Posts Tagged ‘strategy’

Six essential shifts in social media strategy

We’ve reached a critical point in the evolution of social media as a business tool. Gone are the days when the GMOOT (Get Me One Of Those) approach will get you anywhere – simply having a Twitter account, or a Facebook Page, isn’t enough. We’re at the point of social media saturation, and something’s got to give.

So began the session description for my recent presentation at BlogWorld New York. The crux: that the days of social media as an experiment are over – it’s time for a more mature approach to social media within companies in order for social media to be viewed as a sustainable communications and business function.

Unfortunately, we’re also at a point where pursuit of the shiny object has reached an extreme, and that this pursuit is conducted within an increasingly transparent fishbowl while armchair critics circle, waiting for the next “fail” from companies.

In this environment, where transparency and scrutiny are paired up with a shift in focus from experimentation to results, and yet where the allure of “the next big thing” persists, companies need to structure and approach social media differently.

My presentation focused on six essential shifts that I see in how many businesses approach social media strategy. Of course, not all companies are in the same situation. Some with mature programs have evolved beyond this stage; some face just a few of these shifts; others face them all:

  1. Moving away from shiny objects and towards social business
    1. Asking “why” to understand demands
    2. Building a social media infrastructure to support the social brand
    3. Taking baby steps in implementation – from crawl, to walk, to run, to fly
  2. Setting better objectives for social media
    1. Setting SMART objectives
    2. Tying back to broader business goals
    3. Staying clear of the “how” and “what” when setting objectives
  3. Measuring effectively against those objectives
    1. Focusing on the right numbers for the audience
    2. Understanding what numbers really mean
    3. Avoiding made-up numbers
    4. Measuring to drive insights alongside determining results
  4. Breaking down silos and integrating across functions
    1. Approaching social media as an integrated function
    2. Breaking-down silos through day-to-day tactics
    3. Integrating through reporting structures, governance and social media organizational models
  5. Planning and executing content more strategically
    1. Considering content objectives
    2. Identifying appropriate content sources
    3. Fine-tuning execution via appropriate content volume, mix and format
  6. Engaging effectively to build relationships and communities of interest
    1. Embracing negative and neutral conversations
    2. Establishing processes to minimize risk

How about you – have you seen companies needing to make these improvements to their social media strategy?

For more on the topic, check out this excellent write-up of my presentation over at SmartBlog for Social Media.

Thanks once again to Rick, Dave, Deb, Shane and the rest of the BlogWorld team for the invitation to speak. This was my fifth BlogWorld presentation, and I always enjoy it. 

Want to get better at social media? Ask “Why?”

Social media practitioners: want to get better at your job? Learn one word:


Used well, asking “why?” can help you get to the bottom of almost any problem, push your colleagues to explore new options, and force a new level of honesty in decision making.

I’ve just started reading Christopher Barger‘s book The Social Media Strategist (side note: only a few pages in and I already like it), and one particular section stood out to me:

“The individual connections and relationships made within social networks on behalf of organizations and brands don’t happen because the brands want to appear more approachable or more human. Those are nice side effects. But make no mistake, as unromantic as it sounds, businesses and organizations get into social media because they want customers (or potential customers) to eventually buy their products, feel better about having purchased their products, and have problems with their products resolved more efficiently, and they want to get insight on what might make a customer more likely to buy those products in the future. “The conversation” and “engagement” are just means to that end.”

We’re operating in a field which is still full of kumbaya and hugging. Social media is still a shiny object to many people – companies still come at it with a focus on the shiny object rather than on what they really need. In that context, asking “why” is critical to improving your odds of success.

Let’s take an all-too-frequent conversation that agencies have with clients: the “we should be ‘in’ social media” conversation. At face value, a statement from a client like “we should be in social media” has no meaning, direction or any sort of objectives whatsoever. However, by asking “why?” a few times, you can dig to the core of it. The conversation could go something like this:

A: We need to be in social media.

B: Ok, why do you want to be in social media?

A: Because we’re a customer-focused company and we want to get closer to our customers.

B: Fair enough. Tell me, what do you hope to achieve by getting closer in this case – why do you want to be closer to them?

A: Because we want to build a relationship with the people who use our products.

B: Great. So why do you want to build those relationships?

A: To help us hit our sales targets.

That’s by no means the end of that conversation – it’s just the beginning – but in just three questions you’ve dug down from “get me one of those” to a more focused objective of increasing sales volume. Other times that might be increasing loyalty; other times it might be gaining product insights. Once you’re at that point, you can help to re-focus objectives, and can work to build strategies and tactics that drive at the true business need rather than the one originally stated. You can apply the same things to strategic or tactical conversations too, with the end goal of driving better thinking, better communication and better business decisions.

