Monday, October 17, 2011

Is Social Strategy As Simple As Who What Where Where Why How?

For many years, the core of my job has been taking seemingly complicated things – like how companies should approach digital, and simplify them into simple ideas, steps, and processes that make the projects less scary and more immediately actionable. I’ve been thinking a lot about Social lately, and how it seems to be such a gnarl of opportunities and objectives and metrics. Here’s my stab at simplification.

If we start with Forrester’s Groundswell model of seven types of social users, it seems clear that brands must first think about social as passion media not scaled media.  Social gets its scale organically rather than through complex engineering.

First and foremost, I think brands need a set of “supercreators” with three characteristics that make their brand-connected content eminently socializable:

1.     Who: Very high credibility voices. Brand content is and probably should be a little suspect in social. You need to empower great PEOPLE to deliver the message, because no one really wants to socialize with a roll of toilet paper or even a high performance car. It’s just paper, or metal. Social is about people.
2.     What: Real, Vivid Opinions. Social is ultimately about perspective. You want to read and interact with people who have something relevant, intriguing and dare I say dramatic to say.
3.     When: Timely, current voices. With the plethora of topics and environments in our digital midst, we tend to care about things as a result of events occurring in our world and our lives. Timing is very important.

In my view, finding the right people to speak on behalf of a brand requires an examination of your own team as well as people with existing category credibility beyond your organizations. Worry about the people and content first, THEN their current range of influence. The third is addressable, the first two have to be there in spades first.

Let’s review the Forrester Groundswell model for a sec, and how it can be relevant for brand social. In the current model, there are seven categories of social users:

1.      Creators: Makers of long and short form content – the nucleus of thought
2.      Conversationalists: People who discuss content and points of view in social
3.      Critics: People who rate content
4.      Collectors: Users of tools like RSS that collect and distribute content
5.      Joiners: People who join content and opinion communities
6.      Followers: People who read social content but generally do not create
7.      Uninvolved: Nuff said

My emphasis on “supercreators” is about finding the best people with the most interesting and compelling opinions, which are then processed, shaped, commented upon, spread, and consumed by people in other groups. That’s how a program gets scale.

So who are good supercreators for brands?

I believe in long form content creators like bloggers because they can deliver considered stories and viewpoints. Media like Facebook and Twitter are, to me, more about dissemination of message than origination vehicles. They are really about the Where. I concede however that there is certainly a real possibility that I underestimate these forms.

People interested in your message within each of the various Groundswell segments play different kinds of roles in your social distribution. Through their activity they expose people in their circles to the messages as well as the discussion and commentary that they drive.

Great high credibility content ultimately drives the Why. Why people care and consume and process the content that is connected to your brand. Why they care relates back to your supercreators and their ability to create content that people find relevant and involving.

Finally, the How. In this model, How relates back to the manner in which the ecosystem of content and commentary serves brand objectives. How is it impacting the brand, and how you are measuring it.

I’m not saying developing a social strategy is an easy peasy 10-minute exercise. But I am saying that by distilling the process into these broad question areas, you can go a long way toward demystifying the medium and pointing yourself and the team toward a real, credible, and long lasting program. To summarize:

1.      Who can I find to develop and deliver highly relevant and compelling content?
2.      What sorts of topics and opinions help me communicate and connect and engage with consumers?
3.      When will our messages best resonate with the larger target audience?
4.      Where, or what platforms will be relevant to the creation of a robust ecosystem, and how can I ensure that the content is consumable and spreadable in these environments?
5.      Why will people care? Are we certain that the content supercreators conceive and deliver will be relevant to people?
6.      How will it impact the brand and its objectives, and how will we measure?

By finding the answers to these questions, brands can go a long way toward providing value and deriving value beyond spamming hapless consumers who find themselves connected to brands.

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