A comprehensive social media plan should identify the target audience(s), define goals, strategies, and technologies to use. A social strategy framework that addresses all the components I mentioned is the POST method introduced by Charlene Li in her book Groundswell. POST is an acronym for People, Objectives, Strategies, Technology. I find this framework to be a very sensible and practical when assisting organizations and colleagues with their social media plans. [pullquote]Whether your goals are to engage with your external customers for marketing or to use social media as part of your external and internal business processes, this framework is applicable.[/pullquote]

Below are some considerations using the POST method. The content of this post is a compilation of ideas I have read and  have found to make sense.

People – Assess your customer’s social activities.

Understand your target audience(s) socialgraphics.  A presentation by Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang from Altimeter Group defines socialgraphics as “how they (target audience) behave in social media, why do they behave in this way and who influences them”. They stress the importance of understanding how your audience interacts and engage in social media.

A guest post by Neicole Crepeau titled “Forget demographics. It’s all about the socialgraphics ” on Mark Schaefer’s blog goes into detail about socialgraphics. According to Crepeau, it’s important to not only understand the audience themselves but what are their motivations when using social media platforms. For example, a student may use facebook to connect with their friends and families and may use LinkedIn for career-related goals.

According to the post, below are elements of socialgraphics to consider.

  • Internet use data—Where do these users congregate online? What sites do they use? What online media do they consume? What times do they use different websites and media? How internet savvy are they?
  • Mobile use data—Similarly, what are this segment’s mobile usage traits? Smartphone or not? What activities do they do on their phones? What times are they active?
  • Goals and motivations—For different venues, what is the audience segment’s interest or goal in participating? What need does the community fill for this user? What does the user hope to gain?
  • Behavior—How does this audience behave online, particularly in different venues? Do they create content or just consume it? Are they frequent sharers or posters? How do their patterns of creating, commenting, or sharing differ and what triggers the differences?
  • Emotional and psychological needs–What emotional needs does a given community fill? What emotional needs is the user filling by participating online? How does the user want to be perceived online or in different communities?

Objectives – Decide what you want to accomplish.

Diving into social media just because “everyone’s doing it” is probably not a very sound objective. It does cost time and resources so defining objectives tied to your organization’s business goals is an important step. Here are some objectives to consider:

  • Community building (customer and/or internal employees)
  • Customer support
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Peer-to-peer support (customers helping themselves)
  • Marketing (awareness, conversion, loyalty)
  • Crowdsourcing for ideas
  • Improve internal collaboration/communication and reduce cost for travel, etc.

Strategies – Plan for how relationships with your customers will change.

Defining the objectives and intended audience are part of the strategy as they drive the content, activities and resources required to implement your social media program. Because the objectives and audience do change, your plan must be  dynamic as well. There are many social media strategy frameworks offered on the web but one framework I particularly like is the one below from Ross Dawson.

I have also compiled a list of social media strategies and associated information  on my social media resources page.

Technology – Decide which technologies to use.

Now that you have defined the audience and their socialgraphics and your objectives, you can now identify which social media to use.  Probably as daunting as defining the objectives are choosing which social media tools to focus on.  Wikis, blogs, social networks, social bookmarking sites are just a few social media available. If you or your department is new to social media, this Social Media Tools 101  site is a good start to learn about these different tools. For more advanced social media programs, there are applications (Hootsuite, Seesmic, etc) that offer the functionality listed in this social media management functional model. Theseinclude listening and monitoring, conversation and campaigning, reporting, analytics, workflow, and systems/source management.

In working with individuals and organizations, it’s probably best to focus on a couple of sites, such as facebook and twitter (if that is where your audiences are), and be proficient in these networks.[pullquote] It does take time to learn not only how to use the features offered for each network but the etiquette, lingoes, and norms as well.[/pullquote]

For my higher ed colleagues,  please visit these pages offering practical tips:

Please let me know what other resources I should include as well as your thoughts on this topic.