Die Abhängigkeit von Social Media Plattformen macht Verleger irrelevant

The following post is about the dependency of publishers on social media platforms in German, because it picks up on a post at Wired Germany.

In seiner letzten Kolumne für Wired Deutschland hat Johnny Häusler Zeitungsverlegern empfohlen die eigene Webseite abzuschalten und einfach dahin gehen wo die Leser sind.

Im Moment gibt es zwar noch ein paar (ältere) Leser, die täglich eine URL eintippen und die Startseite eines News-Portals oder Magazins nach den für sie interessanten Nachrichten, Fotostrecken oder Videoberichten durchsuchen. Doch die Zeiten, in denen Menschen dorthin gehen, wo die News sind, sind längst vorbei. Weshalb die Nachrichten dorthin gehen müssen, wo die Menschen sind.

Ich habe auf Twitter widersprochen, wir hatte eine nette Unterhaltung und einige andere haben sich mit in die Diskussion eingeschaltet.

Journalistische Relevanz sollte nicht anhand der Zahl der Klicks gemessen werden. Daher ist es umso zweifelhafter wenn Beispiele wie Snapchat Discovery als gute Möglichkeiten angebracht werden, um für Verlage neue Zielgruppen zu erschließen. Genau wie für Facebook, sind Verlage für Snapchat nichts anderes als Produzenten des Contents, den ihre Nutzer auf ihrer Plattform sehen werden. Die Produzenten bekommen ein immenses Regularium vorgelegt, nachdem sie ihren Content produzieren sollen. In einigen Fällen mischt sich Snapchats Editorial Team (denkt mal darüber nach warum sie eins haben und weiter aufbauen) sogar in die Produktion des Contents für die eigene Plattform ein. Das ist, laut dem WSJ, auch der Grund, warum sich Buzzfeed trotz vorheriger Ankündigung gegen eine Beteiligung an dem neuen Programm entschieden hat. Im Gegenzug dürfen Verleger den Distributionskanal – in dem Fall Snapchat – nutzen.

Jeder gegen Jeden: Nutzungszeit

Für Snapchat, geht es um die Steigerung ihrer Relevanz durch Erhöhung von Nutzungszeiten ihrer App. Höhere Nutzungszeiten bedeutet zwangsläufig, dass ihre Nutzer andere Apps oder mobile Webseiten nicht nutzen. Im digitalen Zeitalter, jedoch vor allem auf Smartphones, geht es nicht um die Konkurrenz im gleichen Marktsegment. Alle konkurrieren gegen einander um die Zeit, die der Nutzer mit seinem Telefon verbringt. Snapchats größter Konkurrent in der Hinsicht ist Facebook und die von Facebook gekauften Whatsapp und Instagram.

Die Erhöhung der Nutzungszeit ist allerdings kein Selbstzweck sondern eine Metrik, mit der Snapchat von Werbetreibenden höhere Erträge generieren kann. Während Snapchat Discovery zunächst primär Partner aus der Medien und Verlagsindustrie hat, um sowohl die Verhaltensmuster zu testen als auch um lukrative Inhalte zu haben, sollen in Zukunft natürlich auf der gleichen Ebene auch Inhalte von klassischen Werbetreibenden erscheinen.

Aus Sicht der Nutzer von Snapchat ist das ein Mehrwert. Doch diesen Mehrwert verbinden diese Nutzer vor allem mit Snapchat, nicht mit den Produzenten von Inhalten. Der Inhalt wird dort konsumiert, wo der Nutzer ist. Die Plattform ist noch sehr jung, signifikante Auswertungen wird es noch nicht geben. Meine Vermutung ist: die meisten Nutzer werden sich nicht daran sehr lange daran erinnern können, wer der Absender des Inhaltes war, den sie womöglich gemocht haben. Sie werden sich vor allem daran erinnern, dass sie diesen auf Snapchat Discovery gesehen haben.

Ähnliche Methodiken wendet Facebook an. Darüber habe ich in der Vergangenheit bereits geschrieben.

Verlegen ist mehr als Inhalte produzieren

Beide Unternehmen versuchen das Ökosystem (Bought-, Owned-, Earned-Media) aufzulösen. Die Owned-Media – für ein Medienhaus: TV, Zeitung, Webseite – sollen immer mehr in die Kontrolle der US-Plattformen abwandern. Facebook hat es bereits geschafft die Abhängigkeit der Medienhäuser von ihnen fast unzerstörbar zu machen, indem sie der mit Abstand größte Treiber für Referrer-Traffic geworden sind. Jetzt wollen sie die Nutzer nicht mehr irgendwohin schicken, sondern sie immer mehr auf der eigenen Plattform behalten. Aus Gründen, die ich weiter oben bereits beleuchtet habe.

