The Comprehensive Guide To Digital & Social Media Strategy

Over the past three years I’ve invested a lot of time and energy figuring out how digital channels, specifically social media, can be used to achieve business objectives. I’ve received a number of requests to summarize what I’ve learned. This post represents a compendium of my work on social media and digital strategy.


This post will cover the following note: I tried making these anchor links, but it didn’t work:

Determining If You Should Be Using Social Media

Part 1: The pervasive reach of social media

Part 2: Information distillation through social media

Part 3: Propagation of News through Social Media

Part 4: Corporate Adoption of Social Media

Part 5: Process of participatory marketing

Part 7: Maximizing revenue through social media


How You Should Be Using Social Media

Part 1: Which social media channels should You be using

Part 2: How you should be using social media

Part 3: Framework for branding through social media

Part 4: Social Media Lifecycle Framework

Part 5: Why PR is ruining social media

Part 6: Collective Storytelling

Part 7: Social Customer Service


Advanced Social Media Planning

Part 1: Iterative Brand Equity

Part 2: Radical Social Design

Part 3: Models for Social Media Integration

Part 4: Cohesively Tie Marketing Tactics Across Multiple Social Media Channels

Part 5: Permeable Community Strategies & Sympathetic Social Systems

Part 6: Social Media Achilles Heel – Content Generation





I think everyone should be using some form of social media; especially in business.

Many businesses have started making use of social media in some way; however many still aren’t participating in any form of social media. Of those, the most common reason for non-participation is that they genuinely believe that their customers aren’t using social media; therefore they shouldn’t.

In fact, I’ve recently heard that some businesses don’t even think their customers are online.

I’ve compiled the following, to address why even businesses without online customers should participate in social media.

If you think your customers aren’t online at all, here are reasons to participate in social media:

Reason 1:
 Even if your customer isn’t online, those people he trusts and looks to for advice might be.

Reason 2: Your business can collect valuable research on your competition, industry trends, upcoming technology, etc. Using social media as a business intelligence gathering tool is a valuable reason to participate.

Reason 3:
 If your customer isn’t online; there might be an opportunity to market to those who aren’t buying from you. You can endear your brand with a new audience without alienating your current audience, or you could create a brand extension that would appeal to a new market.

Reason 4:
 Influential publications often pick up stories that make use of social media in new or unique ways. Start a social media campaign; and get in front of your customer via traditional media covering your campaign.

Reason 5:
 “Bacterial Growth” – What I call “Bacterial Growth” is like viral content; but when something goes ‘viral’ it generally means that it spreads until market saturation is reached, then effectively dies. “Bacterial Growth” refers to a multi-channel infection that experiences a heightened growth period and a long sustained brand equity. Where the ‘bacteria’ doesn’t die; it just changes. I suggest that a well-thought campaign that includes offline components can go viral online and offline. (e.g. iCoke, Foursquare)

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It’s generally accepted that we have access to more information than we could ever process in a lifetime.

Social and online media are especially great because they are inherently more manageable than offline media.

I suggest that users get information from 3 main categories online:

  1. The Micro-Blog: Includes Twitter, Friend Feed, Facebook; and any other site that makes use of micro-interactions.
  2. The Blog: This would include blogs; but would also include any site that’s article-based.
  3. The Email: Includes newsletters, promotional emails, and any other media sent to someone’s inbox.

With those assumptions; here’s the model:


There are inherent information management problems with each channel.

The Email

In this model, this will represent a message:

Email generally contains unidirectional messages, that come to one place (the user’s e-mail address). In this model, our subject would have subscribed to several interesting entities that send periodic information via email. These emails might contain multiple messages, but will generally have unique content.

Primary Problem: Information quality – Receiving email means you’re at the mercy of the publisher. You receive the information they deem to be relevant & often don’t get to clarify any ambiguous content.

Solution: Sophisticated Email Client – many e-mail clients offer auto-storing; where you can have e-mails filtered and sorted into folders for your review. You can also use search tools to quickly locate the most relevant information.

