June 2, 2010 by Ken Yeung
Discovering The Social Marketing Compass To Help Chart Our Course Through Social Media
We’ve all become exposed to a slew of social media tools and services that businesses might be interested in pursuing. But are we simply suffering from the dreaded shiny metal object theory? How can we validate our programs to our bosses instead of being viewed as our company taking advantage of the “flavor of the month”? C’mon…admit it…when you read about new tools and services at the latest conference, event, tweetup, blog or publication, one of the things you’ve thought about is that it would be cool to implement for your company. But we can’t all think short-term. Instead, we need to think more strategically and look at the logistics to help accomplish our marketing objectives.
With respect to social media, more companies seem to be choosing this medium as a means to reach out and “engage” with their customers. But Â to help guide us to the right path towards customer satisfaction and effective messaging, a good guide would be the Social Marketing Compass by Brian Solis (@briansolis).
How will a compass help guide our marketing process?
By definition, a compass is “a device for discovering orientation and serves as a true indicator of physical direction.” What this means is that it will basically point you in the right direction. In this instance, the Social Marketing Compass is a concept designed to help you discover your orientation when it comes to implementing a social media campaign. While you’re being inundated by many different tools and services, it could be suggested that you rely on the Compass as a means of getting your bearings so that you can focus your efforts on maximizing your message and creating an effective program.
So why is a compass chosen to help guide us in this case? In his new book Engage, Solis states that “the Social Marketing Compass is ‘inspired’ by the moral compass – itâ€™s designed to serve as our value system when weâ€™re also defining our program activities.” In fact, Solis created the Compass as a means to help brands find their direction toÂ genuinely and effectively connect with their audience online.
Understanding this social concept
You might wonder why there’s yet another concept designed to help people and businesses figure out their social media strategy. In fact, some may think that the Social Marketing Compass is awfully similar to yet another one of Brian Solis’s creations: the Conversation Prism. While there are some overflows with respect to what each concept is talking about, I think that these two are actually quite complementary. While both ideas by Solis are centered around a brand, there are some differences. For example, the Conversation Prism helps illustrate how brands can work on creating, what else? Conversation. You’re going to look at the way your business is going to “talk” to your customers and then based on the message you want to send – whether it be corporate communication or product & sales, crisis communication or several other types, the Prism is designed to guide you to the appropriate tools that you might want to leverage. Essentially, the Conversation Prism looks more tactically and highlights the services you might want to use.
With the Social Marketing Compass, you still start by looking at the inner circle, that being the brand. From there, you look more strategically at the tools that you have at your disposal. It’s not that you need to use services like Twitter or Facebook, but rather from a much higher elevation you’ll be able to discover that user-generated content or maybe even blogs or mobile communities are your focus. To put it frankly, the Compass is looking at your global marketing efforts and helping you to align social marketing’s involvement with your overall objectives and goals. The Conversation Prism is going to look at the individual campaigns and objectives you formulate from the 50,000 ft view and then help you boil it down into bite size marketing tasks that you can run.
Dissecting the Social Marketing Compass
When you look at the Social Marketing Compass, one of the first things that might come to mind is that it’s rather daunting – you just don’t know where to start and how exactly is this thing supposed to work…and if it’s THIS complicated, then how will any business understand their marketing objective? First of all, let me break the Compass down to you in three separate parts. The Compass is composed of several key areas: the brand, the players, platform, channels and emotions. If you look at the Compass as comprised of one large circle with multiple inner circles, each sub-circle can rotate to align itself based on a variety of permutations that could happen – and it all starts off with the only true constant: the brand. After all, everything you do in marketing must revolve around the brand. That’s who you’re working for.
From here, you can look at some of the key players that are who you’ll want to reach out to through your social media marketing strategy. Solis believes that “fundamental to any program, the players define how, when, why and to what extent our activity is intermediated across the Social Web.” So who are these players? They’re not the average consumer, that seems for certain. Why? Because with social marketing, the point is to maximize reach with as little effort as possible, in a good way, of course.
If you look at the Social Marketing Compass, it highlights a select group of players. These are the people that you know both internally and externally from a company and are also influential about your industry. These are your stakeholders, bloggers, traditional media, evangelists/champions, trendsetters and anyone else who has a large enough voice for you to consider as someone who you might pay attention to.
From here, you’re going to look at the other parts of the Social Marketing Compass moving outward. Once you know the audience/players that you want to reach out to in order to help market your product, then you’ll need to see where the Compass guides you (figuratively speaking) with respect to the platform. It’s in this phase of your course planning where you’ll look at the players and find out what platform they use as their proverbial soapbox. Where will these players be connecting, communicating and/or congregating? I suppose you could think of it like you wanted to reach religious people…you are the brand and the player is the priest. The platform to which to reach him to spread your message is through the pulpit in the church. When it comes to social media, one of the things you’ll need to explore is what are the existing and emerging platforms out there that you might have a tendency to see these players hang out at?
Once you’ve figured out the platform that the players are using as their pulpit, then you can move one more circle outward on the Social Marketing Compass. It’s here where you need to use the Compass to guide you towards the right channels to which all your outreach and activity will be streamed through. One thing that Solis makes clear in his book Engage is that the platforms doesn’t have to be singular, but could be multiples. So your player could be in the mobile AND social network platform. It’s understanding this multiple-platform system where channels come into play. After all, Solis believes that through these channels the platforms are supported and connected with one another. It’s also through this system where we understand that messages could also be amplified and help increase our reach and resonance.
Perhaps one of the strongest things that marketing always invokes is emotion. This is the outer-most circle in the Social Marketing Compass. For a marketing strategy designed to entice people to pay attention to your product and marketing, one of the key things marketers seem to want to do is to tie in their marketing with some emotion. Social media is no different. Solis points out that “the socialization of the Web is powered by people” and as a result of this, people have emotion and regardless of what you might think, emotion will always come into play when people think about a company. Take, for example, the oil spill happening in the Gulf of Mexico. If BP was interested in reaching out to people telling them that they care about the environment and were using the Social Marketing Compass, one of the things they would need to worry about is the emotion that this campaign would bring out from the recipient. Would they be empathetic? Would they reciprocate the same feeling? Or would they be more empowered? There are several emotions tied in with the Compass and one of the things that you’ll need to figure out is just how will your Compass guide you as you look at the emotion circle and relate it to the message you drive to the players you want to reach.
Don’t think that the Compass functions like a real compass
Just because the Social Marketing Compass might resemble that of being an actual compass doesn’t mean that it will behave exactly like one. Rather, the word “compass” should only tell you that it’s going to be a guide and NOT a direction finder. Why? Because you’re going to discover (no pun intended) that the circles in the Compass will change frequently and could often lead to multiple choices. The circles also may not rotate in the same manner as well. While you’re looking to reach out to traditional media, one time it might lead you to going after them using a mobile platform but through another channel and deploying a different emotion. Not all results should or probably will be the same. As I stated earlier, the Social Marketing Compass can lead you in multiple directions and can help you succeed if you analyze and understand the choices it makes, but be aware that there are countless permutations that could result from using the Compass. One thing is for certain, the Social Marketing Compass won’t steer you wrong and that you’ll be able to chart your way through any marketing strategy with this in hand.