Was bedeutet das für Verlage? Vor allem die mit journalistischen Ambitionen? Die Marginalisierung ihrer Relevanz. Für Journalismus hat auch vor dem Internet niemand bezahlt. Die Profitabilität von Verlagshäusern beruhte auf ihrer Kontrolle von Produktionsinstrumenten (Druckereien) und den Distributionswegen. Beides ist durch das Internet marginalisiert worden. Russell Davies, einer der Mitbegründer vom Newspaper Club, sagte:

We Have Broken Your Businesses, Now We Want Your Machines

Plattformen wie Snapchat und Facebook wollen nicht die Druckerpressen sondern die Leser und je mehr sich Verlagshäuser auf die Beschaffung der Leserschaft einzig und alleine aus dem Traffic / Metriken, den diese Plattformen ihnen zu Verfügung stellen verlassen, desto schneller werden sie das letzte verlieren was sie derzeit noch haben: die Bedeutung ihrer Marken und die Autorität die einen Content-Produzenten von einem Verleger unterscheidet.

What we read this week (16 November)

This week we learned about Facebook losing prominent clients, how the future might not be as bad as most promise, how McKinsey is teaching it clients gathering intelligence from social media and Dustin Curtis’ take on why you should always pick the best possible product.

Quote of the week

When you fail, you want to preach to the world too – because you’re saving somebody that same mistake.

Tim O’Reilly

Articles of the week

  • readwrite: Mark Cuban is taking his money away from facebook
    Dallas Mavericks owner and private billionaire Mark Cuban is not amused. After voicing heavy discontent with facebook’s recent page-changes (asking money in order to reach your own fans) he now openly discussed relocating to Tumblr or the relaunching Myspace as main hub.
  • Forbes: Don’t worry about the future
    Authors Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler explain why we should not really be worried, no matter what the headlines are. They identify four main drivers that let you forget all the noise around you for one second.
  • McKinsey Quarterly: Intel inside
    McKinsey is starting to comprehend the use of social media besides sales promotion. In the current Quarterly they provide a framework of sorts for a different kind of social media utilisation: Gathering intelligence with live-testing, crowd intelligence and new influencers. (Free signup required)
  • AllThingsD: Google launches alternative reality Android game
    One of those few times you will wish you would have an Android device instead of that iPhone of yours.
  • Dustin Curtis: Rolling with the best
    “The fundamental problem is that many products are created to be sold, not used.” We agree.

Week 106

In this “classic” week note, Johannes looks back on recent travels and projects.

One thing I’ve learned through the last two years is that with a consultancy of our size, there will never be any normalcy. Everything goes in rhythms and phases. The last weeks have been dominated by finishing up a lot of projects, which had me traveling all over.

Traveling to Vienna & Singen

I visited Vienna for the third and final meeting of our project with MenOnTheMoon. By now, I’m an expert in rushing through the new terminal of Vienna airport, which is shiny but neither easy to navigate nor very comfortable. Still, Vienna beats most other airports by offering free wifi everywhere. And the collaboration with the Ars Electronica Futurelab makes for some beautiful media art installations.

For another final meeting of a project, I had to travel to the very south of Germany once more. Singen is close to the Bodensee and the Swiss border and takes about 5 hours by train from Frankfurt to get there. Well, if it goes according to plan. Unfortunately, Deutsche Bahn seemed to have a bad week and I got the full program of possible train fails available. Delays, cancellations, missed connections and all of that in just two days. But ever since I’ve made train journeys in other countries, I realized that the German train system is pretty great overall. I still prefer taking the train to flying as I have much more uninterrupted time to read and think. And I do miss my BahnCard100 (a flat-rate card which allows one to take any train at any time) very much.

Social media for b2b

Both projects evolved around our social media strategy framework. It was especially interesting to apply it to a b2b context for the first time. What we realized is that with b2b, you have to think even more integrated. A sandboxed approach makes no sense in this context as most b2b clients are not interested in a special social media approach but are happy to use social media features when provided in a bigger context.
We’re already onto our next b2b client to apply everything we’ve learned so far. It’s our typical way of progressing.

Having finished up most projects, we are now able to look at new inquiries for November and December. So if you’re interested in working with us and have something that we might be able to help you with, let us know.

I will be in London from Friday to Monday. If you would like to meet up, send me a message. Talk to you soon.

What we read this week (27 Apr)

The Internet Fridge Factor, GPS’s clever sibling, what real user-focused design looks like, spotting the future and what influence social media and new technology have on the way we interact socially.

Quotes of the week

Change is the only certainty, today is the slowest rate of change we will ever experience, and those who are most responsive to change stand the greatest chance of survival.

Jonathan MacDonald

Smart cities will be places that foster creativity, where citizens are generators of ideas, services and solutions, rather than subservient and passive recipients of them.

