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More on Social Media Strategy

Jeff is right on the mark in his post “Your Social Media Strategy May Not Be A Strategy.” But it may even be worse than he reports. Some companies and organizations don’t even have clear tactics when it comes to social media, but still think they have a strategy.

I often remind people that knowing how to use social media is not the same thing as knowing how to use it strategically and tactically.

I have trained many college students (in my classes and interns at work) who claim to know how to use social media at the start of the training. By the end of the training the invariable comment that they never thought it through strategically or tactically before.

Our strategy at the Center for American Progress and Center for American Progress Action Fund is to use social media to influence influencers so they will share our ideas with their audiences. Sometimes that is simply to get our policy reports, videos, and interactive graphics out to an influential audience. Sometimes our goal is to mobilize people to take action to influence policymakers.

This means we need tactics that ensure we recruit as many influencers to our audience as possible, that we work to deepen our relationships with those influencers, and that we provide value to those influencers so they have a reason to help us. This requires a lot of research to identify influencers and a lot of outreach to engage with them once they are identified.

We use a variety of tools to do our research, more tools to facilitate our engagement, and even more tools to measure our effectiveness.

Metrics are always a big challenge with social media. Yes, new tools are always emerging to help with this effort, but few, if any do everything needed. As a result, we are forced to used a multitude of tools and assemble our metrics from them.

Like any effort to measure success, this is involves operationalizing our success metrics. For example, one measure of success is driving people to our website to read our products. Tools like Bit.ly and HootSuite help us measure the number of clicks on the links we share, but experience shows that not every click results in a page view (discrepancies between Bit.ly and Google Analytics, for example, are different by an average of 8%, but that gap varies as the number of clicks increase).

Measuring influence is a lot harder. Size of audience is important, as is the number of Twitter and Facebook impressions generated by our posts, but that doesn’t translate directly into actual views (much as gross rating points for a TV ad doesn’t exactly translate into eyeballs on your ads). We like to use a combination of measures, including number of retweets on Twitter and the number of likes, shares, and comments on Facebook. As well, we like to look at the influence ratings for the people sharing our messages (on Twitter you can use Twitalyzer or Klout).

Moving forward, I expect that these tools will get better. One of the better premium services, Thrive from SmallAct.com has good metrics already and are developing enhancements as we speak.

So, returning to Jeff’s assessment, as you can see, a real social media strategy goes far beyond posting things to social media. You need clear goals, effective tactics, and a program to evaluate your efforts so you can refine them. Only then do you really have a social media strategy.

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  • Harry Waisbren

    I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments expressed in this post!

    In my mind, approaching social media strategically and tactically is most definitely an imperative to achieving optimum success within the medium. Furthermore, I dare say that a strategy of utilizing social media to “influence influencers so they will share our ideas with their audiences” can be an integral component of any communications approach, even if metrics are not necessarily as clean cut as strategies utilizing alternative tools.

    This strategy directly correlates to an approach I have taken since receiving advice from John Nichols about the differences between social media and different communications approaches (particularly targeting mainstream journalism). He emphasized that the key difference between social media based outlets and mainstream media is that, with social media, it doesn’t necessarily matter how many people you are reaching, as it is WHO you are reaching that counts most. Even if you only have one person reading your blog/tweet/etc., if that one person is able to influence many others through amplifying your words, or directly taking action in response to them, then your foray into social media is still impactful despite the limited size of the audience.

    From this perspective, social media can be viewed as quite similar to a public email list, where you might be attempting to persuade a key influencer in what would otherwise be a private discussion. The fact that it is public, though, provides an added incentive for the influencer to at least look at what is being written about them, and even respond, based on the fact that it is available for anyone to find (even other influencers). This is where having a larger audience following your social media adventures can aid such efforts, as they would recognize that added capacity you have to persuade others through your actions as your own media organization. Keeping Nichols’ dictum about the onus being on the ‘who’ in mind aids this even further, as if your audience is constituted of a demographic important to the influencer (i.e. progressive activists that might volunteer for, or donate to, a progressive politician), then the incentive increases that much more for the influencer not only to respond, but to be persuaded to respond in kind within the ‘ask’.

    A real social media strategy most definitely goes far beyond merely posting things to social media, indeed, the people that really “get it” are at a great advantage over those who do not. This is especially the case when leveraging social media as part of a strategy to influence influencers that you otherwise might not be be able to communicate with—much less successfully persuade—and the tools within social media are without peer in achieving these ends.

  • http://twitter.com/drdigipol Alan Rosenblatt

    Harry, thanks for your great comments. I especially like your thoughts on the public aspect of social media advocacy, or what I have been calling “Social Advocacy.”

    In fact, some of my thinking on this was inspired by some of our earlier conversations about media advocacy.

  • Harry Waisbren

    My pleasure to comment, and quite pleased (and proud) to hear that some of your thinking was inspired by our media advocacy conversations!

    I’m liking the term “Social Advocacy” more and more as I think about it, and can see it being especially useful in its capacity to hit home with those who focus on the dividing lines between “media” and “advocacy”. When they hear social media, their first instinct can be to presume that this is merely publishing not worthy of a larger audience, relating it to the lifecasting variety that relays the inane activities that someone is partaking in. However, these same people would clearly understand the value of email as a tool for advocacy, despite the fact that the biggest differences between email and other social media relate to who has access to the messages.

    Social Advocacy could be the same thing as Email Advocacy (Isolated Advocacy?), just in public and with interactive components. It’s not like advocacy via a private email in an isolated channel is often proprietary anyways, so why not give participants more bang for their buck and more enjoyment in their action by supplying a medium that can provide them public credit—and a connection to a community that appreciates it to boot.

  • http://twitter.com/drdigipol Alan Rosenblatt

    Exactly, Harry. And combining email advocacy and social advocacy makes for a result greater than the sum of the parts.