Four Keys To Social Media Strategy Success

Keys 1

Like a crow drawn to bright, shiny objects, many organizations are drawn to the bells and whistles of new social technologies.

Few think about their goals when using those social technologies. Few create an action plan to achieve an overall objective. Few align the use of those tools with their current plans.

Often organizational leaders need to play with these new tools first to understand how they operate and function. They also need to come to terms with this new world of engagement versus the world of broadcast.

Once they have a grasp of the tools and engagement methods, they may still forget to create a strategy to use those tools effectively and efficiently.

Social Media Tools And The Fifth Estate

Today, most organizations struggle with how to approach the new world of online engagement.

Online networked individuals have created a new type of power, the Fifth Estate or citizen media.

Citizens give voice to their beliefs online. They comment on brands, business, government, organizations, products, programs and services through social media outlets. They like and share their opinions. They hold other social orders accountable.

For years, news media, the Fourth Estate, was the watchdog of power. Organizations became skilled at engaging the Fourth Estate. They hired PR pros, wrote press releases and contacted reporters.

Now that power has shifted to individuals. Organizations struggle with what to do. They are not usually equipped, nor are they skilled, at engaging others on a daily basis.

Four Categories For Social Media Strategies

In his book, Welcome To The Fifth Estate, Geoff Livingston identifies four primary types of social media strategies that organizations use online.

1. Participation

This foundational strategy is the precursor to success with the other three areas. Without it, the other areas will stumble.

Participation at is basic level is about listening and responding. It is about having conversations with communities of interest. The purpose is to build trust, develop relationships and interact. It’s about being there before the sale.

The challenge many organizations face is who should do this? Brand or real person? Is it a community or social media manager? Or is it a team of individuals?

2.  Service

Serving your online community with applications, content and data. A conversational tone, not a message format works best. Listening first, identifying the audience, participating with others and building networks make success more likely.

3. Top-Down

Building relationships with trusted, respected community influencers. Then make a relevant offer to those influencers seeking blog coverage or endorsements. The goal is that the community that follows that influencer will follow suit.

4. Empowerment

The toughest of all the strategies, organizations commit to being a host or facilitator of a widely-distributed online community. The organization facilitates conversations and helps sustain the effort.

Crowdsourcing is one common example of the empowerment strategy.

Choose As Needed

Depending upon the organization’s capacity and plans, more than one of these strategies can be used at any time. As Livingston says, “PRN.” Do as needed.

Which social media strategy works best for your organization? Why do so many organization leaders fear the fourth strategy, empowerment?

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  1. Empowerment is risky because it is up to the consumer to participate and what if they don’t? Sustaining it can be a lot of work until an audience forms. I love the top down influencer strategy, very interesting.
    Always enjoy your posts

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  3. Dave says:

    “participating with others and building networks make success more likely.” This good advice, in my opinion.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      I agree that empowerment can take time. It takes people who understand community management and are willing to be facilitators of conversations. I also think it is the most valuable once it begins to organizally organically grow.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Always appreciate it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Thanks for writing up the four strategies, Jeff. Jody is right, empowerment is the most difficult strategy and more often than not requires a pre-existing community. You really need to have an excited community and a company/nonprofit that’s in tune with that community to make it work. It’s fourth for a reason! Lots of work.

    Best wishes,


    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks for commenting and for writing such great stuff! I’m looking forward to the book.

      I’m with you and Jody that the empowerment and #4 strategy is the most time consuming.

  5. Dan Golf says:

    The advice to participate with others and build networks is good. Building trust is so very important.

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