A crowd of 80 or so attended yesterday’s social media boot camp hosted by the Kentucky chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and the Social Media Club Louisville. I was honored to serve as one of the presenters along with the undisputed queen of measurement, Katie Paine, and The Bad Pitch Blog man himself, Kevin Dugan. Rest assured, lots of learning was had, even if you just count my experience.

Part of my presentation, which was focused on developing strategic plans for social media marketing, included my Four Spheres of Social Media Strategy. Until now, I’ve not shared this theory and graphic with you and thought it would be a good time to share and solicit your feedback on it.

Four Spheres of Social Media Strategy - Social Media Explorer

What this image represents is the four areas of expertise a person needs to have in order to develop a successful social media strategy. Those four areas include:

  1. Brand Intelligence
  2. Consumer Insights
  3. Community Behavior
  4. Tools & Platforms

Brand intelligence refers to knowledge and understanding of the brand, product or service, competitive set, industry and business factors that effect how the product or service in question is positioned in the market place. A brand manager or chief marketing officer would likely be the most qualified and informed person here. For many advertising and public relations account managers, this is the easy part. You live and breathe the brand everyday. This part, you’ve got down.

Consumer insights is the combination of audience research, profiling and various graphics (demo, psycho and techno) the brand or market research teams compile to direct the marketing efforts. Admittedly, this area is often either overlooked or underfunded by most brands. Good research isn’t cheap.

If you don’t have a target audience profile from the brand team before starting your social media work, do as much audience profiling and homework as you can with social media resources like Pew Internet Project, eMarketer or Forrester Research, plus any audience research you can get out of the brand team you’re working with.

Community behavior is the understanding of how people interact, share and communicate both broadly on social media sites and narrowly within individual communities. This is having a working knowledge of the differences in sharing information on Twitter versus Digg or Facebook and how brands and companies can do so without appearing to be spammers, which varies from community to community.

Finally, tools and platforms refers to having an understanding of what social tools and platforms are out there you can recommend to a brand. This doesn’t mean you have to know everything there is to know about every tool out there. If you’re company or client has a need for photo sharing in their strategy, you go study the various tools available before making your recommendations. But you do need to be a little bit of a technologist and understand the possibilities the technology affords you.

As I developed the graphic to go along with the thinking, I thought about the cross over areas in the Venn diagram. The center overlap of all four is, of course, representative of the sweet spot for social media strategic success. The overlap between Brand Intelligence and Consumer Insight is where most good marketing professionals lie. If you know your brand and your consumer you’re going to be pretty strong as a marketer.

The overlap of Brand Intelligence and Community Behavior is where you’ll find many public relations professionals, event management professionals and those who understand activating communications around the brand. They may not have a deep understanding of online communities, but are communicators.

The overlap of Consumer Insight and Tools & Platforms is where the consumer advocates and customer service professionals may fall. They’re in touch with the consumers but know a bit of the tools that are out there to share and communicate.

And the Community Behavior-Tools & Platforms overlap is where many social media professionals can be found. They know the tool set and know how people communicate and interact using the tools. Various social media pros have different levels of understanding of the brands they work with and exposure to the consumer insights.

Obviously as you get closer to the middle and have three or four areas overlapping, you have a better chance of being able to offer solid social media strategies.

It would be remiss of me to not say I feel strongly that the Consumer Insight is the driver behind most good social media strategies. Social media done well is consumer centric, so fulfilling a social need for the consumer is the starting point for a brand’s participation in social media marketing. Each area has a level of importance, however, and good strategy cannot be had without a deference to each.

This is one man’s view of the world, however. I’m interested to know what you think, what you’ve experienced, if this diagram make sense and holds true for you and what, if anything you would do to change or adjust it.

As always, the comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001736924659 ‘Tom Tfl Longacre

    I operate a company that specializes in Small Business Marketing in South Jersey.  Thank you so much for this post — I am definitely a proponent of everything in your post.  I took a hiatus from clients because I am currently over hauling my entire site to ensure that my company site/on-line presence is 100% before I work with another client. What is the best source to use to maximize my social media research to get my own social media where it should be.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Hey Tom. I’m assuming you mean a research source that gives you user behavior, etc. Those are certainly valuable stats and what-not to keep on hand for yourself and clients. Unfortunately, there’s a very fractured landscape when it comes to real and reliable research.

      Pew Internet & American Life Project (http://pewinternet.org) is good but generic in a lot of ways. I’m involved with Edison Research’s The Social Habit a bit (http://thesocialhabit.com) and Exact Target releases new information annually on their user research (http://exacttarget.com). There are several other resources, but no one place to pull that together. You kinda have to pick your preferences and stay glued to what they’re doing.
      Hope that helps a bit.