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

There is no doubt that social media has become an integral part of every digital marketing ecosystem.

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.

Yes, people do post photos of their food, but that's not ALL social media is aboutYes, people do post photos of their food, but that’s not ALL social media is about

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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 STILL don’t quite “get it” will do things like:

  • Take their traditional print copy, digitize it, post it on a micro-site, 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.
  • Start a corporate blog with no strategy or clue as to whether it will actually help customers or generate traffic.

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 formula 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 CommitmentThe 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.

The last thing you want to do is launch a new social media campaign for a cruddy product and have the entire world tell you, and each other, about how your product doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. Trust me…don’t do that to yourself.

If your product isn’t performing as it should or needs some work, spend the money on product development or updates. Then, when it’s performing properly, launch your social campaign.

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.

This isn’t a job for a temporary employee or an intern. It’s a job for a marketer who understands your entire marketing and advertising ecosystem. Someone who enjoys connecting with your customers and building relationships with your future customers. This person should be the Sales team best friend.

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.

Build a plan, create a publication schedule. Monitor your analytics. Learn what communication works and what doesn’t. Evolve, adapt, change.

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 knee-jerk when a crisis arises.

Be prepared and prepare your executives and leaders for what you should do if/when the time comes. Be patient, level-headed, and methodical in your approach. But do that with your customers in mind, first and foremost.

Constantly ask yourself what your customers need and how you can use social media channels to fulfill those needs.

Me = Measurement

If you’re not measuring your success, how will you know what works and what doesn’t?

Be prepared to measure and evaluate your social media activitiesBe prepared to measure ALL of your social media activities.

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.

Set goals. If you are blogging, create an estimated traffic growth target. If you don’t hit it, figure out why. If you exceed it, set a new target. Always have targets to shoot for.

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. That’s why we subtract them from the equation.

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.

Okay, you can sell to them a little, but don’t overwhelm your audience with sales messages. Offer them value. Give them support information. Help them understand how to better use your product….then you can 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:

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The Secret Formula For Social Media Success

Candace Mountain

Sunday 15th of July 2012

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

Coach Kevette

Tuesday 19th of June 2012

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!

Harold Gardner

Tuesday 19th of June 2012

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.

Richard Townsend

Monday 18th of June 2012

...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!

Sean R. Nicholson

Monday 18th of June 2012

Great addition, Richard! Agreed that social media isn't something you can bungee in and out of!



Karleen Harp

Sunday 1st of April 2012

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