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How to define a social media strategy – Part 4:
Fine-tuning your strategy

Posted on Jan 29th, 2012 by

social media tools

In this Social Media Strategy case study, we learned to put the strategy into the context of the organisation.

We identified the role of social media in “connecting our target audience to our core content” and looked at the roles of different social media tools.

But nothing in life is simple. A social media strategy is no exception. Let’s fine-tune our generic strategy.

Is social media only a means? Can it be a goal too? Can social media be “core content”?

In the previous parts of our series, we defined two roles for social media: either the sandwich men handing out flyers (using microblogging and social networking tools) or as the store front, making core content digestive, and pleasing to the eye (in the form of blogposts, videos, pictures,…).

But can social media also be core content? Can core content be stored in social media? The answer is “yes”, twice. An encouraging yes!

Even within the context of this case study, where we defined a social media strategy for a nonprofit agricultural research organisation, it is not all about research papers and scientific publications. Those are really the end result of a process, often covering several years. No, it is just as important, or even more important to also document the process itself. Describe the tools you use, the methodologies you try out, your experiences, your successes and failures, your experiments…

Here is a nice example of a CIAT scientist using video to document some of his process. He actually goes a step further and also uses video as one of his end products. In that way, social media becomes core content.

In same area, here is an example of how CCAFS used a series of video testimonials to document how farmers adapt to climate change.

The only question I would encourage you to ask yourself, for every piece of content is: “Is this core content”, or is it “meta-content”, leading into “core content”? Is it the “terminus” of the rail track you are traveling with your audience, or just “a half-way train station”? Practically, when uploading a video, is it supposed to introduce a research report, as core content? If so, it should have links to that report. The same with pictures, blogposts,…

Social media can also be “a simple publishing tool”

Sometimes, we just want to have a simple publishing tool, to put up content easily and fast.
See how ILRI uses a blog to assemble press clippings, and another blog to publish their vacancies. All core content! Check out how Bioversity uses a blog to publish about the latest additions in their library.

Because blogplatforms like WordPress become more and more versatile, they can be used as sophisticated tools, linking into databases or aggregating data from many different s0urces. Check out the CGIAR Ongoing Research site, a visual interface into their research projects, AMNK which aggregates complex climate data into a data modeling tool. All on WordPress!

Are there any other uses of social media?

In this case study, we mostly concentrated on one specific purpose of social media, within a non-profit organisation. Even more, it was done within the context of one specific type of organisation, doing agricultural research.

As we stressed in part 1 of this case study: Your social media strategy needs to be put within the context of your nonprofit organisation. This case study was based on one of several possible  social media approaches, one within the context of an agricultural research organisation. This is not the “only right” stream of thoughts, not the “only good” social media strategy.

There are others, dependent on your organisation and the role you want to attribute to social media within your context:

  • Stir up conversations, engage your peers, your audience: Many organisations use social media for the “social” part. Social media are very well suited for the exchange of ideas, feedback on projects, and general engagement with your audience. In that way, the audience would not only read, but also be part of creating core content.
  • Productivity tools: social bookmarking tools like Delicious and Diigo are part of the social media family, though fit in less within our strategy to “connect our target audience to our core content”. I would classify them more as “productivity” tools. Collaborative social media tools like Wiki’s fall under the same category
  • News sources: Many of us want to stay abreast of the news, in the specific areas of our work. Social media, through its social networking function, is an excellent tool to get first hand updates and news from our peers and target public. By curating your audience on Twitter or Facebook, you can stay up to date with the latest in your professional field
  • Fundraising: Aha, an area we have not touched yet. While related to the generic use of social media as an advocacy tool, we could also use specific tools to actually fund-raise. A nonprofit I work with raised US$1 million, in 24 hours for the tsunami in Japan.
  • Social reporting: We highlighted several times on this blog how social media can be used to report from events, conferences and meetings, as a way to engage the onsite and offsite audience, as a way to keep track of the event’s content and as an advocacy tool
  • Odd ends: As you can imagine, any crowdsourced mass media tool can have all kinds of applications. I have used it to recruit people, to ask for help, to find real-time solutions to software bugs, as user support, to connect to people where I travel to, etc… You name it, somewhere you can find an application for it in social media…

About “social media reach” and “social media impact”

We have not touched upon figures and statistics in this case study. A crucial but also dangerous area… It is soooo easy to get stuck on “social media reach”, on figures showing statistics of your social media traffic.