Usman Haque

Articles of the week

  • The Atlantic: Social Media’s Small, Positive Role in Human Relationships
    There is an interesting, heated discussion taking place on how technology influences the way we interact with other people. Sherry Turkle, on the one hand, believes that we’re increasingly sacrificing true, deep social interaction for superficiality as a result of new technologies. David Banks counters this stance, demonstrating point by point the flaws he sees in Turkle’s argumentation. This article, by Zeynep Tufekci, makes an excellent case for the benefits of social media.
  • Wired: How to Spot the Future
    The future is fickle, and hard to predict. Yet there are some patterns that can help us figure out trends early on. All it takes is the effort to look, and these seven guidelines by Wired magazine’s executive editor Thomas Goetz. Hint: If you want to spot the next big thing, look for those ideas/companies/people who fit not just one, but several of these characteristics.
  • Co.Design: The Apple Way: How The Second-Gen Nest Thermostat Evolves To Help Users
    The Nest thermostat’s “small, thoughtful improvements that help users” make it an exemplary piece of product design. The designers went out of their way to make the Nest friendlier to use, even inventing a new type of screw (and matching screwdriver) that would allow it to be fixed easily to drywall. Here we see what it means for a company to have its users’ best interests at heart, and how this attitude is the best kind of marketing there is.
  • ExtremeTech: Think GPS is cool? IPS will blow your mind.
    You have probably never heard of IPS before. Think of it as the much more precise brother of GPS. And it will have as many – if not more – implications. IPS, or Indoor Positioning System, would let you know not just where a shopping center is, for instance, but where the shops inside it are. This article sketches out some thoughts on how IPS might be applied in interesting ways.
  • Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino: The Internet Fridge Factor
    In this blogpost, Alexandra discusses product ideas – such as jetpacks and internet fridges – that catch on to an extent in people’s minds, but don’t quite make it to properly useful implementation. See the slideshow at the bottom of the article to find out more about the Internet Fridge Factor’s relevance in terms of the Internet of Things.

Social Media Strategy: Internal Organization

How to implement the social media strategy in your organization. This is part of our series about our social media strategy framework.

Why social media strategies fail

There are numerous reasons why a social media strategy might fail. It could have started without any clear goals. It could have chosen the wrong platforms. It may have missed the right tonality. And many more.
But when I look at most of the social media efforts out there that have stumbled in one way or another, the source of the problem almost always comes down to an internal failure in the organization.
I’ve seen companies with the best intentions, which had solid social media strategies fail because of internal politics and unclear processes and structures.

This is the main reason why our social media strategy work with our clients has been shifting constantly into business consulting territory, away from just communications in marketing and PR. All we have learned over the recent years suggests that for social media to be successful for a company in the long term, it has to be deeply integrated in the company’s structures. This takes time and effort, and helping to build these structures takes both a different skill set and a different mandate than the average agency out there might have.

Here are some of the most common hurdles that stand in the way of a social media strategy’s success, and how to overcome them.

Working with internal politics

In my experience, there is no greater threat to the long-term success of social media strategies than the internal politics of a company.

Everything we talked about in this social media strategy framework can be worked out perfectly well. But when it comes to the questions of budgets and positions, the questions of “who owns this?” and finally “who will get more power?”, everything might go up in smoke. Because in the end, all the business objectives and metrics usually take a back seat to the individual interests of the different stakeholders involved. This is deeply engrained in the incentive structures of many large organizations.

As an consultancy, we try to plan for that by first getting to know as much as possible about the internal politics right from the start and then to work them into our strategy, making sure that each stakeholder gets their fair share as long as that doesn’t get in the way of the overall goals. But we also let the client know that this will only work to a certain extent and that they have to put their personal interests behind a common interest if they want their social media strategy to work.

Internal politics are difficult for every business strategy. But social media is still in its infancy and often misunderstood, so getting the buy-in from everyone is tough. It takes a certain amount of vision to grasp the role of social media in the future and that it’s worth putting the whole company’s interests first for this.

Our recommendation for companies working on their social media strategy is to put the politics on the table from the start. The longer they are ignored in the process, the more likely it is that the strategy will backfire in the end.

Fighting silo thinking

Social media has this strange capability to display the internal structure and politics to the outside world. If a company is thinking as one, everybody working together, it will show. But it will also show when a company is riven and torn apart by individual politics of each department: just as social media can amplify your brand message, it also amplifies the visibility of your internal problems1.

Your structure is showing.

Each product manager creating their own Facebook page with content that oftentimes overlaps. Marketing and PR departments fighting for the lead on the social web. Customer service talking to people complaining on the social web, not realizing how that might reflect on the brand. Crowdsourcing contests that obviously haven’t been worked out with the product development team and where the results will never get where they need to go.

The problem with all of this is that it confuses the customer and reflects badly on the brand. Typical examples of this?

  • A customer wants to know more about a brand, and instead she finds four different Facebook pages that all have kind of the same content.
  • Different Twitter accounts give different information about a product detail.
  • A service question on a campaign page doesn’t get answered.

Organizing for social media

The key task in this part of implementing the social media strategy is to create an internal structure that can bring all the involved departments and stakeholders – and that can mean most of the company’s teams – together to speak with one voice on the social web2. It means to find a way to coordinate all the different social media engagements of a company to work with each other.

What this structure could look like is highly individual for every company. But there are a few best practices that can be a starting point.

The Social Media Committee

Social media must not be owned by one department!