What’s more, you can do the same thing internally. Instead of challenging or editing, ask:

  • Why did you use that particular phrase?
  • Why do you think that’s the right platform for this contest?
  • Why do you think a contest is the right tactic for this objective?
  • Why do you think we should be on Pinterest?

Build a team culture where asking “why” is the norm, and you’re well on your way to building a high-performance organization.

(Image credit: a_ninjamonkey)

Trust in 2012: 4 Implications for Social Media

Edelman recently released the results of its 2012 Trust Barometer survey. Given the events of the last year, it’s hardly surprising that trust is decreasing pretty much across the board.

That is, except in Canada.

Results of the 2012 Canadian Trust Barometer

Today we announced the Canadian results of the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer at an event in Toronto. A few highlights from the Canadian survey:

  • “A person like me” and regular employees both saw the biggest increase in trust in Canadian Barometer history. “A person like me” in particular has re-emerged as one of the four most trusted spokespeople behind academics and technical experts.
  • Trust in social media increased by 175 per cent in Canada, and trust in other online sources rose by 20 per cent. These increases are consistent – but larger – with those in the US.
  • CEOs are now the least credible spokespeople in Canada. While trust in business as an institution remained steady, business is not meeting the public’s expectations when it comes to building trust in companies.
  • Unlike in other countries, trust in media remains steady; in fact it was the only institution to see trust rise in the last year in Canada; possibly partly because the definition of “media” is changing and because the media is beginning to be seen as leaders in breaking news, rather than followers in reporting it.

Implications for Social Media

So what do this year’s results mean for companies in Canada, and those using social media in particular? Here are four social media implications from the results of the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer.

1. Transmedia storytelling is critical

The continuing rise of trust in social media and online sources is a clear signal that companies need to think beyond text when it comes to communicating. However, trust also increased in the Canadian media (and remains higher than other sources) – a signal that proclamations of the end of traditional media were very much premature.

Companies need to consider the complete media cloverleaf – traditional, owned, social and hybrid media, and to use them together effectively in order to communicate effectively.

2. Social media is not the end goal

While trust in social media has increased, and in Canada has more than doubled, it still lags well behind that of other sources. However, trust in “a person like me” is through the roof. There’s a dichotomy here, quite possibly because “social media” means different things to different people – plenty of people think of Twitter as a bunch of people talking about their lunch; I think of it as my industry peers discussing trends (and the occasional LOLcat).

The dichotomy of trust in social media means we can’t think of social for its own sake. Gaining new fans on your Facebook page, or followers of your Twitter account, won’t solve your business problems. Companies with a primary social goal of adding new fans/followers, or of gaining views on a video, are missing the point. To drop a cheesy line, it’s not the size of your community but what you do with it that counts.

3. Use social media as a conduit and a connector

If trust in social media, although on the rise, is still low, what does that mean for us? It means we need to think of it as a conduit rather than a destination.

Just as search engines are a conduit to useful information, social media is a conduit to connecting with other people – both those inside the company (e.g. regular employees) and to “people like you.” As a starting point, stop thinking about social media in the same way you think of traditional marketing campaigns, and start thinking in terms of bringing people together around a common interest. However, that’s just the beginning. What do you do with (and for) them? What do you enable from that point forward?

4. Enable and amplify advocacy

Experts and “people like me” are among the most trusted sources of information. One of the most interesting uses of social media is in enabling and amplifying the advocates of your company. Become the enabler – provide your organization’s fans with the information they need to speak in an informed way about the things they’re passionate about, and provide them with the opportunity to do so. The recent partnership between Bazaarvoice and Buddy Media is a great example of a key piece of this puzzle.

Also posted on the Edelman Canada site.

You’re Not a Strategist – You’re a Punk

I’m constantly astonished at how many people looking to get into agencies describe themselves as a “strategist” and think that by doing so, they can now avoid all of the work they don’t want to do. Whether it’s planning and budgeting, client project execution or measuring the outcomes, some people seem to think that by calling yourself something different, you can avoid learning about critical elements of a communications function.

Here’s the thing, though: it’s by doing that that you learn how good programs and strategies work.

I know I’m going to piss a lot of people off here, but in my opinion you can’t be an effective strategist until you’ve got some experience to rest behind it.

