The Social System :: A Proven Social Media Program Development System

Our intention is for The Social System to become a social media industry standard that all social professionals can use as a cornerstone to build a successful social media program and strategy, similar to the 4 P’s of marketing. The Social System covers 5 Pillars of Social Media and should be done the first time in steps and then repeated. Each of the 5 Pillars of Social Media work along a continuum and can be each be developed, optimized and advanced no matter how sophisticated or successful an organization’s social program.

Since developing this system, the team at MTO Agency has tested this system with all of our clients and have optimized it until we have the confidence to say, it works. It works if you are a startup, small business or an international corporation. It works if you have one part-time social manager or a sophisticated marketing team and agency. It works with greater success than anything either of us have ever seen. And better than anyone we have used it with has ever seen.

Social Media System

The Social System

This social media program development system is so easy to understand that if you’re a senior social pro, you’ll feel like you already know it. If you are a traditional marketing/communications professional, it will feel like common sense.  And for those brand new to social, it will give you the foundation you need to start your social program off right. Many of us have been doing the steps, just not necessarily in order, or all the time or systematically.

We would like to change that now.

Aimen Barman, CMO of YouCaring (disclosure: YouCaring is a client of [mto]) says

The Social System is brilliant. It has created a clear path for the development of our own in-house social expertise and given our team an approach to social that is strategic, thorough, and executable. I highly recommend this approach to any organization ready to take social seriously.

Introducing The Social System: A Proven Social Media Program Development System

Step 1: Define your Social Identity: Who Are You?

Historically, branding and creative teams defined a company’s Identity, or who they are, by focusing on market positioning, a color palette, a logo, etc. All examples of the Identity necessary for one-way communication. The message goes out and there is no requirement to respond or react either publicly or immediately.

In the social age, traditional brand identities are not enough. They do not provide the robust personality nuances social professionals need to do their jobs.  The age-old marketing question of Who Are You needs to broaden its view for a two-way conversation.  Not just what goes out, but how it goes out and who the brand is when in dialogue with your audience.

Social requires a fluid and engaging persona, a Social Identity, that mirrors the brand’s values and speaks the brand message, with personality.

Identifying your brand’s Social Identity is the first step to take when building a social strategy, program, department or campaign.  It is the first building block, the root from which your entire social program should develop.

Step 2: Define Your Community: Who are you talking to?

This may seem like a no-brainer, but there is a distinct difference between traditional methods for reaching your audience, going to where they are and communicating with them there (banner ads, direct mailers, tv ads, etc.) and what happens on social media – they come TO YOU.

Many clients have felt incredibly overwhelmed by the mystery of to whom they should address their content when it feels like the entire world is watching.  We’ve seen some interesting solutions to this problem:

  • Viewing everyone as their target audience and creating bland and generic content nobody cares to see
  • Alienating their many audiences by focusing on the needs of one
  • Allowing Facebook insights and other demographic data to dictate who they target
  • Creating multiple pages for multiple audiences

Identifying your community needs follows Step 1 (instead of being Step 1) because the reverse is equivalent to the tail wagging the dog.  Even though you can theoretically speak to the whole world, you still need to be clear about who you are first and then define with whom you want to talk.  Feeling pressured to be all things to all people or letting the public decide who you are creates a lot of work with a return of little to no results.

If you’re clear on who you want to talk to – you can make a connection that counts.  If you have many people you want to reach, you can talk to them all.  You just have to make the effort to speak to their needs specifically.

Step 3: Content Strategy: What are you saying?

While Marketers have produced content since the beginning of time, the proliferation and expansion of always-on social media platforms has moved content from a seasonal quarterly advertising campaign to an all day, every day effort. The amount of social channels that need daily content and the voracious appetite of 21st century consumers means content is often created just for the sake of content and lacks any relevance. This is a tremendous waste of resources and results in zero engagement.  We don’t run our advertising campaigns like this and we shouldn’t run our social channels like this either.

The lack of strategy to ensure every piece of content is relevant to your target audiences is where many social programs fail. When social programs don’t convert, the platform is often blamed rather than the content.  It is possible to make every piece of content count, it simply needs to be meaningful.

Creating content based on the organization’s Social Identity and Community needs. Building the content plan this way vs based on guesswork will not only maximize your content, it will be the foundation for social engagement and TRUE community — the best immunization from Facebook’s constant organic reach algorithm changes.

Step 4: Social Marketing & Sales: What are you selling?

Only after you have a strong strategic pipeline of content ready to roll should you even think of creating a social marketing campaign. Yet, this is the place most marketers typically want to start when it comes to social (and one of the biggest reasons we need this system and graphic).

Social marketing campaigns can be brilliant, shiny objects that get the Internet’s attention, however; starting here is like trying to add gas to a car without an engine.

If you haven’t taken Steps 1-3 first, a campaign might spike up but will immediately fall when you don’t have a plan to engage your community the next week, month and years to follow.  We see this all the time.

However, in opposition to this, if social campaigns are layered on after Steps 1-3, a) your campaign will have increased results and b) the newly acquired community members will have meaningful content to keep them educated, engaged and entertained every day moving forward. Now, you are starting to optimize and really see how this systematic approach sets you up, step-by-step to get from A to Z.

Step 5: Social Intelligence: How are you interacting with the social web?

Ok, so this is the area that is completely new with the beginning of social media. The Social IQ of your organization correlates to how well you are able to listen, measure, respond, integrate and actively engage with real-time online conversations including policies, procedures, tactics and tools.

An organization with a high Social IQ knows exactly:

  • What happens when people mention the company (with or without being tagged) or product? How about the names of your executive team? Your competitors? Keywords and phrases?
  • Is every company or product mention responded to? How quickly? Who responds?
  • How does the information get ingested, trafficked, measured and integrated throughout the organization? What happens if the organization is suddenly thrust into a national conversation? What happens in a crisis? What platforms are the most important for the company?
  • Which platforms and technologies should you use? How do you get a following? What are platform best practices? What are the individual channel strategies?
  • What do you measure? How?
  • What tools are best?
  • What do you expect of your employees? What are the policies and procedures? What is the training?

All of these questions are important — they must all be answered, but trying to answer them before doing steps 1-4 will only create more questions. It’s like starting to build a house with the plumbing and electrical work instead of the foundation and framework.

Each organization is unique and the answers to each question need to be crafted specific to the organization’s Social Identity, Community and Content management needs and social marketing Campaign goals.

Ready to take our industry to the next level:

  • Assess where your organization stands along the 5 Pillars of The Social System
  • Share your feedback by tweeting to @mtoagency with #socialsystem
  • Discuss the system with other professionals in social industry groups in which you are a member
  • Forward this page to your boss/client when s/he asks you to start with Steps 3-5 before Steps 1-2.
  • Download the graphic in multiple sizes for free and add it to your presentation decks

Free Graphic Downloads:

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Press:

AdWeek SocialTimes: The Social Strategy: A Five-Step Process For Social Media Marketing Success

Forbes: It’s Time To Standardize Social: Introducing The Social System

 

The Social System – A Social Media Marketing System by [mto] agency is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License based on work by Gretchen Fox and Kyra Reed at http://mtoagency.com.