the search engines it is potentially discoverable by a standard Google (or other search engine) search indefinitely into the future.
3B. PLATFORM SELECTION APPROACH
Option i: Content Driven
In this option the selection of social media platforms is determined by the types of content your target audiences prefer to consume and engage with in line with your stated strategic objectives. For example, audiences wanting subject-matter detail and/or depth might prefer long-form text or video which would necessitate a blog or YouTube. Or they might prefer image-based content in which case Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook could come into play as distribution and engagement platforms of choice.
Option ii: Platform Driven
In this option the selection of social media platforms is driven by where the target audiences are already gathered (and in the mindset) against your stated strategic objectives. Choosing the platform will dictate which types of content to focus on to produce and publish. For example, Facebook requires short-form text (sharp copywriting) and plenty of high quality images.
3C. PLATFORM RELATIVE FOCUS
A distinction can be made between core, supporting and proactive engagement platform positions – each requiring varying degrees of resources 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.
These platforms play a supporting role by amplifying the content being published through the core platforms via syndication 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. 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 description and an image) 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. Thoughtful syndication and cross-linking can expose your content to different audiences, promote engagement and extend its reach.
Proactive Engagement (Community Building)
The platforms through which an organisation will proactively engage their target audiences – the ‘social’ in social media. This is where a community will form and be nurtured. Broadcasting content through these platforms slowly gives way to 1-1 and many-to-many conversations.
Social media platforms are the preferred places for people to discover, consume and engage with your content. They will also be where your communities will form, enabling people to engage with one another or directly with the organisation. At various times you will need to mobilise your followers or fans to perform an action of value for the organisation: buy something, complete a survey, visit a location, attend an event, sign up to your newsletter, apply for a job, make a donation, volunteer, etc. Depending on your strategic objectives your goal conversions might not directly take place within your social media platforms. If this is the case you will need to build highly visible bridges from each of your social media islands to one of your mainlands as defined by your conversion-point places.
Bridges include explicit calls to action such as :
- Go to… (via a hyperlink)
- Visit our website (display URL, not live)
- Find a physical location address
- Email us
- Telephone us
- Redeem a code (online)
- Claim an offer (offline)
- RSVP to an invitation
5. CONVERSION-POINT PLACES
Bridges carry people across to conversion points – 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 such as your store, museum or venue; your contact centre; and another social media platform. Each of these conversion-point places provide differing opportunities to attribute desired outcomes to general or specific social media activity.
Conversion place metrics should be the key indicators of social media success, not the activity metrics within each social media platform.
i. Your Website
This is your principal online asset, offering full control over the user experience, prominent branding, no third party advertising, self-styled conversion funnels, and full analytics insights, including referral traffic and conversion goal tracking. Easily measured gaols including reverse source analysis include ecommerce sales, 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.
ii. Physical Locations
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 (this is known as the ‘attribution problem’). Goals within this context may include onsite visits and/or onsite sales – in both instances redemption codes are one possible means of identifying a specific social media activity or platform as the contributing cause.
iii. Contact Centre (telephone and email)
Goals may include telephone and email enquiries or sales, but may not be attributable to your social media activity unless campaign specific redemption codes are used, or contact centre operators openly ask how a caller or sender found out about the organisation or offer.
iv. End Destination Social Media Platform
In some instances the conversion-point place is the social media platform. For example, positioning Twitter or Facebook as customer service channels, or using a a LinkedIn company page for recruitment. Conversion-point place success metrics could therefore include qualitatives such as the number of questions and comments made, complains received (and resolved). For other strategic objectives quantitative measures include audience engagement instances and post reach, competition entries, surveys and polls completed, and direct sales, e.g. Facebook commerce.
Once you have you social media strategy mapped out, be prepared to adjust it according to it’s resource demands (typically more than you think) against your resource capabilities (typically less than you’d like).