Mashable recently published a post that nicely explains my frustration. It’s entitled “What Does It Take To Be a Social Strategist?” Key points:

  1. About a third of companies look for at least six years of experience when looking for a social strategist
  2. 92% of social strategists are manager-level or higher
  3. Key success factors:
    1. Rallying stakeholders across the organization
    2. Leading multi-faceted, cross-departmental efforts
    3. Having a long-term, customer-centric vision
    4. Being multi-disciplinary and wearing “many hats”

Sounds pretty intense, right? So then why do I encounter so many inexperienced people giving themselves that title?

Here’s where I’m coming from: When I started working in communications, after doing a few internships during school I spent four years, analyzing quality assessments of communications plans in the public sector.

Sounds mind-bogglingly boring, right? On the contrary, I think that experience set me up fabulously to succeed later. I looked at poor plans and learned to spot the holes and what doesn’t work. I looked at good plans and learned how they effectively fit together. I did the same for tactical materials, too.

Later I moved jobs, began executing things myself, and learned from my mistakes. I organized a media event that I thought was near-perfect but that had ZERO media show up (sob!). I had drafts returned to me by editors with so much red ink on them, you could barely read the original draft.

On the flip side, I also wrote a release that got verbatim pick-up on the front page of tier-one media (I still have a copy of that paper!), and led programs that delivered great results for clients. In short: I learned.

You can’t just flip a switch and consider yourself a strategist without gaining experience in these other areas. You need to get in the trenches, get your head down and learn.

What’s more – sorry to say it – but there’s a lot more to strategy than just idea creation.

You might be great at putting the pieces together, and have a really great mind for integrating different elements to solve problems, but until you’ve gained enough experience to know (the majority of the time, at least – communications isn’t a science) what is likely to work and what isn’t, be quiet and continue to learn.

If you think you just flip a switch and become a master strategist overnight without gaining the experience needed first, you’re not a strategist. You’re just a punk.

(photo credit: Flickr)

Two Ways To Quickly Improve Your Communications Plans

I’ve worked in communications for a while now, and one thing I’ve noticed — consistently — is that the same two elements of communications plan get overlooked time and time again:

  • Objectives
  • Strategy

These almost always get sacrificed in favour of the bright, shiny part of the plan: tactics.

What’s more, your objectives and strategy are the most important part of the plan. They’re the part that frames the ultimate goal that you’re trying to achieve, and provides a focus for the tactics that should aim to achieve that goal.

That means that, sadly, most communications programs fail to live up to their true purpose.

I think this failure stems from two primary misunderstandings:

1. People don’t understand the difference between objectives, strategies and tactics.

Simply put, your objective should state what you’re trying to accomplish. Are you trying to sell 30,000 units of something? Increase customer loyalty? Reduce employee turnover? Remember, too, that there are business objectives and communications objectives, and the latter should flow up to the former.

Your strategy defines how you will achieve the objective you just outlined. If you’re looking to sell product, for example, one strategy might look to raise awareness of the product among a key audience. Another option might be to improve its visibility among key purchase-driven search terms.

Your tactics provide the final level of detail in your plan – the granular activities that will drive towards your strategies, and which ultimately fuel the accomplishment of your objective.

Too few people understand the difference between these three areas. If they’re on the client side, they’re the ones who, despite the great program delivered, still ask “but how many media impressions did we get” even if the business results are there for all to see. On the agency side, well, they’re the ones who risk those same clients never having the business results to ignore in the first place.

It’s CRITICAL that people get their heads around this, as these parts of your plan ensure you’re driving at the right result.

2. People focus on shiny.

Lots of people, especially in the communications industry, are highly creative and really enjoy the creative side of things. Let’s face it, brainstorms are fun. Blue sky thinking, a “there’s no such thing as a bad idea” mindset and no consideration of limitations is a nice mindset to have. Unfortunately, I’ve found that that often comes at the expense of strategy – of putting boundaries around creativity to ensure it is pointed in the right direction.

I had a great discussion with a colleague last week after a brainstorm. I commented that we had some great ideas coming out of the session, but that at that point most of them totally diverged from our strategy for the program. Her response (paraphrasing) was: “Agreed. It’s our job to take those ideas, filter them and tweak them so they fit.”

The perfect team combines people with creative strength alongside those with a strategic mindset, so you get the best of both worlds.

Want to improve your planning? Educate your team and your client about the difference between objectives, strategies and tactics, and make sure they’re taken into account when developing your plan.

