The 5 Essential Pillars of a Social Media Campaign

The biggest mistake marketing and brand managers make when approaching social media is not thinking of the social web in the same strategic light as everything else they produce.

Social media is no more a one-off playground for brands than television advertising, direct mail campaigns or customer relationship management programs. It’s serious business and should be treated as such.

The following question then becomes relevant: “How do we think about social media strategically?” The good news is that it’s not that difficult, provided your planning team has an understanding of two things and a healthy grounding in another.

The two essential knowledge bases you’ll need are an understanding of the social media tools available (from blogs and social networks to wikis and beyond) and the philosophical foundations to be successful in social media (think share, not sell). The healthy grounding should be in the 5 essential pillars of a social media campaign.

This is the point in the post where most social media marketers would throw out a standard list of five things to guide your social media thinking that generally parallels the marketing mix variables you’re used to. Product, place, price, promotions and public relations can be a starting point. You can even define your product, your target audience, your competition, environmental factors and your metrics or measures of success.

But to take full advantage of your social media efforts and drive buzz, business or both, read on.

Social Media Examiner’s
5 Essential Pillars of a Social Media Campaign:

1. Connectivity

If you aren’t connected to your consumers, and conversely they are not connected to you, then social media success is impossible.

Whether you have customer service chat available on your website, a support forum, commenting enabled on the company blog or even a company presence on Twitter, you must have a connecting point for your customers to find you. Social media is about conversations. Conversations cannot be had if you’re nowhere to be found.

Being connected doesn’t just mean you throw up a form on your website, though. It means you have a person or persons monitoring conversations about your brand online, answering questions, even if the questions weren’t posed directly to them. Connectivity means not just being plugged in, but also being turned on.

2. Generosity

If you’ve read anything about social media on- or offline, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Give to Get.”

Online social media is an almost identical environment to a social gathering offline. People gravitate to individuals, groups or conversations they feel they can get the most out of. By providing something of value to your customers, or potential customers, in your online activities, you earn trust. The more trust you earn, the more influence you’ll have.

Generosity requires a cultural shift, however, in the way most marketers think. You cannot be generous to others if your top priority is selling more stuff. That is selfish.

You have to approach the online consumer with the attitude that you have something of value to provide, free of charge. In exchange for that, you hope to build and strengthen relationships with others. Those relationships, over time, will equal a much higher return on investment than one-off, one-time customers.

3. Honesty

Have you ever heard a politician or professional athlete respond to a reporter’s question with, “No comment?” It appears as if they’re hiding something, doesn’t it?

If what you’re doing in social media is building relationships, you can’t build them without honesty.

If your product is made with a lesser material than your competitor’s, don’t hide it. Either get better material or find a positive reason it’s made that way (e.g., it’s cheaper, thus saves consumers money).

If the company makes a mistake and has to recall a product, simply say, “We made a mistake. We’re very sorry.” As long as you mean it, people will believe you.

And you don’t have to suddenly treat confidential company information with open records policies, either. The public is a lot smarter than you think. When sensitive information is in question, simply say, “I’m sorry. That’s information we don’t talk about outside the company for competitive reasons.” That answer is honest. “No comment?” Not so much.

4. Personality

If you had to boil successful communication in the social media realm down to an essence, it would be to be human. Consumers flocked to social networking sites and blogs to get away from one-way blasted marketing messages hurled at them all day.

By visiting only the websites they want to visit and finding like-minded consumers to share recommendations and conversations with in social networks, the public has created a new environment for communications—one that requires you, even as a company, to be human.

To put it simply, people want to talk to another human being when making buying decisions, discussing products and services and discovering new products and services. You cannot have a conversation with a logo, a building or a company. You have conversations with human beings.

5. Imagination

Social media is much like a social event. But after a while, social events or conversations with the same groups of people become stale and predictable. The conversations that last are those where at least one person always has something new to say, a never-ending stream of stories or jokes.

Approach your planning as if you’re the person who will keep the life in the party. Develop an editorial calendar for website or blog content and brainstorm a contest, promotion or game for customers and fans to engage with on a monthly or quarterly basis. Remember that you’re building relationships, but, like dating or even marriage, you have to be creative to keep the relationship fresh and invigorating.

