Social Channel Strategy is Local Marketing Strategy
I once moved to Costa Rica to help a friend set up an international language school and tourism business. He needed my help not because he needed an expert in Costa Rican culture, but because he needed someone who understood the basics of marketing and business development, had great people skills, spoke Spanish beyond “sí,” and had a lifestyle and personality amenable to abruptly moving to a previously unvisited Central American country.
He set the global business strategy and I helped execute it locally. This involved developing a quick and solid understanding of the local culture and the way that business was done (read: languidly, and sometimes in the middle of the rainforest). Truth be told, it also involved a lot of groovy trips through the jungle on waterfall hikes and surfing misadventures and other assorted beach fun.
Now, the reason that we were working so hard on our surfing misadventures and other assorted beach fun is actually because we were working with local business people to understand how to best recruit staff, partners and co-marketers within the field. Tourism is the mainstay of the Costa Rican economy, and inroads with the folks running tourism-based businesses were the ones we needed to make in this market. This sort of regionalized marketing is called “local marketing” or “field marketing,” and in this case, Costa Rica was our local market. And this is what Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are to a social media marketer. Your social channels are your local markets, and you are the field marketer.
Social Channel Strategy Provides Context for Your Campaign
Social channels define the framework that shapes your community. That social framework is made up of social rules, etiquette, messaging types, and engagement tools. This is where we note, strongly, the correlation between being on a new digital channel and being in a foreign country. If you’re a local marketer in France, for example, you’re most likely executing on a larger, global marketing initiative, but tweaking the delivery to be most appropriate for the French market. Social channel strategy puts your community and conversation in context.
To find that context, we go back to step one of any good social media marketing program, and that is social listening. Social channel strategy both starts and ends with listening. By listening, you can find answers to the following channel-specific questions:
- Where is my target community interacting with one another?
- How / how often do members interact?
- What conversations are shared most often?
- What sort of sharing etiquette is customary?
- What’s the most appropriate type of content to be used (e.g. links, video, images, etc.)?
Understanding the norms within a channel is crucial to making sure that your social channel strategy starts the right sorts of conversations with the right sorts of people. The shelf life of a Tweet is 30 minutes; a Facebook post lasts one day. Graphics are crucial for most all social marketing initiatives, but are they really so important for LinkedIn? Listen first to determine the lay of the land, introduce yourself in social conversations in a meaningful way, and listen again to make sure that your message is being heard.
Because social channels define the framework in which your target community behaves, within your social channel strategy you will define the metrics by which you measure your larger social media campaign success. When formulating your social channel strategy, you will find your KPI’s by finding metrics that reflect your ability to influence behavior within a specified channel. They will therefore be specific to that channel, remembering overall that the success of a good social media campaign depends on inspiring action that leads to social sharing.
A Social Media Channel Does Not Make for a Social Marketing Campaign
Social channel strategy is easily the most confused of the 4 C’s of social media marketing. When you hear people say that the @ComcastCares customer service channel on Twitter is “social media marketing,” what you’re hearing is the confusion between “social media marketing” and “social media channel.”
Unless the primary goal of a social media campaign is to generate word-of-mouth marketing, it is not a social marketing campaign.
Remember, social channel strategy determines how you’ll roll out a larger marketing campaign to defined social communities tailored to their behaviors within that channel. A social channel is the place social communities have chosen to gather, and that place defines the customs and etiquette that will influence your conversation.
As a general rule, even channel-specific campaigns should map back to a larger, umbrella marketing strategy. A well-rounded marketing campaign has a multi-channel approach: magazines, radio, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and trade shows are all channels.
OK, You Might Need a Twitter Strategy
Social media is still a very new marketing discipline, and constant technological innovation can change the playing field quickly. Did anyone talk about social channel strategy or use a hashtag as an abbreviated personal status six years ago? #thingsmovequicklyinsocial
Because social media marketing is so new and mutable, there is a high degree of murkiness surrounding it. Like field marketing, the real-time and interactive nature of the social dialogue marketing model generally requires a certain personality type to excel in it as a discipline. (Hint: that person is probably social in real life without trying too hard.) With all that in mind, it may make sense to have someone in charge of social channel-specific activity, regardless of which business unit that campaign is servicing at the higher level.
Because social channels set context and framework, they can also merit channel-specific social campaigns of their own. For example, Twitter has ever-evolving hashtag customs (#followfriday being one of the first) that can be folded into your social marketing plan.
Good Social Channel Strategy Makes You Part of the Community
At the end of the day, what we’re trying to achieve as marketers is not just to act like we’re part of the community, but actually to be part of the community. The first thing we need to remember when joining or interloping into a new community is to listen first.
We went into Costa Rica knowing that the first thing we were going to have to do was to forge good relationships with key local merchants, realtors, guides, and others crucial to setting up an education and tourism business locally. As foreigners, we went into the jungles and beach huts on their terms. We listened to what they had to tell us about how their businesses operated, and asked questions about what sorts of challenges and opportunities they saw in parternship. This enabled us to settle on a localized strategy for the Costa Rican market.
When you work in digital markets, spiriting off to the depths of the rainforest to set your social channel strategy may be counter-productive given the lack of WiFi. What we digital marketers have are sophisticated social listening tools that allow us to find out where our target social communities are and what sorts of social conversations are happening. With that in mind, we can then set our social channel strategy.
One great tip to remember when thinking about social channel strategy is one that was given to me on my way to Costa Rica, and it’s a phrase that I have often uttered when traveling abroad, and that is:
Always remember where you are.
Social Channel Strategy and the 4 C’s
The 4 C’s are interdependent. When viewed through a social channel strategy lens, the 4 C’s of a social media campaign look like this:
1) Social Listening: Businesspeople hang out on LinkedIn, but they might also hang out in a Facebook group about golf.
2) Dialogue Marketing: What’s going viral on the channel? Is it specific to file format, like video? Is sharing daily a good way to be a part of the conversation, or is it better to sit back and insert yourself less often?
3) Social Communities: Most communities contain influencers (or, on a bad day, key detractors). Take a look at who’s saying what and, just as important, what tone and communication style they use.
4) Social Conversations: Study the channel to find the sort of content is typically shared among your target community, and see if you can find the commonalities (picture of cats, Friday haiku, etc.).
To get started applying the 4 C’s of Social Media Marketing to your social media marketing strategy, please download our social media marketing how-to e-book.