To really push the point: social media has to be a joined effort. It must not be owned by one department! This will clash with the usual hierarchical structure of most traditional companies. So we have to find a way to get interdepartmental cooperation, usually with a project group or committee that each department sends a participant to. This committee will steer the social media effort of the whole company. It will help coordinate and synchronize all individual engagements and make sure that the company speaks with one voice.

This committee is responsible for creating, implementing and iterating the social media strategy of the company. The more each participant buys into a shared vision of the company’s social media engagement, the better it will work.

The Social Media Manager

The social media committee appoints a social media manager. Her role is to be the internal expert and manager for everything social media. She knows about all the individual social media efforts and works with each department to help with knowledge and insight. She’s not the one creating content for Facebook pages, etc. But if a department needs some help with that, she will find someone.

This person should be someone who is well connected inside the company and can handle the internal politics properly. Each department might appoint its own social media manager. The company’s social media manager will lead those and coordinate between them.

The Community Manager

While the social media manager is focused inwards, the community manager is the connection to the outside, the communities on the social web3. She deals daily with the communities, the fans, the followers, the customers. She knows who they are, how they think, what makes them happy, what makes them angry etc. She gains tremendous insight about the communities over time and plays a vital role in any social media effort by the company.

She is the direct line between the company and the communities. The communities, in turn, see her as the human face of the company. If they have a problem, a wish, a request, they talk to her. They trust her to have their best interests in mind and to represent them inside the company.
For the company, she’s the spokesperson of the communities. She should be part of every meeting where inside-knowledge about them is needed. She will say things like “No, the community will hate that.” She’s also the direct channel of the company into the communities if there are questions to ask them, or if the company wants to collaborate with the communities.

Depending on the size of the company and other factors, a company can have one or more community managers that can be organized as an individual team or can be connected to different departments or projects.

Collaborating with vendors

Outsource as little as possible!

We strongly believe that a company should keep its social media efforts internal to the extent possible, and only outsource when absolutely necessary.

First off, customers want to talk to the company directly on the social web. That’s the big advantage of the social web: a direct channel into the company. If the company puts an intermediary between itself and the customers, they feel like the company is not really interested in the conversation with them. If this is really the case, it will show.

But the bigger issue is that the ongoing conversation with the customers on the social web creates communities that are based on the company’s relationship with its customers. This relationship is of tremendous value for the company. It delivers insights and feedback from the customers and provides a continuous line of communication directly to the most engaged fans of the brand. Does a brand really want to outsource this relationship to an agency or a vendor? And what happens when the contract expires or the company wants to change the agency? The relationship to the communities and all the knowledge gained about them will be gone with the agency, or the company will be bound to the agency for a long time.
No, this knowledge and this relationship have to be deep-seated inside the company, as they will gain more and more influence on the decision-making process, and will become a long-term investment that has to be cultivated and protected.

The role of agencies and vendors is to give advice and help execute the tactical measures of the social media strategy like campaigns and design. They can provide the technology and the tools to help the company with analytics and managing the conversation. But they shouldn’t be the keyholders to the community.

Company culture

As this series about our social media strategy framework has shown, we see social media strategy as the gateway to the future of a company. Social media has this amazing power to put on display how ready a company is to move into a future marketplace that is very different from the one we can already see changing now.

All of the factors described in this article that influence the implementation of a company’s social media strategy are part of that company’s culture. The structure, the politics, the collaboration between departments, the interest in the customer, and many more. In relation to social media, these can give a company a pretty good idea of where it stands. Is it embracing the opportunities of the social web to get much closer to its customers, or does it feel driven by the changing world of markets and communications? Where between these two poles does it stand?

This is why we see the development of a social media strategy as a long-term process, something that changes the company over time. First come internal changes, before moving on to engaging in external conversations. Depending on the company culture, results can show more quickly, or take a bit longer.

And you know what, it’s okay to take a bit longer. We really don’t expect companies to change overnight, particularly because of something that still seems to be very fuzzy and prone to change in the future. We’re still at the beginning of how social media will really change communications, and from there on out, the whole company. Right now, the only way to catch a clearer glimpse of that future is to take a leap of faith.

Taking journeys with companies towards a more social future is at the heart of what we enjoy working on at Third Wave. It has its risks and it takes time, but we truly believe that social media can be a catalyst for more humane companies. And if you’re interested in that journey, we would like to help. Let’s have coffee.


  1. I remember pitch situations where I was able to predict not only the internal structure of a company but also who was working with whom and who did their own thing without talking to anyone else just by mapping out everything the company did on the social web. 

  2. One voice in this case doesn’t mean that it only has to be one person speaking, or that communication has to sound as if it’s all coming from one person. But it should mean that different people don’t contradict each other and that all the activities are coordinated. 

  3. Communities here are understood as all the fans, followers, customers or any other people who are somehow connected to a company on the social web. The people who have liked the company’s Facebook page are a community. As are the followers of a Twitter account, for example. 

Teaming up with VCCP again. Looking for Social Media Trainees.

We are teaming up with VCCP again to look for two more trainees in the Social Media sphere.