Your Turn

If you think through the 5 Essential Pillars of a Social Media Campaign, you’ll at least be well on your way to success in social media. But these are meant to be guidelines, not rules. What other topics or areas have you found equally as important to social media success? How are you using your imagination to keep campaigns fresh and alive? Inspire your fellow readers with a comment.

“Photo Credit: ‘Supreme Court Pillars‘ (CC) by David Paul Ohmer on Flickr.”

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About the Author, Jason Falls

Jason Falls is principal of Social Media Explorer, a social media information and education products company based in Louisville, Ky. He is the author of the popular industry blog SocialMediaExplorer.com. Other posts by »




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  • http://humanvoice.wordpress.com tomob

    Jason – I always tell big brands that they have to go where people are and act helpful, human and humble.

    Happy to see all of that above.

    Good Luck

    TO’B

  • http://JoselinMane.com JoselinMane

    Jason,

    Great post! I like the fact that you have included things that have been readily available for some time, just instant chat on websites and support forums and not just social media tools like twitter. Many people neglect some of the proven and established methods of connecting.

    As we briefly spoke about at IMS09 (Inbound Marketing Summit Boston) I am a very big believer in Tweetups. I think hosting local social events that are just that Social vs Commercial is a great way to get instant feedback on new products/services being developed, or just general feedback overall about the brand. It’s also a way to humanize the company/brand.

  • http://JoselinMane.com JoselinMane

    Jason,

    Great post! I like the fact that you have included things that have been readily available for some time, just instant chat on websites and support forums and not just social media tools like twitter. Many people neglect some of the proven and established methods of connecting.

    As we briefly spoke about at IMS09 (Inbound Marketing Summit Boston) I am a very big believer in Tweetups. I think hosting local social events that are just that Social vs Commercial is a great way to get instant feedback on new products/services being developed, or just general feedback overall about the brand. It’s also a way to humanize the company/brand.

  • http://socialmediaiq.co.za Peter du Toit

    Some excellent insights thanks Jason! I would add to the first pillar by saying that you also need to have a good understanding of how your particular audience is behaving online at present, ie what are they ready for, and where are they? This will influence what tools you use. As @tomob says “go where the [your] people are.”

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks Tom. I appreciate your continued loyalty to reading my ideas. Thanks for commenting

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    That’s an excellent point, J. Hosting people in a social setting often times is the best value you can bring to the table. Be a connector, not just a seller. Great idea!

  • http://thejeffbrown.me Jeff Brown

    Nice post Jason. I agree with everything you’ve said here.

    Regarding “You cannot have a conversation with a logo, a building or a company…” I see a lot of companies who choose their logo as their profile pic on Twitter and elsewhere. Personally, I think the best option is an image of the person who administers the account combined with the logo (see: http://twitter.com/wayfm_nashville). When that method is combined with a “handle” that makes sense (the right key words, for example), then you have what I believe to be the most effective presence.

    Would you agree?

  • http://thejeffbrown.me Jeff Brown

    Nice post Jason. I agree with everything you’ve said here.

    Regarding “You cannot have a conversation with a logo, a building or a company…” I see a lot of companies who choose their logo as their profile pic on Twitter and elsewhere. Personally, I think the best option is an image of the person who administers the account combined with the logo (see: http://twitter.com/wayfm_nashville). When that method is combined with a “handle” that makes sense (the right key words, for example), then you have what I believe to be the most effective presence.

    Would you agree?

  • Anonymous

    Jason, I think you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head here. This should serve as a great guide for people entering into social media, and for those already in it, tweaking their existing plans. I know that’s what I’ll be doing!

  • Anonymous

    Jason, I think you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head here. This should serve as a great guide for people entering into social media, and for those already in it, tweaking their existing plans. I know that’s what I’ll be doing!

  • http://twitter.com/LisaLarter Lisa Larter

    Great post Jason, easy to understand – easy to do.

    I think your give first and demonstrate personality are key points.

    It makes me question the masses who are delegating their “face” of social media to be represented by a VA and wonder if they realize how this can impact their personality, likeability and authenticity.

    What are your thoughts on people delegating this stuff?

  • http://twitter.com/LisaLarter Lisa Larter

    Great post Jason, easy to understand – easy to do.

    I think your give first and demonstrate personality are key points.

    It makes me question the masses who are delegating their “face” of social media to be represented by a VA and wonder if they realize how this can impact their personality, likeability and authenticity.

    What are your thoughts on people delegating this stuff?