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I’ve been thinking about news lately. What it is, how its transmitted, and how it changes things.

News is undoubtedly important; it’s how we learn what happening around us. Other than experiencing it for ourselves, it’s the only way we know what’s going on in the world.

News takes many different shapes, from formal investigative reporting, to anecdotal storytelling. All news are stories; but not all stories make the mainstream news. Here enters social media and the independent reporter.

We no longer have to accept the sensationalized definition of news. Mainstream media, in my opinion, creates news that the largest percentage of the population in a given area will find interesting. This averaging of news often ends up including reports some people don’t care about; and not including reports other people really care about. Through social media we can now choose what we consider news – and here’s how news propagates through the social media universe.


Often, news starts out as rumor and speculation. One person hears something from a source, and it gets spread to another and another. The more interesting the information, the quicker it will spread.


Once a legitimate news source picks up the story (you can decide for yourself what a “legitimate news source” is) they’ll start the reporting cycle: Research, lead checking, analysis etc. Until they produce a finished news product. This could be a written story, tweet, photo, video, etc.


When a finished news product is released, it’ll spread throughout the social media sphere based on how relevant it is, how trust-worthy the source is, and how engaging the story is. It’ll eventually reach maximum interest and start becoming ‘yesterdays news’.

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Getting a corporation with established marketing rules and complicated communications departments to adopt a new way to communicating to its audience can be difficult. With the rise of social media, corporations are beginning to listen; but still require a process to get everyone onboard. The following is a framework that reviews an ideal process a corporation will follow when adopting social media as a new communications tool.


Define Initial Parameters

Define how many resources you can devote to social media

Define which sites you want to monitor

Define which tools you’d like to test

Define sampling size benchmarks


Begin Listening


Once you’ve finished defining everything; you can begin listening. Many corporations successfully do this in ‘stealth mode’ – meaning the brand name or corporation name isn’t publicly available to the networks being listened to.

While listening, you should also be recording what you hear. There are several easy ways to monitor your brand & turn the streams of activity into an RSS feed and store the RSS posts for future reference.

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I’m not saying that this model is the best way to run social media projects; but if we start listening to customers and use those insights to drive business needs we’re already starting on better footing. Keeping the user engaged throughout the process will help ensure the campaign is really targeted to the right crow

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We all know there are essentially 2 ways to increase ROI.

Here’s a quick review:

1. Get new customers to buy your product

2. Get existing customers to buy more product

The way to do this; combination of increased message reach and increased message frequency.

Assume, for every 10 people I reach with a message, I get 1 conversion. (1 person buys from me).

Reach: If I reach 20 people with a message, I’ll get 2 conversions.

Frequency: If I hit the 10 people with 2 messages, I’ll get 2 conversions.

Pretty straightforward. Everyone understands that.

ROI is different in the social media universe. Why? Because reach and frequency are, in majority, controlled by the community.




PART 7: Maximizing Revenue Through Social Media

Building legitimate social equity requires slowly shifting the perceptions of others. Building social equity, and understanding how to use it, is fundamental to maximizing revenue through social media.

Three phases to maximizing revenue through social media

These are not steps. When you’ve spent enough time focusing on awareness, your social equity will reach a level that will allow you to create engagement-type campaigns that will be successful. If you try launching engagement-type campaigns without building your social equity to a sufficient level, your campaigns will not be successful – and should be an indicator that you need to focus on awareness & build your social equity.

It’s also important to note that having enough social equity to successfully move to the next phase doesn’t mean that attention should be completely removed from the previous phase. (i.e. If you move from awareness to engagement; you should still continue awareness efforts. If you stop your awareness effort you risk decreasing your social equity.)


Awareness (Social Equity Required: Low)


The first phase of maximizing revenue using social media is establishing a presence and earning a reputation. Before you get started you’ll need to define some goals, and define what groups of people you want to build a relationship with.