Why And How To Scale Social Business Programs

As time goes on we’re seeing a rising trend toward social customer support, largely driven by three forces:

  1. Companies are observing high-profile brands successfully executing social support programs and want to realize those benefits
  2. As more and more companies engage in marketing programs through social media, customers are using those two-way channels to demand support from companies
  3. We’re seeing more and more examples of crises driven by online activity; social support offers a way to prevent issues from becoming crises

The challenge companies are facing is how to scale that support in the face of massive demand from a customer base that comes to expect quick, direct engagement.

Jeremiah Owyang recently posted the slides from his presentation on scalable social business programs. Some of his key points:

  1. Get into Hub and Spoke and develop a Center of Excellence
    • Get away from organic and centralized structures, and develop a hub that can support activities throughout the organization
  2. Leverage community for first tier marketing and support
    • Don’t try to just scale 1:1 support – provide the means for customers to support each other then provide second-tier support for those who need it
  3. Integrate both in the customer lifecycle as well as your corporate website
    • Think of how you will engage with people at all stages, from awareness through to advocacy, and think about how you can build social functionality into your corporate website (one of the key trends we’ve identified for 2011)
  4. Launch a formalized advocacy program
    • Cultivate a group of independent advocates who can transparently engage where they see fit
  5. Invest in Social Media Management Systems before you lose control
    • The recent Kenneth Cole and Chrysler mishaps shone a spotlight on the need for controls and education around social media activities. Appropriate systems are a key part of that.

Point #2 is a key one – help your customers and advocates (point #4) to handle a lot of the low-level support for you. That doesn’t mean leaving them unattended; it means providing them with the means to do so – a place to do it and the resources to do so.

Keynote: Invest in Scalable Social Business Programs

These points on scale nicely complement Steve Rubel’s recent thoughts – that, operating in a world limited by time and space, when you can’t expand time you need to focus on expanding your organization’s surface area to scale your activities.

What do you think of all of this?

Your Brainstorms Suck

Brainstorms are one of the most fun parts of the communications planning process. You get to remove restrictions from your mind, pretend there are no limits and be as creative as you like.

The trouble is, most brainstorms suck.


Most brainstorms focus entirely on tactics… on coming up with ideas in whatever way you can. You end up with ideas in search of a strategy. People then try to craft a strategic framework around it to justify the “big idea” to the decision maker.

If course, decision makers love the big idea. It’s glamorous; they can get excited. The strategy seems to fit with the idea, too (because you made sure it did).

The critical filter to apply is: do the ideas and the strategy flow back up to the objectives at hand?

You won’t make many friends if you only push this line of thinking towards the end of the process, especially if you keep pressing the issue. People will often have to admit to themselves that there isn’t a fit there, and you’ll become the bad guy. EVERY communications person out there thinks they come up with strategic ideas, whether it’s true or not.

Instead, try to rig the process from the beginning. Pull a smaller group together and figure out the strategic approach you want to take to the issue at hand. Pull that into a briefing and make sure everyone has read it before the brainstorm. Review it again at the beginning of the session. Then, take the handcuffs off and brainstorm away with the same freedom as before.

Finally, at the end of the session (either with the group or separately), filter the ideas through that strategic approach and see which ones stick.

The result: ideas led by a strategy that hits the business need, not the other way around.

Make sense? How do you ensure your brainstorms are effective?

Don’t Put All Your Social Media Eggs In One Basket

So, a rumour says that Yahoo is  shutting down Deliciousor not. Cue a mass exodus as many people, including myself, look for ways to back-up thousands of bookmarks they’ve saved over the years. They also look to backup their photos on Flickr, as people realize that site may not be a sure thing after all.

Meanwhile, Facebook rolls out revamped Page layouts for brands… and then rolls them back, after first taking their site down for a while.

Both of these situations in the last week illustrate one thing:

It’s risky to put all of your eggs in one basket, especially if you don’t own that basket.

Not surprisingly, when the new Page layouts briefly launched last week, the first reaction of many of my surprised colleagues and developer friends was something along the lines of “oh, crap.”


Because this is one of the busiest times of year for many brands. Because many companies have campaigns in market over the run-up to the holidays, and any change in layout or functionality runs the risk of breaking or severely hindering the effectiveness of those promotions.

Many people seemed to share the sentiment of my friend Jeremy Wright, who tweeted:

FB has a fundamental responsibility to not disrupt their platform the week before Xmas.

I don’t blame him – companies are sinking big money into Facebook nowadays. It’s not just a free tool – it’s a key part of marketing activities for many brands (and has long since ceased to be free for many given application development and media buy costs).

