What Should We Talk About?

Organizations are entering into a new phase of integrating social media into their business and marketing plans.  Over the past few years, many companies have established a social media footprint complete with branded platforms, content publication, and community management.  Now with Facebook ostensibly becoming paid media and new platforms emerging based on private networks, executives are taking a more strategic look at the role of social media and its expected contribution back to the business. 


Once these new goals and priorities for social media have been established or re-calibrated (‘the why’), the next step for organizations is to determine the right value proposition for their involvement (‘the what’).  Specifically, this involves defining the particular topics the brand will publish to and be actively engaged in. Too often, marketers rush to and fixate on optimizing for audience engagement with ongoing changes to content format, frequency, and voice (‘the how’).  While these are all important components to consider and optimize over time, they are worthless without a clear and strategic proposition.


Crisply defining a focus the topic(s) that you as a brand are to be active in (and not active in) is critical.  Social media by its very nature has no boundaries and is constantly changing. Establishing the right proposition allows marketers to focus on what is most critical and avoid endlessly chasing trends and dousing fires.


Which brings us to our first framework, a model to address the Frequently Asked Digital Question (FADQ): What should we talk about?


The following framework attempts to bring a simple structure to an exercise of defining and aligning the right mix of topics for a brand to engage in.  As with many aspects of digital marketing, this is an area where it is often difficult to ‘connect the dots’ and ensure that business needs, customer interests, and marketplace opportunities are aligned.

1. The Brand

Motivation: Starting from your business objectives (‘the why’), identify all of the potential topics that you as a brand would like to be involved in and influence.  These are areas where the business may want to affect public perception in some way, demonstrate leadership in a category or cause, or lead to a direct commercial outcome.


Authority: Next, distill possible topics into areas where you have credibility—ideally recognized by your target audience—to engage and publish in.  These are topics where the business may have a core competency or an information advantage over competitors.


2. The Audience

Attraction: Starting from the general space where the target audience naturally intersects the brand, identify all of the potential topics that this community finds particularly interesting.  These are areas that are relevant throughout the year, and may involve passion points or achievement of a particular goal.


Disclosure: Next, distill possible topics into those areas where people will engage publicly through social media.  Typically these are areas where a person wants to project and endorse a particular association, while avoiding matters that are personally sensitive or potentially embarrassing.


3. The Marketplace

Commonality: Starting with the output from the Brand and Audience analysis, identify overlapping topics of common interest.  Group common topics, and keep others separate.


Opportunity: Next, compare these shared topics to existing conversation in social media to identify areas of opportunity.  These opportunity spaces typically involve topics with a lack of quality content or have an opening for a new, different perspective.


4. The Topics

Finally, review these remaining topics and analyze the degree to which they relate to each other.  If there are several topics, analyze each to understand the degree to which they accomplish the original business objectives (‘the why’) and prioritize accordingly. 


From here, identify your topic(s) with the most potential (‘the what’) and move forward with defining the corresponding activation plan (‘the how’).


As social media continues to evolve, it is important for organizations to have solid strategic footing.  Establishing a clear focus for topics of conversation is a critical piece of the puzzle.