Our collaboration with VCCP was a full success. We searched for a young candidate and trained her in the social media ways while she gained practical experience working alongside the teams at VCCP. It was an experiment, and as it turned out, one that led us to a successful new way of social media apprenticeship. Ergo, it was an easy decision to continue this collaboration between VCCP and Third Wave.

This time, we are looking for two people who want to learn about social media & community management while contributing to the young, agile and dedicated teams at VCCP and here at Third Wave.

Check out the job description and requirements and if you feel like this could be something that you are interested in and you speak German and English fluently , let us know! We would love to hear from you.

Social Media Strategy: Analysis

How to measure performance and effect of a social media strategy to constantly improve it. This is part of our series about our social media strategy framework.

Measuring Success

You can only improve what you measure.

We like to work from data. To know if you’re successful, you should try to measure your activities against pre-defined metrics that match your goals. So let’s talk a bit about analytics & measurement.

Iterative Strategy Development

Digital communications are complex. So your strategies, actions, tools and campaigns should be permanently tested, analyzed and adapted.

The traditional model was to work from one big strategy through a test with a consumer focus group, and after some little adjustments to launch a big campaign. You’d measure the results and then start over. It’s a powerful process, but a slow, sluggish one. If it fails, it fails big. Chances are, it will.

Instead, we recommend working from more and smaller ideas. “Little Strategy”, David Armano calls it. You take this little strategy into an iterative cycle of planning, launch, constant measuring. The insights you generate along the way help you adjust while you keep going. It’s much more agile, in the sense that software developers use the word. You get to results faster, and if you fail it won’t hurt but rather strengthen you. At the core of this is constant analysis.

A scenario of future communications planning

We think that marketing managers will work much more like stock brokers in the future.

Instead of one big campaign that gets all the resources, they will have somewhere between 10 and 100 little initiatives going simultaneously, all with only a little budget behind them. Powerful analytics tools will help the manager to make real-time decisions about each initiative. Which one is performing well? Which one could do better with a little bit more energy behind it? Which one is clearly failing and can be canceled? Most of the budget will be in a big pool that the manager can draw from for individual initives that perform well. We think that this is most probably the only way to work the uber complex network of niche interests and nuanced target-groups. It’s almost impossible to predict the outcome of a big campaign so we have to change our approach to a thousand fires of small commmunications, investments and ideas.

Monitoring, Analytics, Reporting

When we say “analysis”, we use it as an umbrella term that spans monitoring, analytics and reporting.

Monitoring helps you listen outside your owned platforms.

Monitoring tools help you analyse the public conversations on Social Media platforms. Monitoring gives you a glimpse into your customers their sentiment towards your brand and products, their interests and needs. These tools are available from a wide variety of vendors, and you need to test which one fits your needs best.

Analytics help you listen on your owned platforms.

Analytics are strong in Social Media, and easily accessible. More than in most other other communication channels, engagement can be measured well here. Many platforms offer detailed measurements and analytics around users’ engagement with your content.

Reports help you make sense of what you’ve heard.

Reporting the results of Monitoring and Analytics is the basis on which to develop true insights, which will help you adapt and optimize your strategies.

Let’s expand on these a bit more.

Monitoring

Successful monitoring requires two things:

  • Clearly defined questions: To get to useful insights, you need to know what you want to know.
  • Establish processes: In order to make most out of the insights your monitoring generates, you need processes that make sure that these insights get to the right people and places, and can be implemented.

To give you a better feeling for monitoring, typical approaches may include:

  • Topic radar: A regular snapshot evaluates the online conversations around your key topics (retail, banking, design…).
  • Opportunities for engagement: Constant monitoring identifies opportunities to engage with users around the topics you’re an established expert in. This could mean answering questions about these topics in general, or about your brand in particular.
  • Feedback: Expand on the regular snapshots to include opinions about your brand or products, and based on this develop concrete recommendations for further action.

About the monitoring industry

We’re still in the infancy of the vendor industry around social media monitoring. Most monitoring tools available out there are still mostly a display of their technical capabilities but fail to act as a true source of insights. This has lead to most monitoring strategies being driven by whatever the chosen vendor can offer, instead of developing a clear strategy of what insights a company wants to see before choosing the vendor.

Analytics

There is no single ROI for social media.

–Richard Binhammer, Dell Inc.

How to measure Social Media? The discussion around the best Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) has been going strong for quite a while now. While no universally accepted KPIs have emerged as of yet, there is a growing consensus on the basic approach:

  1. Define clear goals that match your business processes and metrics.
  2. Regularly adapt your KPIs and metrics according to new insights and industry consensus.

Altimeter Group developed a measurement framework that helps define the metrics you need. Imagine a pyramid that is made of three layers. Top to bottom: Business Objective, Business Metric, Social Media Metric.

Business Objectives are the clearly defined objectives that a company or department strives for. Typical business objectives include increasing sales, exploring a new target audience or increasing brand awareness.

