Building a Social Media Strategy [Updated Jan. 2013]

In my digital media class, we have been working through the often theoretical foundation of building a social media strategy. Starting with Cluetrain Manifesto, which changed several student’s perspective of the power and use of social media by empowering consumers and having companies enter the conversation. Written in 1999, this book is certainly forward looking to the way the social web should work.

Then we built on that foundation with Here Comes Everybody. Written nearly ten years after Cluetrain, this book offers a retrospective as to how different technologies have been executed. One of my students did a nice job of pulling out a few of the nuggets.

Now, we are reading Groundswell, which for good reason, is part of the canon of digital marketing strategy. Groundswell is definitely one of my favorite reads, and while it is dated by about 5 years, the focus and approach is still as relevant as it was in 2007-08.

For the major project this semester, the class has divided into 5 groups that are tackling the social media strategy for an event venues, a restaurant, a church, a non-profit and higher education. Drawing from the material above, here is one approach to crafting the digital strategy.

Social Media Strategy is sometimes like building a bridge. Photo via CC License of Joelk75 on Flickr

Social Media Strategy is sometimes like building a bridge. Photo via CC License of Joelk75 on Flickr

Here are a few considerations when crafting the social media strategy document:

  • Being concise is key. A 40 page strategy document is one that will go unread.
  • Start small. Perhaps this strategy is only for one campaign to test the water.
  • What are the consequences?
  • Appoint an (important) ambassador.
  • Use great care in selecting your technology.
  • Build something new only when absolutely necessary.


The executive summary should cover all of the bases who, what, where, when and why in no more than 2-3 paragraphs.


Groundswell does a nice job of creating the foundation of the social strategy under this mnemonic: POST. 

02.01 -People – Focus on People Not Numbers

  1. Who is the “real world” focus audience?
  2. What are their technographic profiles?
    1. Creators
    2. Critics
    3. Collectors
    4. Conversationalists
    5. Joiners
    6. Spectators
    7. Inactives
  3. Who are your influencers? (think minnows, not whales)
  4. Who is going to manage for the organization?

02.02 – Objectives – Identify the Call to Action

While this is not a complete list, it covers many of the objectives common to digital strategy. 

  1. Listening – (research)
  2. Talking – (marketing)
  3. Energizing – (sales)
  4. Supporting – (customer service)
  5. Embracing – (development)
  6. Reacting – (crisis / PR)

02.03 – Strategy – (and how does it fit within the overall business strategy)

How are you going to get from point A (where you are now) to point B (the Objectives). If you think about this in transportation terms, are we going to drive, fly or go by train? The tactics for how to execute the strategy should also be explained for each strategy.

02.04 Technology / Networks

This is by no means a complete list. Add to it as your strategy requires. Sometimes you need to cross the river but there’s no bridge, so you have to build one. If there isn’t a technology available to accomplish your strategy, you may have to consider building the application yourself. This can be both cost and time consuming, so proceed with extreme caution.  

  1. Email
  2. Blog
  3. Forums
  4. Wiki
  5. Twitter
  6. Facebook
  7. Reviews
  8. LinkedIn
  9. Pinterest
  10. Flickr
  11. YouTube
  12. Instagram

Putting Section 2 together — I really like how Neicole put all of this together into a table. Here is an example of how that would tie the O S T together.

Objective #1: Talking – raise awareness in group of supporters| Objective #2: Energizing the base to donate $$
Strategy #1: Use a website, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter to communicate my message to people | Strategy #2 Offer to shave my head or grow out my hair in return for donation dollars
1. Create a WordPress Website~~
2. Gather content~~
3. Develop the Call To Action~~
4. Create Video~~
5. Share with Community~~
| Tactics:~~
1. Create Form/Payment Integration through Wufoo~~
2. Build integration into the website~~
3. Build an email campaign to send to friends~~
4. Share the word on Social Media~~

03. – Timeline

When are you going to implement the tactics of your strategy? When will you expect results from these efforts? 

04. Differentiator

  1. Who is playing in the same sandbox?
  2. Are they using a social media strategy?
  3. What are they doing, and are they doing it well?
  4. How are we different?
  5. What can we learn from them?

05. Cost Analysis


  1. What are the technology fees to implement this strategy?
  2. How much time will it take to implement the strategy?
  3. What outside resources will be needed to execute the plan?
  4. How much time will it take to educate the team charged with the implementation?
  5. What are the opportunity costs?


  1. Will the execution of this plan realize any savings in the organization?
  2. How much income do we expect to raise through this plan?
  3. What are the expected financial results?