A graph showing your Twitter followers going up, proving how many thousand of people access your Flickr pictures, the amount of views on YouTube videos and the number of “likes” on your Facebook links. Oooh and those Google Analytics figures for your blog. Njam Njam! Goody!

I love it. Everybody loves those figures. These are black and white. Objective. Nobody can dispute them.

But they don’t mean much actually…

Again, make sure those are figures for your target audience. Point one.
Point two: your social media content is not our target. It is not your goal. It is a means. Your goal is to bring your target audience to your core content: your scientific research, your reports, your impact measurements, etc…

So measure how much of your target audience reaches your target content. Measure that funnel, that flow of people attracted by the sandwich men’s flyers to your store window to your core content.

Measure how much of the core content is read, the progress of the access to it, how long people spend reading it, how much your core content is spreading, republished and re-digested on other websites and blogs.

THAT is what I call social media impact.

This post is part of our case study How to define a social media strategy.
Looking for more inspiration? This list of social media strategies and policies will help you.


This case study is based on my work with the Consortium of international agricultural research centers, who kindly allowed me to share our work on this blog.

Picture courtesy Social Media Today

6 Comments to “How to define a social media strategy – Part 4:
Fine-tuning your strategy”

  1. Hi Peter

    Thanks for this, useful material. But here is the core, “Measure how much of the core content is read, the progress of the access to it, how long people spend reading it, how much your core content is spreading, republished and re-digested on other websites and blogs.” That’s an area we’re exploring in a couple of projects so it’d be interesting to exchange ideas on how you get to that level of detail without having ad agency level resources



    • Peter says:

      Hi Pete, nice to read you again. Been a long time!

      Agreed, “strategy” is only one step, then comes the workplan, and the “measuring” step… Measuring progress, reach and impact. Specifically the latter is important, as stressed in this part of the “tutorial”.

      I just finished a workshop with one centre, in which we expanded this “social media strategy” into a “media strategy”, including a workplan and quantative monitoring.

      Here are some of the metrics we defined: (“Impact” here is defined as “Reach” within a target audience, within the context of core content)

      Website reach:
      # of visitors from developing countries
      Returning visits
      Search hits
      Website impact:
      Downloads of key documents
      # of visitors from countries where we have projects
      # of referred sites
      # comments or feedback
      # visits of core content

      E-Letter Reach:
      # of subscriptions
      # people who opened links
      E-Letter Impact:
      # of page views from newsletter
      # of page views from target countries where we have projects
      Track key members of each target group—are they opening letters? Are they clicking?

      Twitter Reach
      # of followers
      # of RTs/mentions
      # of page views via Twitter
      “Reach” metric (SourceCrowd)
      Twitter Impact
      # of followers from target audience
      # of RTs/mentions from target audience

      Facebook Reach
      # of likes
      # of people talking about this
      Total Facebook “reach” metric
      # of page views coming from FB
      Facebook Impact:
      # of likes from countries we have projects in, # from developing countries

      Slideshare Reach:
      # of views
      Slideshare Impact:
      # of downloads


      Most of these figures are easy to retrieve (Google Analytics, Google Search, several Twitter stats applications, standard Facebook stats,…)

      I am writing up the process we followed in this workshop. Will also publish here…

      Hope this helps,


  2. Peter – This four part social media tutorial is excellent – easy to follow steps. I would definitely encourage you to also use the answer to the question above re: measuring impact as another part of the tutorial.

    • Peter says:

      Thanks Bonnie!
      I am now writing a case study of a workshop where we went from strategy to workplans. The part on measuring impact will be part of that indeed. Once finished, I will reference different pieces of that workshop within this tutorial..Indeed a good idea to list the ideas on how to practically measure reach and impact…. — Peter

  3. Machteld says:

    Peter! So, once in a while I send your website to people that think about starting a blog etc. For instance, the guys from recently started up blogging and used your golden rules to get going.
    But after some time as a social media amateur, I’m now asked to set up a social media strategy for a new research project at work. So this is my turn to say: GRAZIE MILLE! for this excellent tutorial! :D

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