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What do you need to know about your conversation participants before setting up your social media strategy?

May 3, 2011

As part of J.Boye’s ” Knowledge sharing for digital decision makers” Conference I had a chance to participate in a workshop delivered by Bob Boiko (University of Washington) titled “Social Media and Information Strategy”.

Bob presented his information strategy framework to include

  1. Identifying your business goals
  2. Identifying your audiences
  3. Figuring out the information types you are going to share with your audience
  4. Lastly picking your channels to facilitate info. delivery

His info. strategy would follow this basic template

” We deliver the right info (aka content model) to the right people (your audiences) the right way (through appropriate channel/s) to meet our goals (aka business goals).”

The addition of social media conversations revises his strategy template to now mention information exchanges.

“We deliver the right content or facilitate information exchanges for the right people in the right way to help us meet our business goals.”

In a way this strategy building framework reminded me of Forrester’s POST methodology that I have been advocating when helping my stakeholders build their social media strategies at Pitney Bowes (my employer)

Forrester's POST methodology

But what I’d like to share with you here is Bob’s laser sharp focus on better understanding the conversations themselves incl.

  1. Who is speaking (creating content or originating conversations)
  2. Who is listening to these conversations aka paying attention to them?
  3. Who is responding to these conversations?

Bob’s questions reminded me of a similar way of classifying conversations coming from Forrester called the Social Media Ladder of Engagement

Forrester Social Media Ladder of Engagement

Or a slightly amended Pyramid of engagement coming from Altimeter.

Altimeter's Social Media Engagement Piramid

But Bob went further identifying users we are dealing with in social networks incl.

  • What types of conversations are they currently participate in?
    • 1 to 1 (e.g. instant messenger)
    • 1 to many (e.g. Twitter)
    • Many to many (sync) – e.g. a chat room
    • Many to many (async) e.g. Facebook
  • What kind of communicators do THEY want to be?
    • What do they want to talk about ?
    • Do they want to originate these conversations?
  • What kind of conversation participants do YOU wan them to be?
  • What channels would be best to have these conversations in?
  • What will it cost you to change the way they communicate?

As someone who went through similar audience identification exercises I attest how difficult it has been to shift an audience from being listeners to responders or speakers. It takes lots of resources and quite a bit of determination that you need to consider BEFORE you follow that path.

How do you engage with these different conversation participants?

Listeners need to be informed
If your users are predominantly listeners your job is to concentrate on delivering the best quality content to them while being credible, authoritative, logical and passionate in channels you choose for your content delivery.

Responders need to be facilitated
If your users are responders to content posted by you or others the biggest question for you is how you and your organization gets ready to deal with these responses incl. sustainable listening workflows, the ability to respond back to their comments and rewarding their participation.

Speakers need to be promoted
If your users are speakers Bob’s advice is to concentrate on promoting these content creators so that they develop a long-lasting relationships with you. Promoting them would include

  • Helping them better facilitate their conversations
  • Making sure they receive recognition for their work (aka their work is attributed to them)
  • Improving their social status (aka advancing good speakers)
  • Promoting their good ideas

The biggest take-away from Bob’s workshop was how important audience analysis is to your information delivery/exchange strategy. The more you know about your audience and their willingness to converse with you the more successful your social strategies are going to be.

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