  • http://twitter.com/marketingfails Paul L’Acosta

    What do you think about being consistent and committed? I think most campaigns nowadays fail because organizers throw something out there hoping it sticks and if it doesn’t, they just give up and shout from the bottom of their lungs “Twitter is a waste of time”. Learning takes time but commitment builds bonds.

    Thanks Jason! Always refreshing to see your content early in the morning.

  • http://twitter.com/marketingfails Paul L’Acosta

    What do you think about being consistent and committed? I think most campaigns nowadays fail because organizers throw something out there hoping it sticks and if it doesn’t, they just give up and shout from the bottom of their lungs “Twitter is a waste of time”. Learning takes time but commitment builds bonds.

    Thanks Jason! Always refreshing to see your content early in the morning.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. This helps in level-setting. It is so easy to get into the weeds and forget what the social networking is about. I especially like the reminder to build relationships and let go of selling.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. This helps in level-setting. It is so easy to get into the weeds and forget what the social networking is about. I especially like the reminder to build relationships and let go of selling.

  • Anonymous

    As someone who just recently has become interested in social media from a business perspective, this is an excellent article to read. Thanks Jason.

  • Anonymous

    As someone who just recently has become interested in social media from a business perspective, this is an excellent article to read. Thanks Jason.

  • http://www.gogvotitanium.com/ Sean

    Good post, which I agree with, apart from using the media on a personal basis I have not done any real professional promoting on it!
    Your article was food for thought, Thank You.

  • http://www.gogvotitanium.com/ Sean

    Good post, which I agree with, apart from using the media on a personal basis I have not done any real professional promoting on it!
    Your article was food for thought, Thank You.

  • http://www.cornfieldconsulting.com/ Chris Turner

    I believe it is highly important to knit social media into all your brand activity, as consistency in your customer’s experience of you has never been more important than it is now. Take the brand values, tone and manner you use in other arenas into social media and you will have an excellent way of multiplying the effects you can achieve elsewhere and engage people in ways that are not possible with ‘one to many’ media. The key to this is being ‘human’, as Jason has said, but not every human is the life and soul of the party. Jack Daniels brand values, for instance, are very different from, say, Ben and Jerry’s, which are different again from a company like NIke. Before engaging deeply in social media, you have to know what kind of person you are.

  • http://thesavvyva.com/ Kathleen

    Hi Michael

    I gave your Twitter tactics a go last night before bed. I scanned news articles related to WordPress, my specialization, and lo and behold!! I’ve been RT’d and #FF’d and followed by some very cool people.

    Thanks very much.

  • http://thesavvyva.com/ Kathleen

    Hi Michael

    I gave your Twitter tactics a go last night before bed. I scanned news articles related to WordPress, my specialization, and lo and behold!! I’ve been RT’d and #FF’d and followed by some very cool people.

    Thanks very much.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com Michael A. Stelzner

    Cool Kathleen!

  • http://twitter.com/richie_p Richard Perry

    Hi, this is a really thoughtful and interesting read, thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/richie_p Richard Perry

    Hi, this is a really thoughtful and interesting read, thank you!

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    Hi Lisa,

    You raise an interesting question – the one of delegating social media tasks.

    I’ve heard Guy Kawaski explain how his “ghost” tweeters help him, and this seems to work for him. Apparently there are situations where a VA can be used effectively: for tweeting useful links for example, if you take care in how you do this.

    I actually thought long and hard about this earlier this year and decided it was not for me. The only VA I have is SocialOomph… to add in a few scheduled tweets :)

  • http://www.salobrenavillas.com Salobrena

    I have heard a lot use your photo a big smiling face etc and not a logo for the business and from the perspective of building relations with clients I see the advantages. However, from a business point of view (a small estate agency with 3 people working here), we have just the one twitter account in the business name as well as profiles on various other web2.0 platforms in the business name. We use a business image as although we do not sell (on social media) the product is attractive luxury villas in the sun, something people aspire to, also although small there is more than one person here – but the main reason why I have been reluctant to brand a “person” is that what happens if you ever want to leave the business, sell it etc. What use is having built up many thousands of followers going to be and having systems in place to keep this community informed. To me it seems doing it in your own name means it is not transferable and reduces the value of the business if you ever decide to move on/retire.

    Great site and content and am in agreement with 99.9%!!

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