Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Social media is starting to take hold with brands, companies and organizations everywhere. While there are still stragglers, and it is probably incorrect to say most companies are getting with the program, a good number of them are. What we’re seeing in these organizations is a maturation process. Brands are done testing the waters, playing with the tools and saying, “We Gotta Facebook Page!” like it’s the corporate equivalent of an iPhone or Kindle. Companies are now approaching social media with communications strategies in mind — How can we effectively use these social tools to reach our audiences?

But therein lies the next challenge for those responsible for the social media planning for organizations. Regardless of the pedigree – public relations, corporate communications, marketing, customer service, research, etc. – today’s social media task masters are probably still operating from the traditional corporate mindset or training. First, you define your audience and your goals and objectives. Then you develop talking points to convince that audience to complete the action that fulfills the goals or objectives. Then you measure, report; rinse, repeat.

The problem is that social media is an environment that scoffs at the traditional. Talking points are about as useful in a social media campaign as a nail gun in a balloon store. You’re just gonna piss everybody off.

Corporate messaging — talking points — are precisely why people have turned to online communities and social networks for information about products and services. Social media exists to provide trusted, third party information to consumers looking for something other than a sales pitch. Thus, diving into a social media effort with your talking points in tow is a great strategy if you’re hoping to fail.

The key to developing a social media strategy is not talking points, but parameters of conversation.

Which conversation can you find a way into?

Which conversation can you find a way into?

To develop your parameters of conversation for your social media efforts, answer these questions:

  • What types of people do we want to talk to?
  • Where do we find them?
  • What are they talking about already?
  • Is it appropriate for us to join that conversation and, if so, when?
  • How do we inject usefulness into the conversation without being overly promotional?
  • What value can we provide in terms of knowledge, opinion or content?
  • How can we earn their trust?
  • When we do earn their trust, how can we best ask for their input into our product or service?
  • Under what circumstances can we point the conversation toward considering our product?
  • Can we say or do something that invites someone else to point the conversation toward considering our product?
  • How shall we apologize and regroup if we overstep their comfort level or accuse us of violating their trust?

Many of the answers cannot be had until you assimilate into the communities and conversations. But thinking of these situations ahead of time is no different than anticipating the hard questions from reporters before a press conference. Prepare yourself with answers, then read and react. It’s not the soup-to-nuts of a social media strategy, but the answers to these questions are at the core of successful ones.

Those are my questions. What are yours? What other ideas can we add to this list to help a company round out parameters of conversation for their social media efforts. The comments are yours.

IMAGE: Copyright Corepics from Shutterstock.com. Used with permission.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He 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 CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. 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://bit.ly/computerdomination jordan

    nice article. how could you get a large following to promote a blog/website?

  • http://www.campleadership.org/ Dave Bell

    jason,
    great article and helpful as i create a social media strategy for resident camps. i think one of the biggest difficulties is defining the objective. Too often we go for a shotgun mentality instead of a focused effort when it comes to social media. thanks for some great thought provoking questions.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Dave. Appreciate the thoughts and the reading.

  • http://www.inkatechnology.co.uk/ Facebook Connect

    I've been working for social media monitoring, analysis, and engagement company Visible Technologies in product marketing and in general I agree with everything you mentioned. I tend to group the strategy into three parts: Listen, Learn, Leverage, but the components you mentioned are all covered in one of the steps.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great minds and all, right? Heh. Thanks for the comment.

  • Zack

    I suppose the whole premise for business is to indirectly filter visitors to their websites, is that right Jason? You don't go to a cocktail party and begin a sales pitch with every person you meet. In the same way, should business reach their market segments with insights and useful content, people will forward the content on to friends and that business may recover a few more clicks to their website link from the blog, tweet, post, kick, tumble, and what have you.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Wouldn't be that definitive about it, Zack. Website visitors can and
      normally is one measure of success, but what if you are driving a lot
      of engagement/coupons/off-line event promotions, etc., to your
      Facebook fan page? Your website visitors don't mean much there. I
      think it's smart to drive people to your website in most instances,
      but it's less about indirectly filtering visitors there and making
      sure you're giving your online audience value in their experience.
      That can be done on social networks, off-line and more. Make sense?