06. Metrics – Connect to Objectives

  1. What tools are you going to measure the results?
    1. Google Analytics
    2. Woopra
    3. Facebook likes
    4. Twitter followers
    5. Blog subscribers
    6. Email subscribers
  2. What specific results are you going to measure? (How do the results compare to the goals/objectives?)
    1. Number of “leads” (what was the cost per lead?)
    2. Number of transactions (how much was the cost per transaction?)
    3. Number of customer issue resolutions (how much was the cost per resolution?)
    4. Number of customer engagements

As the social media strategy is implemented, the results should be analyzed in comparison to the goals. If the results do not meet the goals, then identify the changes or tweaks that need to be made and make the necessary changes. Rinse and repeat until it is meeting or exceeding the goals.

This post is a work in progress and will be updated from time to time. How would you change it?

Jeremy Floyd

Jeremy Floyd is the President at FUNYL Commerce. Formerly, he was the CEO and President of Lirio, Bluegill Creative, a marketing and communications firm in Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition to managing the digital strategies, Floyd was an adjunct professor for the University of Tennessee Chattanooga MBA program teaching digital strategies and social media. Floyd blogs at and tweets under the name @jfloyd. Jeremy is licensed to practice law in the State of Tennessee and holds a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from MTSU in English and Philosophy.

  • Judy Vega

    I personally do not feel like any key elements that are required for this assignment were ignored in the above outline. I think most anything that can be done can and will be classified in one of the topics. I think that organization and a complete understanding of the subject matter will result in the highest success rate.

  • Chris Kerr

    Great outline. I might add a timeline under the 02.03 Strategy section. I think creating a timeline, whether it’s to completion or reassessment, is helpful in planning. Then it can also serve as a benchmark once the strategy is in process.

  • Ashley Frizzell

    Timeline would be a great addition, especially because some of the overall objectives cannot be implemented with the strategy as is. Some of the futuristics goals are key drivers but will take time to get there. So a timeline would definitly portray these goals and not require detailed explanation to add to the paper. THe detail cannot be there until you get from point A to point B with point C in the distance.

  • Ashley Frizzell

    You can include this under objectives or strategy, but I think something along the lines of key core values should be added. How is this valuable to the overall core values of this business? Some businesses have mutliple strategies developed in each organization of the business (accounting, marketing, IT, business intelligence, ect) but these strategies reflect an overall organizational core value or group of core values… Strategy coudl possibly be broken down by each orgs strategy to reflect and state how doing this, woudl help this org meet this overall key core value.

    Also, under technology, you have things like facebook and twitter, and blog.. but if you included the tools from different companies under this it may be helpful with a small description of what they do…
    For example: Joomla is a content mangaement system with services for mobility options, email, blogs, forums, ect. Ning, is a social media site that has blogging capabilities, integrations with facebook, twitter, google, ect, and also has ways to stream information and video people in.

    Another thing in technology, since these are businesses would be to include other types of technologies to assist in meetings and such. For example, go to meeting, unified communications tools, video conferencing tools, microsoft tools like instant messaging and live meeting, ect.

    Also, I would probably outline integrations. How do these tools integrate to meet these needs. You may just need one toolset that has capabilities of these integrations. So you may just have one technology toolset type picked out, but it uses these other types within that technology. This one toolset may have it’s own analytics built in as well for metrics keeping.

    Also, I think there needs to be outlined somewhere in the cost and added extension to number one around vendor cost for demos, implementations, ect. The only reason I say this is that alot of people only see the price of the toolset itself and not the cost behind vendor support. With that being said, there needs to be added in there, cost of ongoing support. In my experience people tend to forget the costs behind ongoing maintenance and support. Not everything is a one time fee.

    Since it is a strategy and plan, would there need to be a bullet point around scheduling? If you are goingo to promote this to an executive, they would probably want time and deadlines involved possibly. THat migth take it a little too far for a group project, but it something that is found in the real world, so even if it has to be made up dates, at least it is somethign being looked at. I don’t know, just a thought.

  • Amy Clift

    Great outline! The only thing I might add is an additional point to the metric section for project specific results. For example, a good metric might be the number of bookings/appointments generated as a result of the campaign.

  • Thanks Judy!

  • This is a good point Amy. The Metrics should loop back to the objectives.

  • Yes, good point Chris.

  • carolynshopeutc

    For the COST, i see no mention of cost of not doing it. sometimes doing nothing will cost you more than doing it in the long run. I would think it should be termed in terms of short term realized costs and the long term costs as well. Maintenence can be a huge impact to overall cost .