Business Metric: To make the business objectives measurable, metrics are defined for every one of these objectives. The metrics could come in different flavors ranging from sentiment analysis to lead generation or cost reduction. Initially, each metric is watched closely. Based on the insights, objectives are defined around these metrics over a certain period of time.

Social Media Metric: At the lowest level, social media metrics are measured. They can show quickly which activities lead to good results. Typical social media metrics include Likes, fans, followers, views etc.

This brings us back to the first part of the social media strategy framework: the definition of business objectives. The set of metrics chosen should be as close to the business metrics as possible to make sure that the social media engagement keeps on track to achieve those goals.

Reporting

Just having data won’t help much to improve a strategy and engagement. We have seen companies drowning in data collected from the social web who, having no idea what to do with all the information, just stopped collecting.

Regular reports can be a good way to take all the data collected from monitoring and analytics and analyze them for learnings and insights, which then can be applied to the company and the strategy and turned into actionable recommendations. This a part of the strategy that profits greatly from pure experience. Pattern recognition capabilities and a vast pool of knowledge are needed to look at data and draw the right conclusions from them.

To give you an example, reports could be structured like this:

  • Monthly: Social Media Metrics Report
    An analysis of last month’s social media metrics and overview of the monitoring results. Recommendations for concrete activities in the daily social media engagements.
  • Every three months: Business Metrics Report
    Analysis of business metrics and recommendations for optimizing the social media strategy for short-term and mid-term objectives.
  • Every six months: Business Objectives Report
    Analysis of the progress towards business objectives based on the ongoing reports. An executive summary of key findings and recommendations for the top level management. If applicable, a revision of the mid-term and long-term objectives.

No report will change anything if it’s only glanced at and thrown into a drawer. Reports are there to improve the strategy and that’s how they should be built: with a complete focus on the meaning of results and clear actionable next steps.

A strategy that is iterated constantly stays current and flexible. It adapts to new objectives, target-groups and platforms on-the-fly. And it will never be outdated. But in the end, its success comes down to a different aspect: how it’s implemented in the company. That’s what we will look at for our final installment about our social media strategy framework.

The next article in this series is: Social Media Strategy: Internal Organization.

Social Media Strategy: Platforms

How to choose the right set of platforms on the social web. This is part of our series about our social media strategy framework.

This article is part of a series about our social media strategy framework.

Don’t start with this

As described in the article about People, this is where most social media “strategies” start these days: by choosing a platform that is hot right now before anything else. By now, it should be clear why we consider this to be a bad approach to social media. It’s basically choosing the vehicle before choosing the destination, just because a lot of people seem to like it for whatever reasons.

[…] choosing the vehicle before choosing the destination, just because a lot of people seem to like it for whatever reasons.

Following our framework, we have already defined the business objectives we want to achieve, gotten a closer look at the people we want to talk with and have chosen what to talk about. This gives us the ability to make much more informed decisions about where the conversations should take place than just going for the latest hype.

Defining a set of platforms

There’s a mind-blowingly large number of social media platforms out there. And the landscape is changing all the time. New platforms go live every day, others are bought and closed. This is usually the part of the presentation when we social media experts would show you Brian Solis’ “social media flower” with the sole purpose of scaring you with the breadth and diversity of platforms available for a social media strategy. Let’s just say that we need a strategic approach to defining the right set of platforms for our strategy.

That approach is actually pretty straightforward. First, we need to define a set of criteria based on everything we learned and defined so far about Goals, People and Content. Then we can prioritize the relevant platforms into a list based on the criteria.

Here’s a good example set of criteria:

  • Does it fit your ‘added value’?
    Is the platform well suited to distribute your content and engage with it?
  • How is the reach?
    Is your target audience active on the platform, and can you reach a significant part of the audience there?
  • Can you build relationships?
    How well can your brand build relationships with your customers on the platform?
  • Opportunities for brands?
    Are brands welcome on the platform, and what are the opportunities for them to engage their audiences there?
  • Existing accounts?
    Do you have existing accounts on this platform and have you already gained some experience with the community?

We found that a scale from zero to three points works best for us. It’s a good way to start comparing platforms without going too deep into details.
At the end of this, you will have a list of platforms that seem to be the best fit for your strategy so far. Now, the final decision regarding which platforms to approach first should be informed by this list, but in the end it has to come from the gut.

A company should always go for the platforms it feels comfortable with, especially in the beginning.

If I’m new in town, I most probably will head first to the parties where I know some people and share the preferred tonality before trying to find some new people and places that might be interesting to me and my business.

Keep that set of criteria close by. It comes in handy when the next hyped platform emerges, as it gives you a quick way to evaluate if you should inspect the new player more closely.

Building your own community?

A word about the possibility of building your own community platform. This still holds big appeal for companies as it allows for total control over the experience and the relationships. In times when Facebook seems to change what brands can do on their platform every week, this seems like a better alternative.

You need to find a very plausible reason in 2012 to build your own thing.

People are already heavily involved in networks and communities on the web. You’d have to give them something absolutely amazing to convince them to invest their time and attention into yet another social network.