Once you’ve defined those things; you can decide what social media channels you’d like to participate in. Depending on your goals and your audience, you might end up choosing several channels. These posts can help you make your decision for companies or forindividuals.

Many larger brands want to bypass this phase and jump into engagement; the reason usually is that they’ve built up substantial lists of users via other media. Often these brands blanket-invite anyone who’s interacted with them in the past to join them in their new campaign. The biggest problem with doing this is that you’re not qualifying your audience. Ideally, you’d target users who already participate in some social media channels & are informed about how to participate on the channels you’re inviting them to. These active users have the best chance of becoming advocates for you. (Adversely, if you invite users who aren’t interested in participating – you could end up with a bunch of ‘dead’ accounts following you. This can have negative repercussions for you and your community for several reasons. I’ll cover this in more detail in an upcoming post called “Social Media Deadfall, Dangers of The Unfocused.”)

So once you have goals & defined the channels you want to create a presence on; you can begin establishing your presence and earning the reputation you want. There are two reasons people join communities – for value or for fun. (Usually some combination of the two; but it’s proven helpful if you plot where you’d like to be on the spectrum between value &fun.)

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I’ve categorized and compared 7 social media channels that are currently being used by both B2B and B2C brands. I’ve suggested which type of brand works best in each channel.


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Generally, blogs work better for B2B brands because they require a certain level of prior knowledge and interest. The effort required to follow blogs generally means that the audience already has an interest in the industry. That is why there are so many industry-based blogs.

B2C brands can still take advantage of 3rd party blogs; but generally don’t get the ROI required to justify maintaining their own blog



For a similar reason, B2C brand’s likely won’t find the value in maintaining a micro-blog. However there are exceptions, and this particular channel is evolving.

B2C brands are starting to exploit micro-blogging for customer service. Additionally, some B2C brands are figuring out ways to integrate the real-time functionality of micro-blogging platforms into their marketing efforts.

I maintain, that at the present time, this channel is still better suited to B2B brands; but I can recognize that it has value for B2C brands.


Social Networks:

 There are many types of social networks; many niche social networks are specifically designed for B2B brands, and, therefore, are better suited for them. (e.g. LinkedIn)

Excluding those social networks that were designed for a niche market; I suggest that social networks are better suited for B2C brands. The reason is that brands can take advantage of being introduced to their potential customers through their friends.

People have the ability to ‘discover’ brands their friends like. Additionally, many social networks offer in-network multimedia communication options. Example: Facebook allows you to create a dialog with your audience through images, video, text, and interactive applications; while Twitter allows you to create a dialog using text & links only.

B2B brands definitely should take advantage of social networks; but many social networks are better suited for B2C brands.

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I suggest there are 5 primary models a brand can use to communicate with its audience via social media. (These models can be applied to other media as well, but some work much better, and are much easier to execute using social media.)

  1. Direct Communication
  2. Communications Catalyst
  3. Cooperative Communication
  4. Participatory Definition
  5. Brand Embodiment

Direct Communication: Occurs when a brand communicates it’s message directly to the audience.

Timeline: Instant

Participation: Minimal

Example: Youtube Video (Dove Evolution)

Communications Catalyst:
 Refers to a brand that encourages or provides the means of communication between two or more customers.

Timeline: Short

Participation: Minimal

Example: Crowd Sourcing (Best Buy IdeaX)

Cooperative Communication: Is a type of participatory marketing, where the brand proactively participates with its audience.

Timeline: Intermediate

Participation: Results proportional to participation

Example: Dynamic Facebook Page (Dew Labs)

Participatory Definition: The opening of a brand to influence, or re-design by its audience.

Timeline: Intermediate to Long

Participation: Minimal, but ongoing for better results

Example: Customer-Generated Branding (Doritos Undefined Flavour)


Brand Embodiment: Happens when an individual, or group of individuals, develop such a strong affinity for the brand that they will recommend it without being prompted. (Of course this also means, that if prompted they’ll recommend the brand, and also means that it’s their brand of choice.)

