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What are the 5 Cs of Social Media Strategy?

by Phillip G. Clampitt (aka Dr. So What) & Danielle Bina

The dynamic, fast-paced world of social media often inhibits us from standing back and taking a big picture view of a fantastic mass media tool to reach our target audiences. The 5 Cs of Social Media provides a framework for social media managers, digital executives and aspiring social media influencers to do just that.

The 5 Cs of Social Media — Coordinates, Channels, Content, Connections, and Corrections — are interconnected elements used to craft an effective strategy.

This is the starting point for any organization’s social media launch. Coordinates are social media goals that enrich one another and are connected to the organizational goals. All too often organizations pursue goals in isolation and don’t focus on how the goals align and reinforce one another. Using the word “coordinate” instead of “goal” highlights the importance of alignment and creating synergy.

Consider this business example: Two of the Menasha Corporation’s business goals pertaining to employee health care were to: 1) increase employee satisfaction and appreciation of their health care plans, and 2) decrease health care costs for the organization. You might ask, “Aren’t these incompatible?” They may be, but when the company added a third goal “to create an exclusive health care concierge service that all employees can call upon to help them navigate the health care system,” they were all in sync. The concierge service helps employees navigate the complexities of the health care system while helping the company better manage costs. So, the company had three goals pertaining to benefits that were aligned with one another and were in sync. And, every goal had been transformed into a coordinate. More importantly, the strategy was a success! It achieved the company’s goals related to employee health care.

Or, consider this social media example: A philanthropic organization wanted to increase attendance at an annual event. They had two communication goals: 1) establish a website highlighting the benefits of the organization which also provided a link to register for the event, and 2) craft a social media campaign designed to promote the event. These goals stand alone and would not be considered coordinates until the organization added a third goal: integrate event promotion on the website and on social media outlets.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are all major social media platforms. All platforms are also channels because, like all channels, these platforms shape and constrain communication between people. By focusing on channels, it highlights that social media managers need to take a broader view of the communication methods they consider than just focusing on platforms. For instance, social media managers should also consider table kiosks, emails, websites, and even billboards when shaping their social media strategy. The channels themselves are tools. How you use them is key to your strategic success.

This is the most visible and obvious dimension of any social media strategy. It consists of the words, images, and graphics shared on social media platforms. The universe of content choices is so large that it is difficult to determine what should and should not be posted. Just “getting something on Facebook” is not an option. Too many organizations have an inward focus. “It’s all about me” may work on your website, but social media is, above all, social. It’s about your audience. That’s why McDonald’s recently started using Snapchat as a recruitment tool to hire teens.

Categorizing your content can help, too. Is your content focused on people? Events? Amusements? Inspiration? Commentaries? News? Information? How-tos? Calls-to-action?

The next step is to think about optimizing the mix to achieve your organizational objectives. New York Times bestselling author, Gary Vaynerchuk advocates a “jab, jab, jab, right hook” strategy. Translation: the “jabs” represent content to inform or amuse; the “right hook” translates into a call to action. The 3-to-1 ratio makes much more sense than selling all the time (right hooks). In fact, too many calls-to-action will probably knock your social media campaign right out of the ring.

This is the least visible dimension of any social media strategy. The connection component basically raises two questions: “What is linked to what?” and “Are these the optimal choices for success?” Maximizing connections between owned, earned and paid content is also important.

Social media connection issues fall into two related categories: internal and external. One example of internal connections are the links between social media platforms and particular departments. More specifically, what is the most efficient way to route complaints that are expressed on social media to customer service or the PR department? How well these internal organizational connections are managed may determine whether your organization’s social media reaches its full potential.

External connections focus attention on how well your networks are reaching the right target audiences and helping you achieve your organizational goals. For example, universities that are recruiting traditional college-age students as well as returning adult students would, most likely, need to use different social platforms and a network of connections that engage each distinct group.

Managing errors is one of the most under-appreciated elements of social media strategy. Careless post or tweets are almost inevitable. Likewise, customer complaints via social media are just part of our digital landscape. Crafting the proper correction protocols minimizes any lingering influence of these inevitabilities. Effective correction protocols ensure that problems and potential reputation threats are quickly, accurately, and effectively detected and corrected. That is easier said than done. For instance, the viral video of the authorities dragging a paying customer off a United Airlines flight in April 2017 led to a stream of social media miscues by the company. A more effective correction strategy would have softened much of the backlash. Embrace the haters, too. What they’re complaining about is often an early warning signal, and corrections are much easier to make at this point.

Knowing about the 5 Cs of Social Media will help social media enthusiasts and managers better understand the complexities they must navigate on a daily basis.


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