You Don’t Need a Twitter Strategy, You Need a Marketing Strategy | Social Channel Strategy & The 4 C’s

Social channel strategy should generally map back to a larger marketing strategy.

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 social media monitoring. 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 monitoring and marketing 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.

For more on how to set a social channel strategy within the context of an integrated social marketing campaign, download our social media how-to guide

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.


Social Conversations are the New Target Message | The 2nd C of Social Media Marketing

Social conversations are organic and inclusive.  They can be introduced, but cannot be controlled.

Social Conversations Drive Word-of-Mouth Marketing

I worked at a well-known user-generated T-shirt company for a long time.  While it sounds incredible today, 10 years ago arguably the lowest barrier to entry to online first-person social commentary was to make a statement by throwing it on a T-shirt.  T-shirts were the pre-social-media online status updates for early internet community members, and we digerati bore them proudly.

This was a time before social media existed as a concept, let alone a marketing channel (blogging was the new buzz in tech in 2003), but the T-shirts always let me know what was a-buzzin’ on the internet.  Those of you who have been online for awhile might remember viral hits like The Flying Spaghetti MonsterJibJab, and – one of my favorites- We Love the Iraqi Information Minister (dot com).

These groovy internet sensations started social conversations.  They were shared, person-to-person, primarily via email and IM, and the really hot ones sold incredible numbers of T-shirts.  I called this “hit business” at the time, but at its core those concepts that arrested the attention of people online to the point that they were emailing it around and purchasing T-shirts to be in on the joke are great examples of how an idea becomes word-of-mouth marketing: those concepts were participating in relevant social conversations in an appealing way that kept larger community considerations in mind.

A Meme Creates Social Conversations

Creating social conversations is about creating a meme: an idea that spreads from person to person.  In the magical land of the internet, cats are the unofficial rulers of the meme kingdom (Grumpy Cat, Keyboard Cat, various other cats), but there are other ways to start word-of-mouth marketing that don’t involve a feline.

We marketers call this sort of viral sharing buzz, word-of-mouth or viral marketing, but the idea of person-to-person sharing of branded content is hardly new.  Advertisers have been trying to spark real-world buzz since the advent of advertising, with a small handful of recognizable campaigns (“Where’s the Beef?”) making their way to public consciousness.

Spreading content by word of mouth depends entirely on engagement, and engaging people in social conversations starts and ends with social listening


As driving word-of-mouth marketing is the only goal of a social media marketing program, sparking social conversations within your target social community is the only goal of placing content on a social media channel.

You, the social media marketer, are the catalyst for your content.   So how do you craft content that your community is going to feel inspired to share?

Engaging Social Conversations are Helpful, Fun or Otherwise Valuable

They call it earned media for a reason: you can’t pay for it, but you do have to work for it.  Earned media is earned, and in order to earn it from your community, you have to think about their wants and needs.  When crafting your target message, remember that your content must demonstrate three things in order to become a topic of social conversations:

  • Relevance – Make sure that you’re considering the interests of your community first, not your own.  (Don’t try to sell anything.)
  • Appeal – Be sure to engage your community members by giving them something great to share with their overlapping communities.  (Don’t try to sell anything.)
  • Consideration – Community is about mutual give and take.  Give first.  (Don’t try to sell anything.)


Did I mention that you shouldn’t try to sell anything?

A great example of an organization using social media in a relevant, considerate way – and not trying to sell anything – is the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, who created an app to help you choose the right car seat.  Knowing that the parents of young children are a great target community for them, the hospital identified a major pain point in the car seat selection process.  As a parent who spent countless hours doing exactly this research, I can say with authority that an app that takes into account your criteria for a car seat and spits out an actual brand and model number is extremely useful, and had I found that app while doing my own painstaking research, I’d definitely have warm and fuzzy feelings towards the fine folks who made that project easier for me.

Social Conversations ROI Depends on Social Networks, not Social Media

Social media makes it easy to share content with large groups of people; a click takes far less effort than a phone call or a walk to the water cooler.  The power of social media lies in the social networks of your target community members; the power of your content lies in its potential to start a social conversations among the community.  Once people become influencers or advocates on behalf of your brand, they are giving a personal endorsement to their community members, and those members are inclined to pay attention to one of their own.  This is how word-of-mouth marketing starts.

So, when you craft your target message to spark active social conversations, be helpful.  Or be funny, or understanding, or be all of those things.  When you’re looking to engage with people, the best guideline of all is simply to remember to be yourself.

Speaking of which, I should really dig out my Wolf Moon T-shirt.  (For those of you who don’t remember this meme, just read the reviews.) That one’s started a lot of interesting social conversations in the most unlikely of places.  Yes, you can expand your social circle with a T-shirt.  Take it from me.





2013 NBA Playoffs Infographic | Social Listening for Crowd Buzz

Social Listening for the Big Three

Social listening for the chatter around the 2013 NBA playoffs was done with social listening software Meltwater Buzz.

Having a social listening tool is good times ’round these parts.  Some in-house basketball fans decided to do some social monitoring around the NBA finals buzz, tracking the social chatter around the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.  Game 1 of the Finals starts tomorrow night, and we’ve put together your retroactive ticket to the inside scoop with social data from Meltwater Buzz.  Some highlights that came through our social listening are below.

1.  Women were 33% of the total buzz.

2. The the three top players from Miami (“The Big Three”) were talked about 2X more than their Texas counterparts, and the Spurs were out-chattered by 6X.

3.  Florida is chattier than Texas.  Talk amongst yourselves.

4.  If you don’t know what “flopping” is (not being part of the aforementioned 33% of chatter, this blogger didn’t), you do now: “flopping” can best be described as theatrically falling down to draw a foul, and it became a big issue in the playoffs due to its frequency.  Lebron James made a controversial statement that flopping is a natural part of the game, so this blogger will guess that the finals will be peppered by overly tall men flailing about dramatically on the floor.

4.  Miami’s Chris Bosh drew the most social criticism due to being an all-star by title and not by playoff performance.  Will he redeem himself in the finals?  We shall see… or, we shall hear when we do a little social listening again.

Social listening was done with our flagship social media marketing software, Meltwater Buzz.