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Social Media Mapping: Discipline, Please

While social media dominates the conversation among marketing executives, most companies are very slow to adopt it. The unrestrained nature of the medium makes a lot of executives nervous. The fact is that social media is a global phenomenon because it has penetrated our daily lives faster than any other mechanism in history.

Four out of five U.S. online adults now participate in social media. Social networking penetration climbed from 58% of Internet users in 2008 to 86% in 2009 and 80% of female Internet users said they had become a fan of a product or brand on a social network.

Given these surprising adoption statistics, I'm perplexed about the lack of investment, trials and cases proving social media ROI. It's time we brought social media more credibility. Like every other medium, there needs to discipline around the strategy, technology, process and measurement of social media.

Of course, there are companies that are testing social media strategies, but it seems like everyone is throwing anything and everything at the wall to see what sticks. People are tweeting from conferences and events, ads are populating Facebook and YouTube and spam is sloshing around forums and chat rooms like beer at a tweet-up.



Anyone with a Twitter handle gets instant credibility. It's time we increased the discipline and strategic planning around social media and give it the same respect we do every other marketing channel.

Companies should utilize traditional strategic mapping and channel mix analysis with their social media programs in the same way they apply these discipline to other channels. Discipline forces consideration of return-on-investment and leads to better integration with the other channels. This "Social Media Mapping" will result in better results, which will fuel further investment in this underserved medium.

Here are six points to help you map a more effective social media marketing experience:

  • Always start with your legal team to review your corporate non-compete and IP policies. They can help with trademark and domain questions that often arise. You want this team involved early to help inspire marketing programs that follow FTC guidelines and your own policies.
  • Focus on your primary marketing objective, including strategy, tactics and measurement for any social program. Apply these disciplines and I guarantee it will shape your program with intelligent rigor.
  • Lay a positive foundation by providing social media guidelines for your employees. In the absence of leadership, your employees will make up their own rules. Get in front of it and guide their participation (especially if you plan on launching a social media marketing program).
  • Monitor other social media sites that are relevant to your business. There are great tools to follow company names and keywords to help you stay in front of opportunities.
  • Develop a crisis strategy in advance and anticipate eventualities and how you will respond. Time is of the essence in social media and your response time will determine your ability to successfully participate in the conversation.
  • Build measurement tools into links so you capture the data that will determine success or failure. There are powerful link strategies that allow you to gather data beyond "follows" and "friends."

By applying these traditional marketing disciplines to social media, we'll bring more credibility, accountability and innovation to marketing.

3 comments about "Social Media Mapping: Discipline, Please ".
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  1. Anne Mai Bertelsen from MAi Strategies, February 19, 2010 at 8:36 a.m.

    Hi, Dan --

    Great piece although not sure I would put legal first. And, I would include thinking about the target audience and where they like to congregate.

  2. Dan O'brien from Vivid Ascent, February 19, 2010 at 4:40 p.m.

    Thanks for your comment Anne. I know it seems counter-intuitive to lead with legal, but a lot of people fall prey to social anonymity syndrome. This is where people act less responsibly in social media because they think they're anonymous. They might reveal confidential information about the company they work for - or post a rude comment...things they would never do if they knew they could be identified. That's why people need to be reminded about corporate confidentiality agreements and ethics/integrity policies. You don't want to create a social media policy that encourages the flow of proprietary information outside your company!

    Good point about identifying where your audience likes to congregate. Targeting is one of the best aspects of social media!

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Suzi Craig from Fathom, February 23, 2010 at 6:27 p.m.

    I know for a fact that companies are putting structure and support around their social media strategies (Fathom clients included), so I agree that the lack of highly publicized and thoroughly vetted case studies is perplexing.

    However, I HIGHLY disagree that you need to apply traditional processes "in the same way" they apply them to other channels for social media strategies. A traditional process has a linear start to finish with all the answers provided from inside the organization and no room for being nimble.

    Your bullet points, I believe, are valuable but are missing the critical piece that happens before the lawyers get involved: who in the organization owns it, and what does the support team look like at launch and when the activities grow or change. Social media is face-to-face or should be and that means you need to know which faces on your team will engage in conversation and who on your crew will be support.

    As a recent judge for the "B2B Twitterer of the Year" contest (, I got the inside scoop on how some big corporate suits like AmEx (a runner up) are approaching social media. Primarily, I was impressed. They approach their strategies with thought and careful consideration of how to support their engagement activities on a daily basis. And they are tracking everything.

    Social media is about flipping the ROI equation on its head. It's not "invest $50,000 in this campaign so that it results in XXX revenue before we move on to the next thing." It's "invest XXX hours of time engaging with fans so that we achieve x, y and z AND we open up the dialogue with our community so that we can infuse that learning back into future decisions."

    There is nothing traditional about it. We are wrangling a wild, untamed beast. If you try to use a two-seater plane and some rope, you'll lose and the beast will always get the helpless girl in the white dress.

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