Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

The 5 Pillars of New Media Strategy: There is no box!

I often share my thoughts to help global brands and enterprise organizations. But with this article, I would like to talk to the broader group of business professionals without reference to the size and shape of your company. Here and in many other media outlets, networks, and blogs around the web, social media is one of the most prevalent subjects in business today. While advice is everywhere, advice is becoming a commodity. Insight however, is precious.

Let’s take this time together to share with you my thoughts on some of the most often asked questions and how your role in finding the right answers and putting them into action is more important than you may think.

While you may read success story after success story, we cannot make any great assumptions in how they’ll impact your work.

There is a great myth that a winning formula exists for success in social media; that if you deconstruct the most popular case studies, you’ll find a winning recipe for your social media strategy.

It’s easy to get caught up in the creative examples we read about. Many times however, they feed the very impressions that can work against you.

– If we can introduce the right viral content we can get more views or friends.

– If we can maintain a rhythmic editorial calendar we can spark conversations that create a social effect.

– If we can develop the most amazing app, we can rise to the top of our customer’s attention span!

– And, my personal favorite, if we get our company in social networks, we can build better relationships with our customers.

Rather than seeking shortcuts, we should see these examples as inspiration. In the end however, we each have our own question we need to answer…what do successful relationships and experiences look like in social media for our customers?

The formula for success in social media begins with first defining what success is and how it will be measured. This is one of the most important steps in any social media strategy, yet it is the first step that many businesses miss. The truth is that there is no formula for success. It requires something special for each strategy and it’s dependent on the people you’re trying to reach, their expectations, your business objectives and how this engagement ties specifically to your organization (sales, marketing, service, products, etc.)

To help, let’s put social media strategy into an approachable framework. Begin by organizing the most important themes to form what I refer to as The 5 Pillars of Social Media Strategy. This will contribute to a meaningful social media presence as long as you revisit this approach through every step of the strategy process.

1. Listen, Search, Walk a “Daily in the Life” of your customers.

Research is critical in understanding how your connected consumer makes decisions, how they’re influenced and where they engage and learn. This is the dynamic customer journey. Here, you’ll learn that your social customers are not at all like the traditional customers you know. Please note that they’re still important, but a new approach is required to expand your reach. Essentially here you discover new touch points and decision-making cycles. You’ll learn that this isn’t just about social media at all. In fact you’ll see how social, mobile, digital and other traditional channels need to work together to guide a complementary, integrated and converged journey. Think of it as customer journey optimization (CJO) or customer journey management (CJM).

2: Rethink your Vision, Mission, and Purpose.

When’s the last time you read your company’s vision or mission statements? Did it or does it speak to you? Would you Tweet it? Take this time to redesign customer experiences and articulate your vision for how you will use social media to improve customer experiences now and over time.

3. Define Your Brand Persona

Take some time to answer the following questions…What do you want people to see and appreciate? What do you want customers to hear, see, think and feel? Who are they engaging with? What do you stand for? Defining your brand persona will humanize engagement and make takeaway impressions and value consistent across every network and in every scenario.

4. Develop a Social Business Strategy.

Make your presence matter. This isn’t just about concepting the next Facebook Like or Twitter Retweet campaign. Based on the first 3 steps, develop a business-level strategy that meets the needs and expectations of your connected customers. As you’ll learn in step 1, new touch points emerge. If you are not part of the awareness stage of the decision making cycle, you will not benefit from consideration nor a decision in your favor. They key is to also tie social media back to key business objectives while investing in the necessary roles to engage customers at the functional level (service/support, sales, marketing, collaboration/innovation, etc.)

5. Build and Invest in Your Community.

Don’t just think about social media as an editorial or marketing program. That’s just table stakes.  In fact, don’t just limit this to social media at all. This is a chance to rethink the entire engagement strategy and the customer journey. Ultimately, you’re setting the stage for something more meaningful and substantive…the experience. Community isn’t defined by Likes or followers. Those are essentially “in the moment” actions. We’re talking about human beings. Community is much more than belonging to something; it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter. Participate in the communities that you host and also the communities that host the conversations that are important to your business. That’s the secret to earning a lasting affinity the contributes to you becoming a trusted resource.

By repeating steps one through five over time will help you achieve empathy, which will inspire meaningful strategies to earn relevance. I often think of my good friend Chris Heuer’s words, “There is no box!” In the face of something, something that moves and adapts so quickly, we can only be students to learn and figure out what others take for granted. It’s important to remember is that in social media, mobile, and in the face of innovation, there is no box to think outside of. In fact, there is no box. There is only a blank slate and a series of unanswered questions that separate you from your connected customers. Seek inspiration from the examples of others, but use The 5 Pillars of Social Media Strategy to learn how to reach, engage, and enchant your connected customers now and in the future.

Originally published in AT&T’s Networking Exchange

Please consider pre-ordering my next book, What’s the Future of Business?

72 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “The 5 Pillars of New Media Strategy: There is no box!”

  1. Chris Karnes says:

    Great post Brian. I couldn’t agree more on the need for research and walking a day in the life of the customer. Too many marketers get caught up in the internal hype of their business/product and forget that users are usually looking to fulfill a pretty simple need, especially social customers.