And yes, it is possible. If you’ve found a group of people with a niche interest that hasn’t been catered to yet or that hasn’t built its own set of platforms yet, there is an opportunity to create a community. It’s a very rare case, though.

Social as an integral part of communications

We think that it’s not only important to choose the platforms according to the strategy but also to integrate them into the overall communication efforts of a company from the start.

Social media should never happen in isolation

Social media should never happen in isolation, in a sandbox without context and connection to other campaigns and service initiatives. The customer is not distinguishing between the different types and formats and neither should we. Only when social media has its place in the combined efforts of a company can it find its purpose and special role for a company.

To work out how all the different entities should work together, we’ve seen the best results from working with the Bought-Owned-Earned media model. No doubt, there will we be contexts where a different model will be more appropriate. And there will come a time soon, when this model is outdated, no doubt about it. But until then, this model remains one of the most accurate for us.

Bought media

This is the classic media stuff, the attention you can buy with hard cash. The TVCs, the posters, the Above-The-Line-stuff. But also the AdWords and SEM campaigns, the social/engagement ads, the seeding of virals etc.
This stuff isn’t going anywhere and still has its mission. It’s here to gain the attention of our customers. And it does that much better than any of the other media types because it’s so fast and can go anywhere. You can set up a Facebook page for a campaign and see almost no traction before the campaign is already over. Put some money into Facebook ads and your page will get the attention you want. Now, instead of building a campaign page, do it all on your brand/company page so that you can have a continuous conversation with the people you gained through the campaign and with the bought media and you will get some long-term results.

Owned media

These are all the platforms and accounts that you own, where you can call the shots and define the experience. These are your stores, your websites, but also your social media accounts like your Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
This is where you want all your leads and customers to end up so that you can have a continuous relationship with them. Unfortunately, you have to get them there first, since they won’t be on your platforms from the start. This is why you need the help of the other media formats. But the other media formats are also a waste of time and money if you don’t have your own platforms where you can cultivate the relationship. Without owned media, every bought media campaign has to start from zero attention and will take much more budget and momentum to get going. But with a cultivated customer base, that grows bigger with every campaign, every new campaign gets a bigger head start.

An ecosystem of owned media should be well balanced to foster to the interests of the customers.

Usually a company will use its websites to provide all the information a customer wants about the company and the products. A Facebook page will connect the customer with other customers and keep her posted about new things happening. Twitter accounts might provide coupons for upselling or a 1-to-1 channel for solving service problems. All of the platforms are heavily cross-linked.
That’s just an example. Defining this ecosystem of owned platforms and accounts is an important part of a platform strategy and should be highly individual for any company and its customers.

Earned media

I always call this the “Holy Grail” of social media.

It’s all the attention you can’t buy but have to earn1. It’s customers being so happy with your products that they tell all their friends. It’s bloggers blogging, Twitterers twittering, Video-Bloggers publishing videos etc. It’s 5-star ratings on customer review portals.
In times when people trust the recommendations of their peers much more then traditional advertising, it’s the gold currency. Earned media is very tough and slow to gain, but once it’s getting momentum for a company, it will create enormous, long-lasting results, bigger than any other media format. But it’s also very fragile and can be gone in a second if a company messes up.

Now, as earned media has to be, well, earned, a company can’t force it into existence. Nevertheless, part of the strategy should be a plan for fostering it. This ranges from making sure that products and service are top-notch to encourage customers to leave reviews and give bloggers access, etc. But the main way to gain earned media is to give customers the clear feeling that company puts them first. This will come through in everything a company does. How it communicates, how it cares about problems, how it listens, etc. This is much bigger issue for a company than just its social media strategy. It’s one of the most interesting aspects about social media: if a passion for the customers doesn’t come from the heart of the company, its social media efforts will always show that.

So, this is how the bought-owned-earned media model can help to define an integrated ecosystem of platforms and communication efforts where every entity does what it does best and works with the others.

We now have defined our social media strategy by looking at the people we want to talk with, the content we want to talk about and the platforms we want to have the conversation on. Next up: defining how this strategy is iterated and implemented.

The next article in this series is: Social Media Strategy: Analysis.


  1. Some might argue that you can buy bloggers to write about you, for example. But for me that’s plain bought media then, because that’s how the people will perceive it. Most people are usually pretty good at spotting bought media disguised as earned media. 

Social Media Strategy: Content

What to talk about with people on the social web. This is part of our series about our social media strategy framework.

This article is part of a series about our social media strategy framework.

After we find out as much as possible about the people we want to communicate with in our social media strategy, it’s time to define the content of the conversation we want to have with them.

Act & React – The basic principles of good conversation

The core principle of every conversation is acting and reacting, saying something and replying to something. As having a conversation is at the heart of social media, this also needs to be the starting point for a content strategy. A company has to define what topics it wants to talk about and what it can add to a conversation about them. But like a good participant in a conversation, it should also react to questions, feedback and discussions.

