The path to great social programs? Great planning

How do we plan predictably great social programs that go beyond the empty promises of "viral" to deliver sustained advocacy and business results?

How do we plan predictably great social programs that go beyond the empty promises of “viral” to deliver sustained advocacy and business results?

A quick scan of what won at Cannes this year shows a lot of creative diversity – from raising disease awareness, to social grassroots for civic good, to instilling safe behavior among passengers. Creativity is one thing. Planning rigor is another.

Despite this diversity of work, there is a predictable way to plan creative, effective work for programs with social media at their core. It is no surprise that our planning framework, like others in play, features the fundamentals of defining the business objective, converting learning into insights, creating and expressing great ideas across platforms, constant evaluation, and optimization. But great social planning goes beyond these fundamentals.

Why do we need a “social” way to plan?

  • Success in social media hinges around one big truth – we must earn the right to people's attention, their advocacy, and ultimately their business. Radical shifts in trust and influence are reshaping how marketing and communications work.  Today, more than 90% of global consumers say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. That's up 18% since 2007. 
  • Too often, social media is seen as a channel instead of being integrated around the customer journey. Social is no channel. It is radically new behaviors.
  • Many marketers have an unhealthy obsession with “magical” content that will trigger an avalanche of sharing instead of focusing on earning attention, advocacy, and action. The right disruptive idea and content can capture people's attention but not often sustain it.
  • We continue to govern our customer relationships via a campaign mindset with a fixed start and end date instead of building long term relationships. Great social defies the traditional single “hump” campaign arc.

Planning tools help
Mindful of these shifts and barriers, we set out to revise our framework that serves as a planning blueprint for our teams across the globe.  This is not a checklist.  It's bigger than that.  It's an app store stocked with tools and templates for planners and digital strategists throughout the network to use in the course of their work

We've built a Social Persona that brings real people – what they really do in social - into the too often bland world of generic archetypes.  There's a simple yet powerful diagnostic tool designed to easily assess a competitive set of brands against five categories.  There's a customer journey model that takes research and predicts where social media can provide a brand with the most lift, helping to guide resource and investment decisions.

This is how we turn an understanding of human behavior online into an integrated program aligned around a core strategy and measure the results. How do you plan?

John Bell is global MD of Social@Ogilvy and he publishes the social media business blog The Digital Influence Mapping Project. Find him on Twitter at @jbell99.

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