    The more user-centric your offering, the higher the opportunity for TRUE engagement.

  2. Steve Broner says:

    Implicit in these steps for may organizations: The need for internal transparency and cross-talk between the business, strategy, and technology minds and motives.

    “Anything less would be …[unsocialized…]”

  3. Brian Derr says:

    It’s great to see the advice that there’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Getting it right takes a lot of work to learn what resonates with your customers. That’s not to say that we can’t learn from what works for others, but there’s no silver bullet. This also underscores the importance of listening and measuring results.

  4. Dave Crenshaw says:

    “When’s the last time you read your company’s vision or mission
    statements?” Great question. Sometimes busy entrepreneurs forget to
    rethink this.

  5. Nice Article, here in holland I am promoting the idea also about a brand character based on the concept by ESW Storylab:

  6. Dr. Rae says:

    Bravo Brian! Well timed, and useful… Plan to share with my clients, fans, followers, and friends!

  7. Kymberlaine Banks says:

    Fantastic! It is refreshing to see encouragement to innovate based on your OWN perspective instead of trying to fire someone else’s silver bullet 🙂 thanks Brian!

  8. As always, great post, man. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Sarah Bauer says:

    I find this approach so valuable because it can be applied to businesses of all sizes and goals. How many articles on “social media success” have you read with a focus on exclusively big brand budget sized strategies? We need a framework that everyone can take home. This is it. Cheers!

  10. Aleks Grynis says:

    Funny to see your ‘Influence loop’ in here. It was called ‘The loyalty loop’ in HBR December 2010 issue in article called ‘Branding in The Digital Age’ by David Edelman.

  11. Heidi Bayer says:

    Brian, I always enjoy your posts. I try to encourage all of my clients to embrace social and impress upon them the need for developing a brand voice, as well as transparency. It seems that every three months I re-think our brand strategy. Thank you again.

  12. Allie Wassum says:

    Always curious as to which kind of research you find most valuable to accomplish the first pillar in the social strategy. Any related blog posts? Thanks!

  13. Dara Khajavi says:

    These are some great pillars. I personally really like the idea of customer journey optimization. These are strong basic pillars. Are there any other additional pillars for specific situations? For example, how do you handle a failed media strategy.

  14. JEBworks says:

    Great insights and advice, as always. Especially like “advice is becoming a commodity, insight, however, is precious” and “don’t just think about social media as an editorial or marketing program”. Too many listen to the wrong “advice” without “insight” do exactly that and then complain that social doesn’t produce results or the ubiquitous and misunderstood “ROI”!

  15. Sarah Song says:

    The advice and guidance you provide shows how much you really care about your consumers rather than your success, this is an aspect many people admire. And naturally when we, the consumers, see businesses who actually care and seek to meet our needs, we are most attracted to their services.
    As you have stated, the secret to a successful business is one that is well founded within their costumers, and it makes sense. How is anyone going to appeal to their base if they don’t even know what they want?
    Honestly, I think it comes down to being intentional with what you want and the people you interact with.

  16. Sheetal Sharma says:

    This post describes the entire process of winning customers trust though appropriate use of social media.Strategies and innovative new ideas work best when you want to target a specific audience, coupled with brand value increases the brand presence leading to buzz in the online communities.At Synechron, every media strategy is aligned so as to achieve maximum results.

  17. We must put in mind
    that there is no single road to success. Every company is different, and
    their internal structures have different requirements and functions.But
    planning is key. Identifying stakeholders and developing your plan around
    them – and with their input – is key to getting any social business strategy
    off the ground.

  18. Madeline Kruger says:

    I agree that many companies use social media as a shortcut to reaching their customers. They believe that once they create a profile on any social media platform, they are done and have reached maximum connection capabilities. But evidently, that is not true. Out of the five rules listed, I think the most important one is number one. Before you can connect with your consumers you must understand them so you can target their needs and wants. Without this, you are just blindly shooting out information, without knowing if you’ve reached anyone.

    Madeline Kruger: Tulane University

  19. I have to agree with what Brian has to say. Through research and understanding your target audience, the social media of any company will blossom. In addition, having a clear and measurable goal will help in achieving objectives. There needs to be direction that is consistent and exemplifies a company’s mission.

  20. Samantha Arrington says:

    I definitely think Brian has the right idea. These five steps are crucial in developing and maintaining your social presence.I am a marketing student and this is almost exactly what we’ve been learning. I really like the sentence “Community is much more than belonging to something; its about doing something together that makes belonging matter”. This is one of the hardest and most important parts in developing your social media presence. You want to earn the respect and friendship of your community constantly. But, you also have to change with your community and go back to these 5 pillars and rethink your decisions.

  21. writing services says:

    It seems a bit backwards to determine what your
    social media strategy is going to be without first finding out who is actually
    going to engage in your social network and what they want to get out of it. Too
    many marketers talk about engagement and don’t discuss what that engagement
    will entail. Beginning by taking the perspective of potential customers is the
    logical first step but one that is most often missed before a business launches
    itself into social cyberspace.

  22. Andy Newbom says:

    rock it Brian. tight and right.

  23. Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed
    information you provide. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same outdated rehashed information. Excellent read!

    I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

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