It’s like being part of a conversation at a cocktail party. A group of people is standing together and chatting. A person joins the group. Now, the conversation would be instantly over if that person were to jump right into the middle and shout

“Hey, look at me! I’m so shiny and cool! Let’s all talk about me, ok? Of course I want to hear criticism. But when I’m done here, I’m gonna walk over to that group over there and only mention all the positive stuff you said about me, even if it is out of context. By the way, if you whisper my name to the bartender, he will give you a fancy keychain with my name on it so you don’t forget about me.”

No. A good participant in a conversation will be polite and first listen in to get the topic and the tonality of the conversation. She will introduce herself to give people some context but won’t pitch or boast about herself. She will offer some ideas and suggestions to the current topic without hijacking the conversation. When the time is right, she will offer a new topic that she thinks is interesting to the round, based on the conversations before. She will answer questions directed at her in clear words and listen to any suggestions and feedback attentively. People simply enjoy the conversation with her. They feel like they’ve taken something away from the conversation and were able to offer some suggestions that have been heard. This, in my humble opinion, is how companies should behave on the social web.

Campaigns vs. continuous streams

A key insight for developing a content strategy for the social web is this classic insight by Ben Malbon:

Brands must make a dramatic shift from highly polished epic launches to a continuous and diverse stream of messaging and content.

There are still way too many examples out there of brands simply applying their usual communication patterns to social media. The results are highly polished social media campaigns that produce very little in the way of lasting results. They disregard the unique dynamics of social media like the network growth effect (exponential growth means that a campaign is usually already over before it can gain real momentum on the social web).
We believe that a company or brand that wants to participate in the social web needs a good mix of continuous conversation and engaging action. Here’s how we approach a strategy for this mix.

The 3-layer-model

To define the mix, we have been working with a simple model, consisting of three layers: Grundrauschen (German for ambient noise), added value and campaigns. These three layers work together to create a unique mix of content coming from a brand or company on the social web.

1. Grundrauschen

This is the ongoing, daily conversation a company has with its customers on the social web. Talking about everything connected to the company, the brands and the products as much as what’s on the customers’ minds. It’s everything a customer wants to know and talk about if she connects to a company on the social web.

2. Added Value

The Grundrauschen is the start of the conversation. But talking about the company and products isn’t enough anymore. Customers can also get that from the company website and a newsletter, for example. A company has to offer something unique for people to come back and stay connected with the company.
To define this added value, a company should look for the unique expertise and insight it can offer. Like an FMCG brand offering advice for cooking and preparing food instead of just talking about their products. Like a car company talking about mobility etc.

These questions might help to figure out the added value:

  • What unique knowledge can I offer that makes my customers smarter, not only about my products but about the topics connected to them?
  • What will make my customers say “If you disappeared from the social web, I would really miss your …”?
  • What can I give my customers that will make them look good in conversations?

The added value isn’t just a one-off thing. It’s an added layer to the continuous conversation. It has to be broad enough to provide material for a long time and deep enough to be presented in all kinds of formats (little tips, videos, tools etc.).

3. Campaigns

Grundrauschen and added value are the foundation for continuous conversation with the customers and anybody else interested in the brand and the topics. They are mainly focussed on the company’s existing communities on social media platforms. The goal is to keep the connection alive and thriving.

Out of the Grundrauschen and the added value, topics and ideas sometimes emerge that have the potential to be bigger. They have the potential to gain attention for the company and lead people to the existing communities. This is where campaigns come in. Campaigns are built on top of the Grundrauschen and the added value. They are larger, temporary activities that reach out to the social web and beyond. The best campaigns actually combine classic, digital and social media for maximum impact.

Campaigns can take all kinds of shapes and forms and their details are usually not part of a general social media strategy. They are part of the implementation and the planning.
Nevertheless, one thing should always be kept in mind: the best social media campaigns are developed and executed with the existing communities involved.

Further parts of a content strategy

Tonality

There’s a well-known cartoon by Hugh Macleod that says…

If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face.

This holds as true now as it ever has. In the Social Web, there is a conversation between companies and consumers as well as a conversation between people among themselves. Finding the right tonality is essential.

Ground Rules

We recommend following some ground rules when communicating on the Social Web:

  • Real dialog: Act the way you would in a real conversation with a friend or acquaintance. Listen, and reply in a timely manner.
  • Engage at eye level: Don’t talk down to anyone.
  • No ads: Don’t use Social Media for advertising, but for facts and authentic conversations.
  • Honesty: Only talk about your product’s strengths if you’re truly convinced of them yourself.
  • Be open for criticism: The more confidently and respectfully a brand handles criticism, the more trustworthy it becomes.
  • Show appreciation: Thank your fans and highlight their efforts publicly.
  • Be tactful: You don’t have to be part of every conversation. Develop a feeling for when the users just want to talk among themselves.

Obviously, there’s much more that could be part of a content strategy. But followinging the models, guidelines and rules introduced above will cover the most important grounds and will make a good starting point for a content strategy that will have to be iterated along the way constantly.

With that, after figuring out whom to talk with and what to talk about, it’s time to look at where the conversations should take place.

The next article in this series is: Social Media Strategy: Platforms.