Timeline: Long

Participation: Substantial, and ongoing

Example: Apple* (Check out the # of related videos & comments)

*Note: Apple isn’t the best example, because they didn’t strictly use social media to follow this model. A better example might be Best Buy.


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Many of the clients I’ve been consulting for have interesting notions about social media. One common idea is that social media is an ongoing effort and doesn’t conform to normal lifecycle rules.

The Social Media Lifecycle Framework

I would agree that social media initiatives are different than many other campaign models, but I do think most initiatives deliver a higher ROI when the following lifecycle framework is considered & followed.


Conversion Funnel 

Monologue: A broadcast form of communication that works well for creating initial awareness. Before broadcasting your message, be sure to craft your message by listening to what people are already saying about you.

Conversion A: Converts users who have simply heard of you, to users who want to have a conversation with you.

Conversation: A participatory form of communication that works well after you’ve created a community. Not everyone in you’re community will feel comfortable engaging in conversations, which means your community needs to be large enough to support multiple levels of participation.

Conversion B: Converts users who are participating in conversations, to those who will take your message & use it to influence others. 

Influence: An extended form of conversation that works well when influential community members believe your message. Influential communication is effective at achieving perfect conversion.


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I remember when social networking was about sharing personal content with family, friends, and colleagues. Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of inauthentic brand communications littering my streams with noise.

The Conflict

I do ‘like’ certain brands, and want my friends to know which brands I have a particular affinity for. However, I don’t want to get spammed with creepy questions, or comments from a brand spokesperson. (or Brand Ambassadors)

Branding and PR are intrinsically linked

I subscribe to the idea that it’s possible to create and maintain a brand through social media. I don’t believe PR is the most effective way of doing that.


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The ability to tell stories has always been one of the most powerful ways to connect with other people.

Social media has given us a unique way to to tell stories as a collective. Here’s a road map for collective storytelling.

Stop #1 – Define Your Story

The process of discovering what you want to tell a story about is always different, but the most important step in storytelling. You need to be an expert on what your story is about.

Starting a story without knowing what it’s about will likely cause confusion. If the collective is confused by a story, it’s unlikely that they’ll participate in telling it.


The collective will look to that person who started the story for reinforcement and reassurance that the story is still on track. Ensure you monitor your story and continue to participate in telling it, or risk the story ending.


Stop #2 – Spark a Conversation

In collective storytelling, stories are made up of wide-reaching conversations. Those conversations begin with a ‘conversation spark’.




Customer service has always been that business competency that either makes or breaks the customer experience. Over the past decade, many large organizations recognized this fact and have heavily invested in ensuring extraordinary customer service. In recent years, social customer service has become a necessity.

Social customer service can increase revenue in five ways:

Increased Awareness: Addressing customers issues via social media provides interesting content. The more you help, the better the chances customers will find you. 

Increased Customer Satisfaction: The great thing about social customer service is that other customers, who are satisfied with you get the opportunity to observe & participate with other customers. This has the potential of increasing their satisfaction through education. I’ve seen a discussion board with customer service interactions between a software company and its customers; many of the posts indicated that the customers reading the posts discovered additional functionality they’d never have known about. Of course, simply solving a customers problem increases their satisfaction.

Public Customer Reviews: Each time provide customer service via social media is another opportunity to have a public customer review. It shows the issues customers have, and shows how your company deals with those issues. In public forums, an unsatisfied customer doesn’t necessarily mean a bad review. If the company does everything it can, but the customer is unreasonable; the public will often express it’s admiration of the company, and dismiss the customer as unreasonable.


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Iterative Brand Equity changes. It doesn’t dispose of what existed before; it will update, hand-off, or reconfigure itself to become something new.

