Digital pebbles

Clarke Mulder Purdie on PR, media and other random topics

A handy acronym for social strategies

Posted by Graham Hayday on January 22, 2008

Forrester Research unleashed a new acronym on the marketing world late last year: POST.

POST stands for People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology and is designed to help companies form effective social media strategies.

I’ve been meaning to blog about this since the end of last year when Forrester’s Josh Bernoff sent me (and lots of other bloggers who asked for one) a copy of a short report introducing the POST methodology.

I’m not normally a fan of acronyms, but this one is actually useful. Josh explains POST in more detail here, but in summary (and to quote from the report) it breaks down like this. (My comments in italics.)

1. People: Review the Social Technographic Profile of your customers.

Social Technographic Profile is Forrester’s own audience segmentation tool which, of course, they would love you to buy from them. I’d argue that it’s not strictly necessary to do so. For many companies, all you need ask is such questions as: ‘Who are my customers? Who am I trying to reach? How likely is it that they’ll use social media?’ The more ruthless the focus on the audience the better, and the more you know about them the better.

2. Objectives: Decide what your goals are.

Can’t argue with that one. When talking about this with our clients, we tend to put objectives first, and audience second. But OPST isn’t an especially good acronym…

3. Strategy: Determine how your objectives will change your relationship with customers.

I like the use of the word ‘change’ here. A new relationship with customers is not something many companies are prepared for when plunging into the world of web 2.0.

4. Technology: Choose the appropriate technologies to deploy.

As Josh points out, the choice of technology should be the last thing you think about. It’s no good starting a discussion about social media by saying: ‘How can we use Facebook to reach our customers?’

As this report was sent out a couple of months ago, I’m not the first person to comment on it. There’s some constructive criticism here and here as well as some positive feedback.

The one thing I particularly liked about the report was the recognition that, of all the social media implementations that fail, most do so through a lack of defined objecives. Another reason for failure is what Forrester calls ‘strategic timidity’. The report reads:

“Unwillingness to assess and address the way that social technologies change customer relationships dooms many a project. Companies that go only half way to letting go of control, primarily because of internal political battles, are most likely to suffer from this problem. By recruiting a strong executive champion to back your efforts, you can make sure your company doesn’t fall into this strategic trap.”

Letting go of control… having an executive champion… these are indeed critical success factors.  

The POST approach will feature in an upcoming book from Forrester called Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social  Technologies, which will be published in April. You can pre-order a copy here on Amazon.com.

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