The Secret Formula To Social Media Success (shhh…don’t tell)

There is no doubt that this is going to be THE year of social media.

Even old-school marketers and brand managers are starting to wake up and figure out that social media isn’t a passing fad, it isn’t just about “cats on skateboards” and “people eating oatmeal” and that ignoring the conversation is only going to leave them further behind their competition.

But just because you took the red pill and woke up to the fact that social media has to be a part of this years’ marketing activities, the question still remains “How”. Those who don’t quite “get it” will do things like:

  • Take their traditional print copy, digitize it, post it on a microsite, and tweet about it.
  • Put their product commercials and training videos on YouTube.
  • Start a Facebook page just so “we can have a Facebook page.
  • Fail to put any measurement plan in place.
  • Hand social media activities over to a junior staff member or intern with no communications experience.
  • Forget to think about important factors like crisis management.

Those are all important factors in how NOT to engage in social media. In fact, in those who engage in this activity will end up with poor results (if they measure them at all) and scratch their head wondering why their content didn’t “go viral”.

How do you measure whether something goes viral on social networks?

So what is the secret to success in social media? I’ve been working on that for some time and while my theory and formulas are always a work in progress, I do have a good idea as to what it takes to succeed. So here’s my formula:

Learn the secret to social media success. Key ingredients include Product, Passion, Strategy, Execution, Measurement, and Commitment

The secret formula for social media success is (Pr+Pa+S+E+Me+C)-Ma=O where C=(B+R+T)

Yes, I know…you thought that Social Media didn’t involve a bunch of math. The good news is, if you can add and subtract, you can succeed in social. So here’s the key to those symbols and why they are critical components to the formula:

  • Pr = Product – The first component of social media success is a good product. If the product or service you offer is of poor quality, doesn’t work right, doesn’t meet your customers needs or expectations, you should seriously think about spending your budget fixing your product before engaging in social media.
  • Pa = Passion – Whoever is in charge of your social media activities should be passionate about your products, services, and customers. They should also be passionate about social media, as well, since the role of a social media community manager can be a tough one.
  • S = Strategy – Note: S DOES NOT EQUAL Sales (more on that later).  Social media isn’t something you should just “do”. Just like any communication strategy, you should consider things like tone of voice, frequency of engagement, channels selected, and crisis management. Your strategy doesn’t have to set in stone, but it should be well thought-out and should be flexible enough to change as you learn and engage more.
  • E = Execution – No strategy is worth the paper it’s printed on (or hard drive it’s saved on) if it isn’t executed when the time comes. Don’t spend a lot of good time and energy developing your strategy just to throw it out the window with a social media kneejerk when a crisis arises.
  • Me = Measurement  – If you’re not measuring your success, how will you know what works and what doesn’t? Don’t just measure your success by the number of friends/followers/likes/retweets you get, either. Find ways to measure whether your social interactions are having a positive influence on your customer service activities, identifying new leads, or helping make your products/services better.
  • C = Commitment– Social media is not a short-term campaign. It’s not something you start and stop. Before you engage, you had better be committed to remaining engaged…through good or bad. Commitment has 3 key components, which are:
  • Ma = Marketing DON’T look at social channels like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as sales channels. They aren’t. They are engagement channels where you listen to, and communicate with your customers. You are on those channels to meet their needs, not to sell to them. Use these channels to make them feel better about you, your products, and your company. Offer something of unique value to them like discounts or customer support. DON’T sell to them.
  • O = Opportunity – When you mix the components listed above together and then remove the marketing messages, you have a formula for developing new relationships, support channels, and products. These are opportunities for your company.

So there you have it. A formula for social media success. Did I miss anything? Help me improve on the formula with additions in the comments.

NOTE: As an update to this blog, here are links to a couple of follow-up blog post that discusses what metrics you might (or might not) use for your blog and social media activities:



Comments And Reactions

  1. Great tips! Question: How do you measure it though? I’ve seen tons of posts on what to and what not to do, and I’ve even seen a couple on how to measure it but didn’t really answer the question. Do you have post or advice on how to measure it easily and be able to understand your measurements?


    • Great question, Rhonda…and one that I get asked a lot. I’ll be writing a follow up post about my thoughts on measurement in the next week, so stay tuned.

      As a preview, I can tell you that too many people focus on the things that are easy to measure like “likes”, retweets, subscriptions, followers, comments, page views, etc…Those are the very quantitative measurements and shouldn’t be ignored, but the more difficult (and more beneficial) measurements are the qualitative metrics.

      More to come on my thoughts on how to get those.


  2. It’s all a big marathon. No formulas needed 🙂

  3. You’ve got some really great points here. I’m bookmarking it so I can come back, and will be sharing it with some of my online groups. 🙂

  4. Great breakdown of what ‘not’ to do and tips to make it work. I think far too many think the networks are extensions of traditional advertising versus a building of brand reputation and reach. Also, it cannot be emphasized enough that one should keep communication professional at all times. Many have gotten too comfortable and posted things they should not have.

  5. I love both the cartoon and the formula. Great way to package your message.


  6. …and consistency, (Co) not sure where to put in the formula, however think it should go in there somewhere, hot and cold just doesn’t wrk!

  7. Harold Gardner says:

    Really awesome post. I am interested in your measuring metrics. It seems like everyone is stuck trying to predict how or if a SM campaign will turn to cash. Companies will continue to sit on the sidelines until folks in the SM business figure that out.

  8. Coach Kevette says:

    Love this article and enjoyed the #smmanners chat fueled by it. Thanks for posting this Sean. This insight is truly invaluable and will definitely be put to use. Big corp is beginning to wake up but they are not the only ones who need to. I look forward to connecting more in the future. Keep spreading the word!

  9. Very comprehensive and a very good picture of what it takes.

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