Social media is a paradox: it is the physical representation of a revolution in the way consumers obtain (and create) information. At the same time, it is just another marketing channel. The reason I believe marketers are so confused about social media is because of this paradox.
And the reaction of many is to rush into the technology. This misses the point, of course, since social media is about customer relationships and not really about the technology at all. In the past, I have written about the challenges of Social Media and The Brand, the power of Integrating Social Media and Search and asked Why Do You Tweet? Social Media And Your Personal Brand. So I thought it was best to identify a clear framework for marketers to use to create successful social media strategies.
Now there are others who have proposed their own 4 Cs of Social Media and I invite you to check our their perspectives. Start with Gaurav Mishra’s The 4Cs Social Media Framework, then Sean Nelson’s The 4 C’s of Social Media and finally Tom Pick’s The Four C’s of Social Media Marketing.
While none of those ideas are bad at all, I have found it helpful to use the following 4 Cs to guide marketers on the journey to successful social media marketing. They are:
- Customers: something that is missing from many social media plans is the focus on customers. Marketing is all about getting people to know you, like you and trust you enough to buy from you. And once you have a customer, you need to keep them. Social media starts with the very first introduction to your brand and extends to the lifetime of your customer relationship. You need to find them, identify their biggest needs and pains and understand who and what influences them.
- Content: in building strong customer relationships, you have to provide valuable information that meets your customer needs. In social media content is not necessarily about creating white papers or videos. It can include 140 character tweets, photos, brief product updates or FAQs. And something that is often overlooked: simply sharing the valuable content of others.
- Context: this is important because some traditional marketing assets like white papers or product demos do not perform very well in social media. The reason is context. People do not “like” brands on Facebook because they want to be marketed to. They “like” you as part of an expression of who they are. I closely follow people on Twitter who are active in sharing information relevant to my job. The rule of “Context” is that you must create the kind of content that people expect in social media.
- Channel: not every marketer belongs on Facebook. Many college kids do not use Twitter or LinkedIn. Depending on your audience, your primary focus should look back to #1, the Customer to understand where they spend their time, what Content would be helpful and in what Context do they expect to receive it. Then pick the channels most relevant to them.
Now there is one “C” I left out. So we’ll call this the extra bonus for reading this far into my yammering on: the bonus “C” is Community. Community is what you get when you do the 4 Cs correctly. Community is how social media scales. Community is what happens when your customers start supporting themselves with content they create. This content flows naturally across the community because the context is innately understood by all its members. Community uses customer-generated content in a customer-aligned context for a customer-serving purpose.
“This seems hard,” you say, “why bother?” Because with community comes more revenue, higher retention and lower costs. Welcome to Social Media ROI.