Building a social media strategy is not something that can be whipped together overnight. For context, any company that is looking to develop a strategy for leveraging social media should first check out the POST methodology from Forrester Research. The “People” part of the approach (followed by Objectives, Stategy and Technology) has a short description:
Don’t start a social strategy until you know the capabilities of your audience. If you’re targeting college students, use social networks. If you’re reaching out business travelers, consider ratings and reviews. Forrester has great data to help with this, but you can make some estimates on your own. Just don’t start without thinking about it.
This is smart, practical advice. Yet it doesn’t go deep enough. Here are seven inputs that need to be considered before defining objectives and developing a strategy to leverage social media tactics.
- Social Media Monitoring. There are many self-service tools out there beyond Twitter search and Google blog search. Two that work well are Radian6 and SM2. No software is perfect, especially when it comes to analyzing sentiment of what customers are saying, but “hunting and pecking” using point-in-time search tools isn’t going to give you the broad array you need. These tools also can review data back in time to compare tone and conversations year over year or before and after a key event like a product launch. It takes time to sift through the chatter, but there are gems in there that constitute unfiltered customer feedback worth paying attention to.
- Market research. Survey your customers and ask them what tools they use. If you are a large company, consider leveraging a segmentation that addresses the needs, wants, attitudes and behaviors of your customers. This can be a significant source of insight to drive marketing strategies – not just social marketing ones.
- Forrester’s Social Technographics. Forrester has a great tool to stratify how your customers are actually using social media. Do your customers heavily index against the average for Creators or Critics? Perhaps a user-generated content idea or approach would be more suitable. While the tool doesn’t give you the answer of what to do, it does provide some data points that help justify approaches down the road. If you know some basic info about your customers, you can get useful data easily using this tool:
- Competitive Analysis. What are your competitors doing? Are you behind the pack or leading by deciding to engage in social technologies to drive your business? It’s important to know where you stand – better yet to know where you want to be.
- Stakeholder Interviews. Some tactics in social media will require different departments to work together – perhaps some that aren’t used to collaborating. Talk to the following groups: Marketing, Market Research, Innovation, Product Management, IT, Legal, Customer Service, PR and HR. Chances are they will all have something to say about social media and what they would hope to get from it.
- Corporate Objectives. What is your company’s marketing objectives in 2010? Are you undertaking a brand refresh? Have some major product launches teed up in Q2? Any seasonal or cyclical impact to plan around? Don’t think you can develop social tactics without considering what is going on in the company.
- Corporate Culture. Does your company thrive on innovation or on chopping down new initiatives? Social media tactics can be measured, effective and game-changing – yet the industry is not as mature of a marketing tactic like pay-per-click search marketing. “Making the leap” requires top down executive support and a bottoms up desire to make initiatives successful from the teams that will own the strategy going forward. (Or fail quickly and learn from it, as I’ve heard Todd Defren say – this space is still new).
Frankly, I don’t see how the rest of the POST methodology – Objectives, Strategy and Technology – can be developed without these inputs. Do you agree? What did I miss?
Photo credit: h-d-k via Flickr