These two situations serve to reinforce a point I often make nowadays:

Third-party social media tools have many advantages. However, you don’t own them. You don’t own the posts on them; you don’t own the design, the layout or the functionality; you don’t own the data held by them. In short, you don’t control them.

That’s why you shouldn’t throw all of your social media eggs into someone else’s basket.


  • Spread it around. If resources permit, incorporate multiple sites into your approach. Integrate.
  • Own your hub. David Armano says that 2010 was the year that you went where the people were; 2011 will be the year where social functionality makes websites fashionable once again. Create your own social hub and control it. Control the design; control the paths you point people down; control the data; control the functionality.
  • Use third-party sites, but be conscious that they might not always be around… or keep their rules the same. If your site relies exclusively on Facebook’s Open Graph for sign-ins, for example, then Facebook going down must be pretty traumatic.

(Image: Shutterstock)

5 Steps to Thinking More Socially About Communications

Like it or not, “digital” is becoming a part of more and more marketers’ jobs. The implications of this are broader than just tacking-on another channel to an existing marketing plan – developing digital approaches require a shift in mind-set from traditional channels, whether they’re owned, earned or paid.

Here are five ways to begin to shift your thinking from traditional communications to social communications.

Think “inbound” alongside “outbound”

Your new social hub, or your Facebook Page, or your engagement plan may be the nice, glamorous part of your approach to social media, but be careful not to completely neglect incoming information in favour of outbound messages.

Just as most companies invest resources in media monitoring, online monitoring should be a core component of any companies’ online activities nowadays. Social media is allowing more and more people to connect and talk about the things that they care about, and to do so in a place where you can hear them. This has three big implications:

  1. Self-identified audience – if people are talking about your company or brand, they’re doing the equivalent of raising their hand as people who care. It’s a marketer’s dream – in the past we’ve had to use a shotgun to do a rifle’s job. Nowadays, the rifle can work.
  2. Identify problems early – by monitoring what people are saying online, you can identify many issues in niche groups before they escalate to a broader audience. Because you can identify them, you can mitigate or prepare for the consequences and you can learn from them.
  3. Weather vane – monitoring lets you see the reactions to your activities in real-time, and to adjust them. So, if your approach isn’t resonating, or is being received negatively, you can adjust. This means that, rather than a fire-and-forget approach, or a ready-aim-aim-aim-aim-fire approach, you can adopt a ready-aim-fire-aim-fire-aim-fire approach that is more likely to generate good results.

Think long-term, not short-term

Social media outposts don’t come with a built-in, ready-to-go audience – you need to build your community over time. However, that’s not the way that many people have been taught to think. Marketing campaigns are often built around short-term microsites, campaign-focused landing pages and one-off ads.  That approach is ineffective in social media.

Launching a Facebook Page or Twitter account for a campaign then turning it off at the end of the campaign is akin, in traditional digital terms, to building an email list with a campaign then just deleting it once the campaign is done. It’s a waste. What’s more, you’re creating social media scorched earth as people who chose to connect with you may feel used.

Organizations often cited as leading the way in social media are launching properties and maintaining them over the long-term. The Starbucks Facebook Page, for example, has over 18 million fans. These didn’t just appear overnight (disclosure: Starbucks is an Edelman client). In comparison, the final episode of LOST drew 13.5 million people – five million fewer. While Starbucks isn’t a realistic comparison for most brands, the way they’ve built their fan base over the long-term is cause to stop and think about the “disposable property” approach.

Adjust your approach to measurement

Marketers and communicators have long suffered with poor measurement approaches based largely on guesswork. Online activities (first one-way, now two-way) let us draw a much more direct line back to our objectives… and we should take advantage of that.

In a world where social media activities are fighting for a piece of the same pie that everyone else is eating, we do need to demonstrate results. Yes, it’s frustrating that social media seems to be held to a higher measurement standard than other forms of communications, but it’s the newest and as such people aren’t yet sold on its effectiveness.

One big challenge right now is that traditional marketers are seeking to apply traditional metrics to this new paradigm. CPM metrics, for example, may make sense when you pay for the media and control every letter in your ad. However, when you’re dealing in earned media over which you have zero control of words, sentiment, audience or placement, not every eyeball is equal. Is it a good thing if Engadget posts a piece that rips your new product launch a new one? The CPM metric would say yes.  So, not every eyeball is even a good thing. Quality measures like sentiment, message and link inclusion and conversions for other goals become important.