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  • http://www.whitehatmedia.com/ SocialMediaStylist

    I think, when it comes to social media the vital point is to discuss WHY before thinking about HOW, you need your clients to decide their specific goals for using social media, once these are clear then you can start to develop interesting strategies, but diving straight in without distinguished aims, measurables etc is going to land you in hot water when you've got thousands of followers on twitter but no conversions. This is a really nice slideshare on the importance of the set up stages with any social media campaign http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-
    put together by another Jason

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Zac. We love Baer's work. And the first thing I walk clients through
      when talking strategy is establishing goals … why are we doing it. Thanks
      for the thoughts!

  • http://www.whitehatmedia.com/ IndependentFilmLover

    I think, when it comes to social media the vital point is to discuss WHY before thinking about HOW, you need your clients to decide their specific goals for using social media, once these are clear then you can start to develop interesting strategies, but diving straight in without distinguished aims, measurables etc is going to land you in hot water when you've got thousands of followers on twitter but no conversions. This is a really nice slideshare on the importance of the set up stages with any social media campaign http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-
    put together by another Jason

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks, Zac. We love Baer's work. And the first thing I walk clients through
    when talking strategy is establishing goals … why are we doing it. Thanks
    for the thoughts!

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  • http://twitter.com/BTspeaker Beth Terry

    Great recap. Will add you to my resource list. Just tweeted it. Thanks for the thoughtful checklist.

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  • http://www.mobilecubix.com iPhone Application

    its very tough to developed right social media strategy for website..At one time you feel that strategy is not working good so you need some changing then you apply new tactics in social media.

  • http://www.ave-nir.com Avenir

    Very good analysis of some of the essentials for any Social Media strategy – internal collaboration, support, and commitment to true customer engagement.

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  • Rob Colton

    We’re going through an interesting phase with a client at the moment. Social media is seen as the answer to email apathy – IE if we send a tweet to someone’s Twitter account it is better than sending an email. So far that is the entire scope of their thinking, replace one push media with another.

    Evey piece of research they have done is about what message shall we SEND, wht types of message do our customers want to RECEIVE, etc. What other social media messages do our customers GET from similar companies to us. Laudable but the re is no mention of the social part of social media. Another fairly base research objective is to ask what platforms people are on. Again necessary but not really useful on its own.

    We’re working with them to encourage them to think about this in the whole. Ask not what platform someone is on, but who they listen to on these platforms. Ask not what shall we send but how can we best contribute to existing conversations and networks. Don’t identify platforms, identify influencers and work with them. The industry this company is in is one where much more credence is given to the thoughts of peers than that of the company. More so than other business areas even. It is also highly regulated with every single full stop of any communication being scrutinised by over zealous internal censors. This later point makes it almost impossible to partake in a SM conversation with any degree of spontaneity or fluidity. Which makes working with external, unregulated influencers all the more useful.

    They are starting to buy in to the more holistic view of SM and indeed SEO. But like the article says, it is somewhat of a shock that simply spending a barrel of cash isnt going to meet their goals.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for sharing this, Rob. I feel your frustration here. I’ve had it with
      many a client. The good news is that you know where to take them. Good luck,
      my friend!

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  • http://www.lionleaf.com/ Melissa B

    These days, social media comes with great responsibility.

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  • Stefanie

    You complied a great list of questions to ask when writing for social media outlets! Although posting updates on social media does not follow the same structural guidelines as an article, it is still important to implement correct grammar and AP style. Companies must also keep in mind that character limits with outlets such as Twitter may call for appropriate abbreviations and that updating too much can drive away followers.

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