I’ve been reading about theories of human communication today – and turned to considering how the theory development process can be applied to developing social strategies online. Littlejohn and Foss present this basic model of inquiry:
- Questions: The process of asking interesting, significant questions.
- Observation: Employing a planned method for answering the questions.
- Theory: Constructing answers.
- AND REPEAT (Theories lead to new questions, observations are determined in part by theories…)
I thought about one of my favourite social strategy models, Forrester’s POST method, and how it might be combined with this (which is described thus: “inquiry is more like running around in a circle and back and forth between different points on it than walking in a straight line.”)
Of course, when employed as a social web strategist, tasked with bringing people together with an organisation and its aims, being seen to run around in circles is probably not a good look.
What is needed is a way to clearly and simply draw together all the strands: a truly comprehensive model to frame social strategy development. So in addition to the basic model of inquiry, and the POST model, I have added another dimension, distinguishing between the practical considerations that come up over and over again with online activity:
- Publishing (or content)
- Commercial (revenue generation)
This allows the creation of a living matrix which holds all the questions, observations and theories (or actions) that underlie a social strategy. It can be easily stored in a spreadsheet and time-stamped at each update – so each version can be saved to observe how the model changes over time. It documents whether the right questions are being asked, how they are being answered and whether progress is being made in all areas important to your organisation.
In this way the circles the strategist needs to run in can actually look perfectly rational, get results, and stand up to scrutiny from all those in the organisation who need convincing.
Appropriate questions spring to mind as soon as this model is applied to any organisation. And once you have these, making observations and developing actions will follow. But here are a few examples…
What might be the questions under People, from a publishing point of view? Well you might ask how many readers your articles have, and what else the people on your site reads, on and offline.
Under Objectives, commercial, you might ask which areas of your organisation have the most aggressive targets: where your company most wants or needs to make money. If you discover that energy-saving devices are doing really well but users aren’t buying your other home wares, and there is a higher margin on every kitchen product, you might want to focus getting answers about the user journey, exit pages and reasons for lower take-up for that particular action.
Under Strategy, social, you might want to ask what the current social strategy is, and what the strategy is of your competitors. You could also ask whether a social strategy is seen as an important part of the overall organisational strategy, and who the main players are that are driving its inclusion.
Under Technology, social, you might ask which social technologies could help improve how many people on Facebook share links to your articles. And so on, and so forth…