Digital Strategy Technology

Social Media Framework

Social media marketing is usually viewed as a tactic to drive traffic to a corporate website, but in my experience, its much, much more than that. It is about building a community of people that are passionate about your brand, and who will actively participate in the conversation about that brand, thus helping to form the “narrative” (in PR speak) about the product and services being discussed. If you’re lucky, you’ll even identify a few ‘ambassadors’ or ‘influencers’.

These individuals will will be your most vocal supporters and will speak up to defend the brand in times of crisis.  They will also help address concerns from fellow community members on a daily basis. If your brand can get to this stage, where the community is talking about you consistently, and are helping each other without your input, then that’s the clearest sign that your social media plan has succeeded.

A good social media plan has six core steps. Each step on its own won’t deliver much of an impact, but if the whole framework is done correctly, it can in my experience, lead to a thriving, happy and self-sustaining community.

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1.) Listening

This is usually a technology tool that allows you to track specific keywords across multiple social media channels. You start by creating a list of keywords based on products, services, competitors and languages. You input these keywords into the tool, and it will start pulling ‘mentions’ with these keywords into a dashboard. The dash board will then display metrics like volume, sentiment and buzz, but it a raw format. Your job will be to ‘cleanse’ this raw data, so that the analysis you do in the next step will be accurate. This cleansing usually means going through a portion of the raw data (20% is a good target), to verify that the automatic grading  (relevance, sentiment and influence mostly) are correct, as these would in most cases be assigned by an AI.

Some examples of social listening technology are Sysomos, Radian6, Brandtology and Digimind. These are just a few that I’ve used, and I know that there are dozens more out there.

2.) Analysis

This part quite manual, and its a good idea to have a set process in place to deal with the number crunching that will hopefully deliver some actionable insights. You can do things like word clouds, influence analysis, and trend identification to help you generate insights about your customers, the competition (especially useful when presenting to management), your products and opportunities. These insights are what you use to create a recommendation list that you would use in the day-to-day community management as well as the long term content development.

For analysis, you can use the aforementioned listening tools to do some of the work, but Excel will always be your best friend.

3.) Content

You have a choice: to do it in-house or delegate it to an agency. Either way, the content strategy should address the problems or issues identified in the previous step. Brief the team working on it, and include the insights so that they know what they need to address. Also consider seasonal events for a more holistic view, all of which then go into a central editorial calendar. This should be managed consistently, and updated as soon as new content becomes available.

You can build the calendar in whatever format you prefer. Some publishing (social management) tools have calendars built in, so that’s an option too, as its provides a smooth transition to the next step.

4.) Publishing

Another step that’s best done through a tool, especially if managing multiple social properties and there’s a geographically dispersed team. This tool will allow you to:

  • schedule content to be published (posts)
  • specify how that content gets posted (targeted vs broad)
  • approval workflows
  • blacklisting functions (for risk remediation)
  • tracking

Some good examples of such tools are Sprinklr, Hootsuite, Buffer (what I use for my own social channels) and SproutSocial.


5.) Conversations

Using the same tool as step 4, this is where the main magic happens. There should be a community manager who does the initial triage based on  predetermined rules of engagement. The best example I’ve seen is this one from David Armano:

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The tool should have built in workflow to enable the community manager to ‘send’ the case (if required) to the relevant authority for resolution. This can be someone in customer service, or marketing, or even sales.

Community management is an art. There are canned responses, but you will be found out quickly by the community, and it will appear unauthentic and forced. You want a real person to respond through your social channels, not a robot. A real person can tell the difference between sarcasm and a real need for help. This will be a human-only job, until the Turing test gets beaten. If that happens, we’ll have a lot more to worry about than social media!


Its not all rosy though. The community manager will be exposed to the vilest humans on the planet, but you will need to be able to filter that out and focus on helping people. A little bit of altruism wouldn’t hurt, for someone in this position. Humor is also crucial. And above all else, patience!

6.) Reporting

The most mundane of processes, but probably the most crucial, as without sharing the results of the preceding 5 steps to management, they probably won’t give you the budget to do any of it! Usually start by looking back (the listening data), what are the current topics being discussed, and what issues will be addressed next. Its also a good idea to tie this back to ROI, so if your tracking has been set up correctly, you should be able to show how much social traffic led to leads and then on to sales.

I usually dump this into a PowerPoint and send it on to the powers that be.


