Who owns social marketing initiatives?  Well, the marketing team of course!

Seems like a logical answer but wrong.  To do social marketing and specifically community well, it takes the whole corporate village, not just a select few marketers who have window views from their cluster of cubes and have been to a social media conference.

Social marketing, which is really more of a strategy and an aggregation of appropriate tactics needs to be defined by the teams who support both social marketing initiatives, as well as, getting products to market and keeping customers happy.

Let’s think about this for a moment.  What is social marketing really?  I mean in its simplest form?  Let’s break it down.  Social marketing boils down to two simple concepts.

  1. Clearly articulating a brand promise, a having a mandate (why are we doing this).  You must also have in place mechanisms to deliver and support that promise and mandate.
  2. A commitment to enter into and support dialogue amongst interested individuals, as well as, act on the activity, findings, outcomes and opinions shared…on and offline.


You see, words have meaning and actions or lack thereof have consequences.  For passionate and interested people to congregate and collaborate it has to be worth something.  You have to provide real, meaningful and measurable value.  You have to deliver this in a way that’s useful.  Specifically, you need to provide:

  1. Methods to engage that are relevant to their needs (also known as faceted engagement).
  2. Ongoing utility for them.


Let me give a simple example of what I mean.

The big game is on and you are glued to the action.  Your child approaches you for advice on how to solve a homework problem.  You fail to give your child your full attention and instead help them solve the problem without teaching them how you got to the answer.  The next day your child misses several of the same type on a test.  That night your child approaches you again for help.  You are fiddling with a report you are working on.  Your child fails to grasp the concept they are asking you for help with.  You get frustrated because the solution is so obvious (to you anyway).  Ultimately, they give up and go ask your spouse for help.  You return your attention to your report unaware of the events which have transpired beyond the homework problem.

Part of your brand promise as a parent is ‘I am here to help you’.

When approached, you need to provide be aware of the conversation with your child.  Not just show them the answer.  Teach them.  Make sure they understand.  That’s two way dialogue.  Showing them is one way.

When re-approached, did you help to solve the issue in a way the child could understand-in a way that was relevant to them?

Did you support the value of the interaction with you?  Did you provide utility to your child?

What happened?  They gave up based on their experience and abandoned you.

Brands are experiencing these series of events every single day.  If you have read our recent research report, The State of Online Branded Communities, you would know that a large percentage of brands have Community Ghost Towns.  Why is this?

No relevance, no utility for the interested parties.  No clear mandate.  No pay off of the brand promise and one way communication.  Nobody wants something they can’t use shoved down their throat.  Lots of  tools and tactics, lots of branded messaging, no real value.

Back to the analogy for a second.  So how could you as a parent solve this problem?  Simple.  Take 5 minutes away from the game, give it your full attention the first time.  First listen to your child and then help them to set up and solve the problem.  Collaborate. Bring your spouse in and have them check the solution, as well as, and listen to your child explain how they got the answer.  A team effort.  Recognize the success.  You have an enlightened, committed and happy child.  As a parent, you have a better understanding of their weakness and can keep an eye out for it in the future.  Everyone wins.

For brands, like parents, it also takes a village or a team effort to do social marketing and community well.  You have to include the product teams, the CRM team, as well as others.  Identify who is involved in making your brand and its products and services a success.  Enlist members of those teams because those are the people who need to be at the table and involved in collaborating on your social initiatives for them to be successful.

All is not lost even if you see your brand in the analogy I gave.  You can still change your approach and your results!

By following the simple approach outlined below, you’ll begin to see the fruits of your labor-more engaged customers, lower operational and support costs, decreased churn, greater customer intelligence, increased loyalty and of course, increased profit.

  1. Begin with a clear objective in mind.
  2. Identify measurable goals and metrics for your online community.
  3. Determine which-if any-communities exist that meet your audience’s needs.
  4. Ensure first-time visitors get an immediate positive response.
  5. Determine ways to use your community in enhancing your online presence.  Use this initiative to supplement your marketing and advertising efforts.
  6. Stay committed to growth.  Invest in the necessary resources to make your online community-or social initiatives- a success.
  7. Get the ball rolling for your members.
  8. Eyeballs equal answers.  Do what you can to get the word out.
  9. Leverage employee and SME (subject matter experts) participation in your community.
  10. Look after your top contributors but don’t ignore the troublemakers.


You can also get a detailed pdf of these guidelines from the Did You Know Section on our homepage.  Simply click on the Simple Guide hyperlink to download a copy.

Steve Hershberger

Steve Hershberger