(pretty simple, but click here for a larger view)


Set expectations – It’s hard to set expectations when you’re uncertain how the next iteration of a campaign will unfold. That being said, it’s important to keep your users informed with what you know. If you’re uncertain what the next iteration will look like, it’s perfectly fine to tell that to your users, and ask them for input. 

Extract key campaign elements – In every campaign, there are key themes, memes, and technology that can be carried forward in each iteration. For instance, if you ask your users to upload photo’s during a campaign, the next iteration could involve writing captions for the images; or turning the images into comic strips. 

Provide a feedback mechanism – The biggest mistake any campaign can suffer from is not allowing customers to provide feedback. If you have a channel that allows customers to provide feedback, you’ll end up gaining some valuable insights. If you don’t have that channel available, the feedback will often be presented to the public via social media. Feedback should always be incorporated into the next iteration of a campaign.

Recap – Just like the beginning of a TV show, an iterative campaign requires a recap. This can take many forms; the best are integrated into drivers to the transformed campaign site. For example, if you have a media buy making people aware of your new campaign, you can include information about how the campaign started, and how its transformed.

Recognize loyalty – Users who stick with you from campaign to campaign should be recognized and rewarded. They don’t necessarily need a monetary reward, but they can be rewarded by offering pre-registration, or access to exclusive tools. The better you treat your loyal customers, the more likely it is they’ll continue being loyal.

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The days of social media marketing campaigns are numbered. The future lies in radical social design; the ability to socially-enable the things we do everyday. I’m not suggesting we share EVERYTHING we do, but share valuable things we don’t even realize are valuable yet.


Establish A Presence

Even @chrisbrogan once had no followers. As hard as it is to believe, even the most well-connected users were once disconnected. They had to invest in building a brand & building an ecosystem they wanted to participate in. Not sure how to get started? Start by identifying users who you aspire to, and investigate how they achieved their goals.

Build Social Capital

The more you contribute, the more social capital you’ll earn. Earning social capital can be thought as earning a share-of-time from your audience. With a maximum number of sources for information, every user needs to prioritize where to gather his information. The likelihood of being chosen as a source for information increases with the level of social equity you’ve earned.


Those users who actively participate in social networks leave a trail of personal information behind them. Some smarter marketers are figuring out how to collect & analyze that data. Tools like Facebook Connect, Open Graph, Open ID, Friend Connect, etc. are making it easy to share personal information with marketers you choose to connect with. This type of data can be useful in personalizing a users experience & serving up the most relevant content. Eventually websites will know me so well, I won’t need to search for information because it’ll already be served up to me.


Until recently many marketers didn’t have the resources to effectively monitor brand conversations. Many leading brands are using radical social designs to encourage users to participate in brand conversations; using these conversations as a sound-board to do serious market research.





I’ve recently been talking to some of my friends & clients about the value of integration of social media efforts with online marketing efforts.


The big underlying question: How should my website integrate content from my social media properties?


1. Bi-directional hub & spoke model

Benefits: 2 way syndication and a well thought tagging taxonomy allows much of your social media content to be syndicated in relevant places on your website (and vice-versa) without much work.

Draw Backs: Some content, out of context, can be misinterpreted; especially network specific memes. Syndication can add a barrier to sharability & the organic viral nature of certain social media channels.

2. Multidirectional hub & spoke model

Benefits: All the benefits of #1 plus allows conversations to exist across social media properties regardless of which property a given user belongs to. (Note: certain channels like Twitter & Facebook are easier to integrate in this way than others.)

Draw Backs: A unified tracking system that ties conversations back to specific users is much harder to set up. (Also all the drawbacks of #1)

3. Clustered honeycomb model

Benefits: Allows for additional segmentation of content. This is a huge benefit in an age of information overload. Having multiple streams of content, dedicated to specific user-groups allows users to get the content they want, and avoid the content they don’t. This type of segmentation will help identify potential brand advocates.

Draw Backs: More upfront content strategy planning will be required. A valuable amount of content will need to be created for each segment. Additional effort will be required by community managers to ensure easy cross-channel communications between segments.



