Social by Design

Social by Design … not a new buzz phrase, but rather a business imperative.

For years I have been professing that social media is not a tactic, but rather has to be a way of life for brands. It is not about putting up a Facebook page and a Twitter feed and posting away. Social must be at the core of a marketing strategy. Yeah, I know … you’ll think someone named “SocialSteve” is likely to say that … how self-serving of me. But wait a minute and hear me out.

The most powerful call to action a marketer could hope for is to have one friend, one colleague, one family member refer to another a suggested product or service. This is due to the fact that the recommendation comes from an objective source, a trusted source. Let’s face it; an ad is a recommendation from a most subjective source.

Social by Design means putting a brand in the hands of your target audience to produce organic sharing and word of mouth. Social by Design yields brand amplification. Maybe the one brand that understands this most of all is Coca Cola. As Coke has an objective to double their business they look at programs that are Social by Design. As they state it, they are moving from creative excellence to content excellence. They call their content strategy “liquid content” and look for their target audience to be the source of brand proliferation. This video is a must see as it crystallizes what is meant by having a strategy that is Social by Design.

Part 2 is follows:

Social by Design is much deeper than brand advertisements. It is not about running the most creative Super Bowl ad that millions of viewers see once. It is about exponential amplification of brand content. And I am not talking about advertorial amplified brand content. Ads are rarely passed on from people to people. Value information, entertaining content – that is what is passed on. And brands can certainly be part of this mix. They need to think like publishers and be comfortable placing content generation in the hands of their audience as well. User generated content (UGC) programs not only provoke calls to action but gives participants incentives to have others view content and engage.

Social by design produces crowdsourcing in an organic way. It takes time but builds strong momentum.

This week, VISA touted their new “Social by Design” program built around their sponsorship of the upcoming Summer Olympic Games. This is the first time that VISA has built out the campaign from a social strategy. They emphasize it’s not an experiment but a sign of things to come. Mr. Burke (VISA global CMO for core products) said, “Will every campaign be social by design? There’s a very good chance of that. But definitely every program will incorporate a social strategy and that’s always a question we’ll ask.”

When discussing Social by Design, I’d be remiss if I did not mention Facebook in the discussion. From my search on the topic, they are putting out the most material on the topic. Facebook references three elements of social design: Identity, Conversation and Community. Community refers to the people we know and trust and who help us make decisions. Conversation refers to the various interactions we have with our communities. Identity refers to our own sense of self and how we are seen by our communities.

While I agree with this delineation, I find their explanation biased to a Facebook property. (You can read their full explanation if you like at referenced URL.) Facebook is one important piece of social exchanges, but it is far from the only sharing platform. Recognize that one platform does not define execution of a social design. People have numerous social identities on a multitude of platforms. They listen and engage in numerous ways (both online and off). The community (or people that help them make decisions as Facebook puts it) are clearly much wider than solely Facebook friends.

Social by Design means that the strategy starts with social thinking. It is not an afterthought. Here is how one should go about Social by Design:

1) Customer insights – target market wants, needs, interest, behaviors, influence sphere, purchase path, digital usage patterns
2) Thematic brainstorming – what are the topics that will attract your target audience and likely activate them
3) Motivation strategy – how will you get your target audience to get involved and engage
4) Proliferation plan – how will the content (brand, UGC, and earned media) flow exponentially

As you will notice, the social by design approach is heavily weighted towards your consumer – much more so about them than your brand. Social by design emphasizes what I call associated marketing. By associated marketing I mean that you look to have your brand associated with something that is very important to your target audience. Your brand consistently reinforces what is important to your audience as opposed to talking about your brand.

Once you start on the Social by Design path as suggested in the four steps above, then you can bolt on your existing marketing approach and plans as a next step. But start by being Social by Design.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve



Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, Facebook, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

3 responses to “Social by Design

  1. I am always impressed how you package the best thinking and thoughts, it’s there where we need to know what we are as a business – who we want to talk/communicate with. Then by locating where they are active and monitoring and listening to what they do we are able to engage with them. Building the relationships that you suggest will produce the loyalty that then makes it simply natural to do the one thing everyone is getting back to SHARING.

    For so long it wasn’t important to people at the top, all the people below were still doing it with people they know, like and trust. Now it’s allowed to be out there – Thanks for the inspiration Steve 🙂

  2. Jim Matorin

    Once again I enjoyed your post, but I am beginning to learn that not all industries, thus not all companies within certain industries are social. Case in point I work in the food industry. Companies marketing to consumers are social by design and are begining to engage with their communities. Companies marketing to other food companies, B2B are not social by design which is my side of the business, foodservice. Trust me, it is frustrating being social by design in a laggard industry.

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