  • Maria Currier

    This is a very comprehensive list that includes an easy breakdown of items needed for a solid strategy. I agree with the comments on cost and I like the idea of adding a timeline. One thing that came to mind though was the cost of educating yourself or your staff on the implementation of the strategy. It could be included under time, but I think many times people assume they can easily figure out the back end of social media sites. That is not really the case, so the expense of training and bringing necessary employees up to speed could actually become quite costly and should be considered before moving forward with a plan.

  • John Jacosalem

    As far as the Strategy (POST), I think it is pretty much inclusive. As we discussed in class, most anything else we can think of really fits into one of the existing sections. But I do think the Metrics section is pretty bare. I always like to emphasize how the bottom-line gets affected. I might even add a note that Metrics can help your strategy in a dynamic sense. i.e. Google Analytics shows you’re doing well in one area, but not so hot in another — maybe adapt your strategy accordingly?

  • Matt Crawford

    I think the outline includes all the necessary components to build an effective social media strategy. One section that I find particularly interesting and important is #1 under 02.01: “Who is the “real world” focus audience?” All to often companies and organizations lose sight of who their actual audience is and what’s important to them. Sometimes companies miss the mark because they simply do not know who their audience actually is. I also agree with some of the previous comments that a timeline would be a worthwhile addition. It’s extremely important to have something that everyone can compare actual progress to. Also, a timeline is useful in keeping everything in relevant terms.

  • Sam Knight

    I think this is a really great outline that can be applied to any industry. I really like the audience/people section because I believe that is the most important part to get the correct fit. In the differentiator section I would include with the question “what are they doing” – are they doing it well? This would be important to compare with your company analysis.

  • Lindsey Large

    I think this is a great outline! I really liked Chris’s idea about adding a timeline as well as Ashley’s idea to add a section about the overall core values. This is important because all projects in an organization, whether big or small, need to align with the company’s mission and values. The only thing I might add is something in the metrics that could measure the project’s success to the overall success of the firm. For example, a company can measure their facebook “likes” all day long. But if you have a million “likes” on facebook, but people still aren’t buying what you’re selling, then have you really succeeded?

  • Jason Lyon

    I think the summary hits at all points but most importantly it hits in section 2.1, People. So many times companies have a great idea, strategy, or product but they don’t think about their target markets enough. Who is their target, who is the “minnows” or “whales” of the group? Without really knowing this there is no way to have a truly “great” or successful idea.

  • Katy Whittle

    I think this is a very thorough and accurate strategy brief.
    Going to the first point in the considerations, you must be concise. I write
    strategy briefs for my marketing projects every week and the first thing I
    learned was to get to the point. Although there are suggestions that I could
    make in addition to what is listed, I think a better course of action is
    customization based on the project. Your objectives and call to action are
    going to change based on the scenario and therefore you should not limit yourself.
    I think that the final point is the most important because your entire strategy
    is useless unless you connect back to your objectives at the end. When you
    review your metrics, if your data is not reflecting your objectives then you
    are missing something in your strategy. I also think that you should not limit yourself
    to your strategy once created if your project changes. You might need to go
    back and update your objectives or a re-evaluation of the people. I think that
    is a great strategy brief but it is up to you to customize and assess how it
    relates back to your project.

  • Siyun Sun

    I think it is a very good outline, I like the idea of adding a timeline. Another thing I think we need to consider maybe how to utilize the current resources. If a company has good resources/technologies, but it is not utilizing them, then the company could save initiative fees by improving the technologies. So I would add another section under the cost analysis of this.

  • ann andrews

    Although all aspects of this outline are needed, I believe the most important part of the outline is the Differentiator. If you do not have something that makes your company stand apart from others, then a media strategy cannot be completely effective. Also, when considering the metrics, a results measure should be added. Reviewing results can let you know what parts are working and what you can change in order to have more success.

  • Mallory Long

    I do agree that a more extensive metrics section may be add alot to your strategy document. It is akways good to emphasize how your methods will help the company. What metrics would you use though before implementing anything? Those of other similiar companies that have implemented things such as what you want to implement?

  • Kelly Ellis

    Great outline. I think it incorporates all points that need to be considered when moving forward in expanding a company’s social presence. I agree that a timeline would be beneficial. Within my organization, we have partnered with a firm that now handles our marketing and social presence. It would have been helpful if they had provided us with the level of detail this outline suggests. As the customer, we were often left outside the strategy sessions, therefore we questioned many of the firm’s decisions.