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Let’s first decide which tactic will work best.


Here’s the Social Media Tactic Refinement Framework I use:

(Click here to download as a PDF)

Here’s how it works:

Part A: Consider business goals, and distill them into a coherent strategy.

Part B: Take the strategy and derive campaign objectives. Distill your objectives into the primary message you want to deliver.

Part C:


Plot whether your message is targeted to businesses or consumers. Refine the message as necessary. 

Then, plot whether the campaign will be providing more value, or more entertainment to the community. Again, refine the message as necessary. 

Then, decide the type tactic you’ll use. 4 basic social media tactics are:

Content: Where original content is created, or content is reused.

Contest: Where a submission is entered, and winner announced.

Game: Where one or more users play a game. Prizes are not required.

Incentive: Where the company will give you something, if you participate, or do something for them.



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Create permeable community strategies & sympathetic social systems.

Mastering the permeable community strategy

A permeable community strategy is special because it allows marketing & other communication messages to pass through without altering the fundamental social constructs of the community. (i.e. if I join the Nike Facebook fan base because they were supporting the Tour De France. I’ll eventually become a disenfranchised fan because they’ll eventually move to a new discussion. In fact, I might find all the other non-Tour-De-France updates annoying. If Nike created a community called “Enjoy the Ride” and encouraged people to share bike-riding related information, and provided curated content year-round, it could easily support the Tour De France sponsorship campaign.)

There are 3 steps to create a permeable community strategy.

1. Identify your customer: This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Identifying your customer involves a market analysis that should tell you who your highest-value customers are, and what they think about you. It should also tell you where your customer tends to spend his time online.

2. Identify topics your customers find interesting: Once you know who you need to observe, begin observing them. This step can also take some time, but it shouldn’t prevent you from doing a preliminary topical analysis & begin to create a broad-topic community; it can be focused over time. Observing your high-value customers will help you identify topics they’re interested in.

3. Create topic-based communities: Once you’ve identified topics your high-value customers are interested in, you can craft a creative platform that can support the community.


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One of the most pervasive social media tactics involves generating content. It’s very easy to do, but very easy to get wrong.

When you think about it, almost anyone can write status updates, add comments, create tweets, or upload photos. The fact that creating content can be done so easily, allows for it to be rushed into.

Here are my guidelines for creating content.

Figure out who you know best 

Know Yourself: Create content you know about. Be genuine & interesting. People will be responsive to your content, as long as it’s authentic.

Achilles Heel: Lack of focus. In the end, the content you create helps define how people perceive you; this is the essence of branding. If you don’t define how you’d like people to perceive you; you risk misperception. 

So, treat yourself, and the content you create, as a brand would. Develop a voice, and focus your content toward achieving the perception you want from your audience. 

Know your audience: Create content your audience finds interesting. If you’re able to figure out what you’re audience is interested in; you can find spokespeople to contribute content on your brands behalf. (e.g. If you find out that Toyota Prius owners like gardening, you could get a professional gardener to create a series of blog posts for the Toyota Prius blog.)

Achilles Heel: Creating phony content. The biggest offenders are people who engage in fake conversations. This often happens with brands that outsource social media management to those who aren’t familiar enough with the brand. (E.g. The person in charge of the Nike Plus Twitter account compliments someone on a great tennis win, but doesn’t actually know anything about tennis. If a follower reads the post and tries to engage in a conversation on the subject Nike Plus will have been exposed as not knowing anything about tennis, and might alienate some followers.)


Learn the social media channel you’re using 

Know the medium – Content can take many forms, video, audio, images, presentations, motion graphics, or copy. Know what media work best to communicate your message to your audience.


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I hope this compendium of my work on social media will be helpful for you, your organization, and your clients. The more everyone understands, the easier it will be to create effective communications, content, and experience strategies. 


Questions or comments, please let me know below or @thejordanrules



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