So, that’s it. My 1,000 word guide to getting a social media plan in motion. This approach is 100% organic, and doesn’t take into account paid social. I’ll address that in a further post. Follow these steps, and you should find yourself being the closest link between the company and its customers – and that’s always a great place to be! Let me know in the comments if you think there is anything I’ve missed.

Peace out!

Digital Strategy

Digital Marketing vs Digital

I’ve been in a couple of discussions recently that have made it clear that we need to differentiate between digital and digital marketing. According to Wikipedia,

Digital marketing is an umbrella term for the targeted, measurable, and interactive marketing of products or services using digital technologies to reach consumers. The key objective is to promote brands through various forms of digital media.

The key terms here are “products and services”. We’re at a point now that customers are not choosing based on specs (most likely due to parity), but basing their decisions on how they feel about brands. That feeling comes from many places – retail, direct sales, customer service, and even digital. It has never been more important to focus on the brand building component of marketing – and we’re seeing some of the more innovative brands making that jump.

It’s the End of ‘Marketing’ As We Know It at Procter & Gamble

Digital marketing has to evolve beyond marketing, and it has to support every department within a company. By supporting the wider organisation, it can consollidate assets and functional responsibilities, enjoy efficiencies of scale, and give the customer once consistent view of the company.  I cannot stress how important consistency is to the customer – it reminds me of how I am still getting seven different edms from a particular tech provider, in multiple languages, even though they have all my profile details.

Here’s how I see the end-to-end ecosystem from the perspective of a company.

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As you can see, the digital team should be the interface through which the company engages with the customer on the digital channels. To do this, Digital has to look beyong marketing metrics. It needs to start considering things like sentiment and buzz. It needs to create content that makes people feel – not just publishing it because you can.

To do this, Digital must also demonstrate impact for each part of the business. It must convince management that the reputation of the company is more important than it has ever been, and that the company’s narrative is created in real-time by conversations they are not even aware of. That’s the hardest part to communicate – but that’s where data comes in. A good listening tool, and the analytical skills to transform that data into insights, will have more of an impact than fifty case studies ever will.

To be continued….

Digital Strategy

Book Review: Digital Adaptation by Paul Boag

I read this book over the weekend, and it’s reassuring that I’m not the first (or the last) person to suffer the pain of attempting to explain the importance of Digital to senior management.  It is almost alarmingly coincindental that the first paragraph in the book (describing his turmoil in his first job) is exactly how I am feeling after weeks spent trying to push through my own plans:

As I sat listening to a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle managers bicker about what should appear on the homepage of the website I was building, I could almost feel my soul being sucked from me.

soul sucking
Yes, exactly

It was also interesting to read about his methodology for creating a strategy for digital. In the past (and even very recently), I’ve approached it from a marketing perspective.

Objectives and Strategy
Typical Marketing Objectives and Strategy

Boag’s approach (which he adopted from Richard Rumlet’s Good Strategy/Bad Strategy ) is very different:

Strategy Framework
Rumelt’s Strategy Framework

My approach has been to find a solution for each cascading objective and strategy one level down. I realise now that these were tactical solutions, as without the guiding principles, they did not result in a common, singular goal. And that, to me, is why we need a strategy in the first place, as its a singular problem we’re addressing.

Boag also talks about how he uses both bottom-up and top-down approachs to make the change happen. At the heart of it, data and analytics (especially if it pertains to ROI) are key to convincing people that change is necessary. He believes, as I do, that organisations have to change to become ‘Digital by Default’. That is how our customers will interact with us, and its what we need to adapt into, before its too late.

Overall, what I’ve learnt from this book will be very useful as I attempt to be the catalyst for the digital transformation within my own employer. It does not teach me anything new about digital, but its useful nonetheless as it has shown me that there’s more than one path available to me.

Everyone wants change, but no one wants TO change

My current biggest struggle is to move digital away from Marketing, and justifying the need for it to be an organisation wide initiative. I  worry about convincing the different organisations that they need to align to a single objective as a company. That’s similar to how Satya Nadella now refers to Microsoft as a “Cloud First. Mobile First” company. That’s a single-minded target for everyone to get behind. And one that I’m hoping to uncover withing my employer.

Fortunately there is support for community building, so the social side of the equation is getting developed. But its the rest of it that’s going to take a while to get going. Wish me luck!