Integrate your channels

The lines between communications disciplines have been blurring for some time now. Social media takes that to the next level. I wrote about the interplay between different forms of media late last year, and my colleague David Armano’s diagram of the intersection of these media types (below) illustrates it well.

Social media doesn’t fit into a neat silo. You’re operating with a mix of on-domain owned properties, outposts on third-party sites, engagement on other sites, paid ads and online earned media. This puts social media approaches at an uncomfortable intersection for people who would like to put “social” in its own bucket, or within an existing one.

That means your internal departments need to play nicely with each other. It means the agencies supporting you need to, too.

Get used to two-way conversations

Over the course of its history to-date, communications has evolved from one-to-one, to one-to-many, to many-to-many. Use of social media tools brings with it expectations. So, the question becomes not whether to respond, but how, because if you stick your head up, vomit your messages all over anyone who will listen, then disappear, you’re not going to convince anyone. You’ll end up with a bunch of people asking you questions with no response. If social media monitoring, as Marcel Lebrun says, is the equivalent of answering the social phone then not responding is like answering the phone then sitting on the line in silence.

When you publish new content, monitor regularly for reactions and respond to them. When you ask a question on Twitter, respond to people who reply. When you comment on a blog post, subscribe to the comment stream so you can see if anyone posts follow-up questions.

Two-way interaction is here to stay. The toothpaste isn’t going back in the tube. To ignore this is to put your head in the sand.

What else?

I’m sure these five shifts in thinking are just the tip of the iceberg. Do you agree? What else would you add?

Facebook Strategies: Content Over Creative

Are you focusing your Facebook investment in the right place?

The immensely smart Jay Baer directed my attention to research conducted by Jeff Widman of Brand Glue, who found that 99.5% of comments on his clients’ status updates come from peoples’ newsfeeds, not from the pages themselves.

Interesting, right? As Jay notes, this means that a lot of effort which is expended on customizing fan pages on Facebook is, frankly, wasted.

The first time that people come to your page is absolutely the most critical. They’re not going to keep coming back for the sake of coming back. So, your job #1 as a steward of your brand’s Facebook page is to draw people to your page and maximize your conversion rate of visits to “likes.” Beyond that point, investment in “ongoing” features for pages may be money down the drain.

The continued rise of Facebook community managers

This shines the light firmly on community managers as the key to Facebook success for brands. As with so many other aspects of social media, it’s not all about having a flashy, creative, well-designed page layout. It’s not about dazzling people with creative gadgets. Success on Facebook depends on companies  providing interesting, valuable content that engages people through their home base on Facebook.

Facebook itself doesn’t make things easy for brands. Well, to be more specific, it doesn’t make things easy for brands who provide mediocre content. You see, Facebook doesn’t treat all content equally. The site uses an algorithm to prioritize content based on both recency and on engagement with that content. The key, then, with Facebook content, is to ensure that the things you’re posting actually drives people to interact with it rather than passively consume it. To do the latter is to ensure that the content appears in few peoples’ streams and is soon relegated to just appearing on your wall for the 0.5% of people who may interact there.

This isn’t universally true, of course. Specific initiatives can draw people to engage directly on your page (contests, for example). However, that kind of interaction isn’t sustainable from either side of the equation.

The rise of spacial marketing

My colleague Steve Rubel has begun to talk recently about a new dimension we need to add to our digital engagement: time. In an age of Twitter streams and Facebook news feeds, it’s no longer enough to post the right content in the right place. We need to post it at the right time, too.

Mashable yesterday featured research conducted by Vitrue into the days and times that Facebook users are most active. As they summarize:

  • The three biggest usage spikes tend to occur on weekdays at 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. ET.
  • The biggest spike occurs at 3:00 p.m. ET on weekdays.
  • Weekday usage is pretty steady, however Wednesday at 3:00 pm ET is consistently the busiest period.
  • Fans are less active on Sunday compared to all other days of the week.

To maximize our effectiveness, we need to take data like this and optimize our timing even further to reflect the activity pattern of our own community.

Shift your budget

The bottom line is that many marketers on Facebook are paying insufficient attention to content design while paying undue attention to creative design. While look and feel does matter, instead of spending the bulk of your budget on custom design and widgets, consider splitting that budget differently, with more of a focus on:

  • Converting people from visitors to fans – optimize your page; use tools like Kontagent to test and tweak your apps to get the best possible results
  • Effective community management – generating genuinely useful content and interacting with people in the community over the long term, and driving towards your objectives

Do you agree? How do you approach your Facebook activity?