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How to define a social media strategy – Part 2:
Sell your candy

Posted on Jan 29th, 2012 by

Social media strategy

In the process of defining a social media strategy in the context of nonprofit agricultural research, we defined the key role of social media in part 1 of this case study, as:

  • Make research available and accessible, AND
  • Document the research processes

In this part, we’ll convert these goals into a social media strategy.

Connecting our target audience to our content

Let’s cut to the chase: Within the context of an international nonprofit research organisation, we defined the core social media strategy as “Using social media to connect our target audience to our core content”.

This gives us three parts to concentrate on:

  1. Our target audience: What is our target audience? Who are they? How do we reach and engage them?…;
  2. Our core content: What is it? Where is it stored? Why is that core content? What is the value of it?…;
  3. Social media as the link: What tools can we use to connect “audience to content”? What is the role of these tools? How to best use them?…

Running a candy shop

Imagine we run a candy store. In order not to have people pick on the example: say that we only have unique non-sugary candy, made out of natural ingredients, produced by ethnic minority groups, wrapped in recyclable paper. :-)

We want:

  1. to reach people interested in buying candy (our target audience);
  2. them to know about our store (a role of social media);
  3. the potential clients to come over and check out our store’s window display (another role for social media);
  4. the potential clients to enter the shop (our website and repositories);
  5. the potential clients to buy our candy (read our core content).

Step 1: Who is interested in our candy? Defining our target audience.

target audienceIn a previous post, we explained a practical way how to identify a target audience. That’s the first step in any social media strategy.

This exercise is not a small feat: Go from a high level (identify your target groups), to the nitty gritty details (identify the actual individual people or organisations), to the mechanics (identify your audience’s social media channels and connect to them via those channels).

It is also a process which never ends: you should continuously update and expand this list. But, it is worth while, it is the core of your online presence: the people you want to reach and impact.

In this example, we defined the target audience for CCAFS, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, as:

  • policy makers (working on climate change issues)
  • researchers (working on climate change issues related to food security and agriculture)
  • internal partners (partners within the CGIAR system, and staff implementing the CCAFS program)
  • selected universities (partnering with them on projects)
  • donors (both existing and possible future ones)
  • public media (in general, not only those working on climate change)

In another example, as part of the social media work we did for IFWF3, The Third International Forum on Water and Food, our target audience was defined as:

  • Donors
  • Researchers, scientists
  • Partners
  • Development professionals
  • Media
  • Universities and youth
  • The general public

In the latter example, you can also see how those target groups were fleshed out into individual organisations, and how we started listing their social media outlets.

Step 2: What candy do we sell? Defining our core content

core contentLet’s continue within our example: defining a social media strategy for nonprofit agricultural research centers:

Given we have all our research on our website or online-repository, often it is buried amongst loads of other information. No wonder that for many organisations, it is a difficult and painful process to pinpoint their most valuable online information. Though painful, it is the first step of our social media strategy: “identify the core content”.

Mechanically, it is not that difficult: Our core content inventory can be as simple as a mere list of links to scientific publications, research reports, agricultural data, different research processes, progress reports,… As long as we have it on an online repository, we’re ok: be it a website, a slide-share presentation, Google Books,…

Check out a simple example of what content we defined as “core” for the IFWF3.

Oh, and remember what we said in part 1 of this case study: the research results are not the only important content for a research organisation. It is just as important to document the process one followed, the project challenges,….

Once we have this list, ladies and gentlemen, we have your candy. Now we are ready to sell!

Step 3: The Art of Selling Candy: the role of social media

social media strategy: from target audience to core contentReady to sell candy? Are we? Before we start, though, let’s make sure our store is in order: we put the candy reachable, viewable in nice racks, in other words: we’ll make sure our website containing the core content is well structured, user friendly, fast, etc…

Now, we have the candy, and we know who is interested in your candy. But how do we connect those two? Our customers need to know where our store is located, what candy we sell. The candy has to presented in an appealing way.

This is where social media plays a crucial role: “Connecting our customers to our candy”.

For our candy store, I would:

  1. Have sandwich men hand out flyers within areas where our target audience usually hangs out, teasing people to come to our store: “The best candy in town”, “Sugar free, and still delicious”,..
  2. Make a nice store window display: once the flyers teased people’s curiosity, and walk to our shop, I want them to be able to see a selection of what we sell, displayed in a way which stirs up their interest even further, up to the point where they enter our shop.

Translating this into social media tools:

  1. Our sandwich men handing out flyers, grabbing people’s attention in a second, will be the role of Twitter, Facebook, Google+,..: teasers, one liners which take no longer than a few seconds to assimilate. Each of them has a link to…
  2. Our store front, our window display: blogs, videos, Flickr pictures, podcasts, etc..: this social media content takes more than a second to assimilate, but just like a nice window display, it teases into “checking it out some more”: each of those social media pieces will have a link leading to core content, our candy in our store.

More about the details on the role of social media, window displays, sandwich men and flyers in part 3 of this case study.
This post is part of our case study How to define a social media strategy.


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.

3 Comments to “How to define a social media strategy – Part 2:
Sell your candy”

  1. Katrina says:

    I really like the analogy you have created, however I think this appears too linear as it only covers one purpose of social media – connecting audience to target content. What about its other purposes such as initiating dialogue, interaction, users influencing the core content itself, diversifying channels, etc..?

    • Peter says:

      Hi Katrina,

      I agree with you that social media (contrary to the more traditional web-media) can break the paradigm “I Publish, You Listen”.

      I can see that the “social” part of “social media” can have two roles:
      either is a “purpose”: you mentioned a perfect example: through interactions, users influence the core content
      or it is “means”: helping to expand our social networks, to connect to our target audience

      In part 4 of this tutorial, I stressed that “it is not all that simple”, and specifically mentioned the “interactions” part you mention.

      Overall, the social media strategy is to be put in context of the nonprofit you run. In some context, the dialogue will be more important than others.

  2. Vanessa says:

    Thanks for sharing these steps, Peter. Incredibly valuable for anyone, expert or beginner! Will be taking my team through these steps in the near future.


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