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Social media strategy: several approaches

Social media strategy: several approaches

by Lee Hopkins on March 17, 2010 · 3 comments

in strategy

Most companies have given no strategic thought to their socmed initiatives. Not a good move.

It has become obvious to my ancient and decrepit mind that there are more than two ways to skin a social media cat.

Indeed, there are several. However, they fall into two very distinct approaches: Strategic and FILGIAG*, which you can also pronounce, “Suck It And See.”

The formal approach

The formal approach is full of professional strategic approaches such as Forrester’s ‘POST’ methodology, Dave Jones’ superb ‘MAIL’  approach, or your humble correspondent’s own ‘5W-question’ approach. Each is briefly outlined below.

Forrester and POST
Forrester work on the principle of
P = People – where are they, what are they saying about you
O – Objectives – what are your objectives for your socmed initiative
S – Strategy – what are the various strategies you are going to bring to bear
T = Technology – what technological platforms will you use.

I think Forrester have painted themselves in a corner with this one, as the ‘S’ principle makes no sense (how can you have a strategy as part of a strategy; it is either a sub-strategy (which is tres confusing) or else it is a tactic).

David Jones and MAIL
A personal fav of mine amongst the many different strategic planning methods out there, MAIL stands for:
M = Monitor – monitor the conversation going on about you
A = Analyse – is what is being said good or bad, who is saying it, why
I = Interact – contribute to the conversation where it is happening
L = Lead – set up your own platform/space and start leading the conversation by generating your own topics (i.e. proactive discussion rather than reactive communication)

Lee Hopkins and the 5 ‘W’ Questions
My personal favourite amongst ALL of the various methods out there, if only because it was created by someone who is suave, sophisticated, debonair, handsome, erudite, intelligent, modest…

Who: Who is the client seeking to communicate with? [This will be answered by referring to their business strategy]

Why: Why is communicating with these groups important? [This will be answered by referring to their business strategy]

When: When are those groups going to be communicated with? [This will be determined in large part by knowing the answer to the Who question]

Where: Where (what platforms) are those conversations going to take place? [This will be determined in large part by knowing the answer to the Who question]

What: What is the desired outcome of those communications? [This will be answered by referring to their business strategy]

Additionally, serious thought needs to be given to an additional What question: What content is going to be shared first — there is no doubt in my mind that YOU, the company, will need to give first in order to receive, and because of the healthy scepticism of the Australian citizenry, you will have to ‘give’ considerably before we trust you enough to give anything worthwhile or positive back – unless, of course, we are an evangelist or ‘anorak’ (ask a British friend of yours for the definition of this term, in which case capture our attention poste haste and give us the content with which to spread your message and our love of you far and wide).

The FILGIAG* Approach

At the other end of the scale is the approach most often suggested and supported by the grass roots or CEO elements of any business.

You know how it goes: junior staffer suggests that the company should be blogging, or twittering, or putting videos on youtube about its you-beaut new products. Equally, the CEO has watched one too many YouTube videos his teenage daughter has shown him and demands that the company have a social media presence (probably Facebook if not YouTube).

Thus, the poor sod in charge of enacting all this (i.e. the Comms Manager, the CFO in one company I worked in, or the evangelist junior staffer) will get told to get on  with it, in their own time, with no budget or support, and no guidelines for their own career’s protection.

The ‘suck it and see’ method can deliver some outstanding results – precisely because no one is hanging any expectations on it. By making it a low-level pilot, it slips under the radar of senior management and can open up genuine dialogue between the people who ‘actually make the stuff’ and the people who use the stuff, all to the good of all parties.

Where the FILGIAG approach falls down is when something unexpected happens and negative commentary/feedback hits the proverbial. Suddenly, without company support and thought-through guidelines, the exciting, on-the-bleedin’-edge social networking initiative becomes a severe CLM (Career Limiting Move) for the poor hapless bunny whose only intention was good.

THAT is why having a thought-through, thoughtful, C-level signed-off approach works best. No, it’s not the fastest to market, but it is the safest bet unless you want to put your employees’ jobs, families, marriages and lives at risk. I have listened to too many painfully intense personal stories of horror from too many social media friends to not be aware that the social media magic bullet can equally fire itself into the head of the person holding the gun.


Take the time – yes, I know that time is precious and painful and limited and not available – but take the time anyway to THINK THROUGH the five W questions, as well as David Jones’ MAIL approach, BEFORE you launch any social media initiative. Not even being the CEO can protect your employees if they do or say something that the Board doesn’t like.

* F*ck It, Let’s Give It A Go


  • http://www.searchengineoptimisationworks.com.au/Content_Common/pg-seo-search-engine-optimisation-brisbane-queensland-qld.seo Lisa | SEO Brisbane

    Thanks for these strategies. I only started my social media recently so this is a great post to get me started.

  • Pingback: Die Strategie-Strategie | Grenzpfosten()

  • http://twitter.com/IMD_OWP IMD OWP

    “Interesting post! After all social media is here to stay! David Plouffe’s,(President Barack Obama’s point man on social media) innovative strategy not only got Obama elected but also managed to raise the largest amount of campaign funding in election history.
    At the IMD OWP 2010 , David Plouffe will share his insights on the historic Obama campaign while framing it in the context of how Obama's leadership is shaping the United States and the world today. Weaving in his own experience managing and leading the campaign that propelled Obama into the White House, Plouffe will share: the stories behind the campaign and current strategic issues facing the administration; the importance of strategy in managing campaigns, public policy initiatives and crises; how Obama is still garnering support from the movement created during the campaign.

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