There’s been a nice crop of social media books published this spring! So Mondays have become book review days as part of the discipline to keep up with reading. My Zoetica colleague, Geoff Livingston, shared a preview copy of his forthcoming book Welcome to the Fifth Estate and it is a great read!
This book offers principles to guide corporations and nonprofits to think through a social media strategy that is aligned with communications or marketing goals. It is chocked full of excellent case studies from the for-profit and non-profit sector to bring the concepts to life as well as a synthesis of expert opinions. Geoff frames his strategy advice in the context of the current media landscape and how it has changed and evolved since his first book, Now is Gone, as he discusses in this interview from Networked for Good.
I went straight to the strategy and measurement chapters. The book defines a social media strategy as an overarching plan that creates meaningful engagement with stakeholders. Strategy is what powers tactics and tools, and without it an organization won’t achieve results or be seduced by “shiny object syndrome” or as Jeremiah Owyang says, “Don’t Fondle the Hammer.” A well designed strategy that includes a positioning statement is what will enable organizations to break through the media clutter – the rest is tactical.
So, what makes a good positioning statement? As Geoff writes in the book, “an understanding of what makes people fall in love with causes, products, services and ideas.” That takes the discipline of listening to ensure that you understand your community, value them, and build a meaningful experience. It also takes analyzing competitors and perhaps in the nonprofit sector, understanding the ecosystem or network of organizations working on similar issues. In short, listening is market research. Geoff reminds us that a good positioning statement is simple and dictates messaging used during media interactions.
The book identifies four categories for a social media strategy. Each strategy type is not mutually exclusive. An institution can use all four, if they have capacity and resources. The four types described in the book in more detail include:
Participation — This may be an individual (often called a social media or community manager) or in more sophisticated organizations, a team of people that are basically out and about on the interwebs, having conversations with their communities of interest.
Service — Serve your Internet community with great data, content and applications.
Top Down — Many organizations assume they will not be able to invest the time in the grassroots effort necessary for full community participation, nor do they want to commit to a long-term content offering. Instead , they opt to build relationships with influencers using a top down approach. With a relevant offering for the influencer, they seek blog coverage or social network profile endorsements. By building relationships with critical influencers, they hope the communities following these leading voices will follow suit.
Empowerment — The hardest of all forms of social media strategy, empowerment assumes that the organization will commit to building a far flung community. In essence, these stakeholders create conversations and ideas that are so extensive they exist well beyond the organization’s reach.
Geoff reminds us that tactics are not tools, but actions. He outlines ways to approach interaction across different social platforms and technologies. These include:
- Conversation Starters
- Relationship Approaches
- Community Management
- Course Corrections
- Reputation Management
My other favorite is Chapter 6, a guest chapter from my other Zoetica colleague, Kami Huyse, on measurement. She outlines three guiding principles that can help an organization shape a measurement plan: SMART objectives, Measure What Matters, and the 3 A’s of Online Measurement. The secret is becoming a measurement maven and transform data into actionable insights to inform strategy.
If you’re looking for solid principles to think about social media strategy formulation, pre-order your copy of “Welcome to the Fifth Estate” now!