Social strategy basics

Social strategy is a term you hear bandied about a lot at the moment. In 2013, it was one of the growing terms promoted by the ephemeral marketing ‘gurus’ that proliferate on the web (you might note I don’t really rate many of these guys that much). To get an idea of the growth of this (largely deceptive) industry, check out the Google Trends below:

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 3.35.46 PM

Most of the stuff I see on social strategy goes a little something like this:

  • Define your objectives.
  • Know your audience.
  • Analyse and learn from your audience.

You can see a pretty good example of this at the Next Web. It’s quite a bland, generic and one size fits all approach to social media strategy.

To explain social strategy, you’ve got to first focus on what social media is. Most people believe it is simply a way for people to connect and interact. I think there is a bit of a difference, however, between how people interact in social media vs how they interact in real life.

The best way to explain this is in how people share content: typically, people share content to their networks because it’s interesting, funny, unique. One of the key insights into many successful social strategies is exactly that: creation of content that allows the audience to ‘look good’ by sharing it. Basically, people aren’t looking to share their life on social media: they’re looking to make their life look good and interesting to all their friends.

Of course, you’ve got some exceptions to this, such as when people post things about events in their life which are sad. But think about the number of ugly photos untagged, status’ removed, or the way in which people try to present themselves in social generally. They’re trying to cultivate a brand, typically, rather than an actual representation of themselves.

This isn’t a behaviour unique to social, but perhaps one easier to manage within social.

The best social media strategy identifies the unique point of difference it can lend to it’s audience, then. The Facebook algorithm, by the way, is smashing organic reach down, but it is rewarding those who can build decent user interaction histories.

So what are some things you can consider to build a genuine social strategy?

First, why they hell are people going to share your stuff? Typically, make your stuff funny, outlandish or really, really informative (this works better for cutting edge companies more than anyone).

Second, what are people going to come to your social page for? The majority of people will come there to complain – not to have a conversation with you. Get prepared, build crisis profiles, learn how to manage consumers on your page. Decent customer service on your page will help you more than any really funny video you post.

Third, find out what your audience is actually talking about. Radian6 is pretty good for this. Once you know what they’re talking about, work out if it has a link to your brand. If it doesn’t, then don’t talk about it. The best social pages always have relevance to them.

Typically, I see social becoming more of a distribution point for content marketing strategies – leaving the longer, genuine pieces of content back to content hubs or whatever people choose to use. Social strategy is tough, varies for each business and is a messy space to be in – but if you try and understand social, and understand why people are using it, you might get some traction.


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