  • Katy…nice point on the tweaking. With most clients I draw a connection between the metrics and the goals. It is important to possibly alter the goals based on the results. The danger, however, is to adjust too quickly before actually testing the strategy.

  • Outstanding Jeremy, very comprehensive, and workable. Thank you!

  • Thanks Doc Rae!

    Jeremy P. Floyd
    (865) 329-7380
    LinkedIn ( | Facebook ( | @jfloyd (

  • My pleasure Jeremy!

  • Jessica Cardwell

    I think the outline is a great starting point for building a social media strategy. Before I would have said lets just post to Twitter and Facebook, but seeing this laid out in outline form I realize there are many more points to consider when developing a strategy, such as target audience and expenses. I like that there is a list of social media outlets available to us. Most people do not know about all the types of social media that can be used for the benefit of a business.

  • mpchang423

    I like this outline. It is very similar, if not identical to the one that was reviewed in class. This was very helpful to myself and my group in beginning to brainstorm and initiating a direction by which we should take in our group project. The only section that I feel could use some elaboration in is the strategy section, getting from point A to point B. I like the other students suggestion of a timeline. This could help give an idea of the causality behind different aspects of social media and thereofre a better understanding of how each different strategy should focus its energy to accomplish the relative objectives.

  • This is definitely a great outline for a strategic plan, and I think all of the sections are essential for success. I think one of the most important aspects of the plan is the differentiator section. In my opinion, other than understanding your customers’ needs and wants, a crucial tool is understanding what your competitors are doing and how you can serve customers better than they are. In any given industry, competition is present, and a company simply must have something that sets them apart from everyone else in order to succeed. If you’re doing the same thing as everybody else, why would a customer prefer you over the other companies? Being different and standing apart is extremely crucial.

  • I think a timeline is a great addition, Chris! It would serve as another metric on which to measure the strategic plan, and identifiable metrics area always good to have.

  • Guest

    Great idea, Chris! I completely agree that a timeline would be a very useful tool to have.

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  • Ben Schnell

    This is a very comprehensive strategy. I agree with the commenters who say that a timeline would be helpful, and to tie the metrics to the objectives. Taking those ideas a step further, I think its important for the marketing team to do 4 things. (These 4 things are inspired by the 4 Disciplines of Execution, which is a book I love.) 1. The team should set a goal in terms of x to y by when. It should be an important, clear, attainable but ambitious goal that will be accomplished by a given date. 2. The team should create a compelling scoreboard (likely online) where everyone can see how the team is doing in real time. 3. The team should identify lead measures. The goal is a lag measure. In other words, once you see record, its too late to do anything about it. Like revenue. Those numbers come out to late to change them. But lead measures are actions we take that change lag measures, and most teams need to do a better job of measuring how well their practices affect a certain goal. 4 The team needs to create a cadence of accountability. Every week everyone on the team needs to review what commitments they made to drive the scoreboard and how they went, and make new commitments for the next week. If this meeting doesn’t happen, the team loses interest in the scoreboard and the team falls back into routines that don’t quite cut it.

    The comprehensive strategy Jeremy posted in this blog is a great list of the “What.” This execution information I’m learning about is a little more of the “How,” but at a certain level, the What and the How are inseparable.

  • Lindsay Manning

    This is super thorough, and very applicable. I love the detailed focus on people, not numbers. Everyone is at a different stage in the social media world. it’s good to know whether your customers are creators or spectators.

    The only thing I can think to add is in the costs section. There is also an opportunity cost of all the time and energy it takes to build and execute a successful social media strategy.

    Other than that, this is a very detailed and useful outline!

  • Overall the strategy appears solid. However, I would be
    interested in seeing some additional metrics tying to the more financial
    aspects of the strategy. How much did each “Like” cost the organization? How
    much income can (although somewhat ambiguously) be attributed to an increase in Twitter followers, Blog subscribers, etc.? Additionally, this outline considers
    the time it takes to implement the strategy. It is also worth examining the
    opportunity cost of executing said strategy compared to utilizing resources on
    another project. Finally, in the “Income” section I would suggest noting that
    increasing social media exposure can result in the opportunity to vastly
    increase goodwill. This is often hard to quantify – but one could certainly
    make a case that being able to rapidly respond to customer concerns (as
    facilitated by social media) will lead to increases in customer goodwill.

  • Jb Hansard

    I think this outline is very concise and covers a majority of the information that is needed in a social media strategy. Its important to remember the key considerations that were discussed before the outline. I would think a strategy could be easily forgotten, if all of the key considerations are not factored into building the outline.

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