In 2014, we created what we now call The Ultimate Social Media Roadmap (in 2014 it was called the 5 Cs of Social Media).
Why the name change? Because roadmaps are essential to get where you’re going. And, now this post is being updated again in 2023 based on my book Conversations That Connect. Yep, I wrote an entire book dedicated to the 5 Cs or the “ultimate social media roadmap.”
So here’s how to get from content to conversation with our tried-and-true social media roadmap.
Social Media Is Constantly Changing (And We’re Getting Older)
There’s something new about social media every day. Perhaps I should have added CHANGE as the first and seventh C. As social media marketers, we get to deal with…
- New algorithm updates
- Brand new social channels
- Process updates and advances
- Additional advanced features
- Layout changes
- Data and reporting transformations
I could go on and on.
If you’re older, like me, you need a process for applying foundational methods — kind of like applying makeup to put your prettiest face forward. People who wear makeup learn from our family, BFFs, or makeup artists that we have to follow a step-by-step process to help our skin stay young, even as we continue to age.
I look at The Ultimate Social Media Roadmap as a similar step-by-step process. Only this is suited for anyone, makeup or not!
In this post, we’ll lay out our exact social media roadmap and process for you.
Our Social Media Roadmap + Flywheel
In 2023, we’re updating this post with the all important first step of CONNECTION. Why? Because many brands don’t understand that social media marketing requires true connection. Meaning the connection must be two-way. In many ways, the step-by-step process is the same, but we’re going to dive even deeper on this updated article.
Here is the new & improved step-by-step process we use to go from connection, to content — snackable bites of information posted on your social channels, to conversion. We’ve also updated the list a bit to emulate the flywheel we use at B Squared Media to maintain growth for attracting new customers and retaining the ones we have.
- [Bonus] Community
You may be able to get to one step without the other, but it’s doubtful. This roadmap works better as a cyclical map, like the image of our flywheel above.
Start with connection and work your way to the harder steps: conversation, collaboration, and conversion. As a bonus, you may even be able to build a community of stark-raving fans if you can do all five of the first Cs impeccably.
Here’s how to think about your social media roadmap like a superstar …
Start With Connection
The first C in the lineup is connection. First of all, as I mentioned, connection is a two-way street. However, most brands view connection as…
- A social media follower/follower counts
- An email subscriber
- A form fill
This is not connection. A connection should signal that someone has the intent of learning more about you. Right now, they view you as a potential like-minded brand. Their next step is to decide if you measure up to your brand promise.
In this first stage that means that you have to try your absolute hardest to keep this person around. You have to prove your brand promise more urgently than ever before. Furthermore, you have to prove that you’re a brand worth following … that you are …
- Listening to feedback
- Active (connection … TWO WAY … not just “active” by throwing out sales-y content!)
And finally, your shared values must match. As a reminder, people are looking to connect with like-minded brands. Do you core brand values match their personal values? Your new followers will be looking for this.
But, how can they tell if your brand actually follows its values and brand promise?
Attract With Content
Without a doubt, content is the backbone of any social media strategy. However, many brands look at social media as a content distribution channel and not a place to start to connect more deeply with their audiences.
This is why so many brand’s organic social media falls flat. Their social media roadmap completely misses the point of building connections; giving reason after reason for someone to trust you and ultimately buy from you.
Good content is what your READERS deem it to be; so it helps if your content is:
- Easy to read
Even so, your content needs to go much deeper than that. I won’t go too far down the rabbit hole, but I did my undergraduate thesis on the Social Penetration Theory (terrible name, beautiful concept!).
In essence, it says that the way be build relationships and trust is through self-disclosure. There are four levels of self-disclosure
Unsurprisingly, most branded content lives in clichés and facts. Nevertheless, we only truly start to build trust and loyalty when we share or ask for opinions and feelings.
As you can see, the Social Penetration Theory, or Onion Theory as it is sometimes called, compares connecting with someone to an onion. There are many layers that must be peeled to get to trust and loyalty. It’s no different with your social media followers.
For new followers, superficial clichés and facts are normal and welcomed. But, as the followers “age” with you, they expect more personal information to be a part of your content, like opinions and feelings. This means sharing your opinions and feelings as the brand (ahem, brand core values) and asking for the opinions and feelings of your audiences. Which leads to collecting voice of customer (VOC) data!
Content should be one of the first things you address when planning your social media roadmap because your content is the hook that will draw people in, and help deepen your connection with them.
Without helpful and emotionally-driven content, your online audiences will likely be nonexistent, small, or uninterested in your brand.
Brand Conversations Are More Important Than You Think
The third C in our social media roadmap is conversation. And with a tagline stating, Think Conversation, Not Campaign™, you know this is part is our jam!
As you now know, you have to have brand conversations on your social media channels to build more meaningful connections. But, did you know that brand conversations are weighted just as important or more important than online reviews?
It’s shocking to a lot of marketers! Therefore, I think this is why a lot of brands don’t use Return on Conversation (ROC) as a metric — even though many social media algorithms rate brand conversation extremely high.
And who cares about beating the algorithms when it’s your potential customers who are looking to connect with brand that have more conversations on social?!
Not sure how to get the conversation started? Try some of the tips below.
- Ask questions related to what you do.
- Ask questions related to trending topics in your industry.
- Thank someone for commenting or sharing your content, and follow up with a conversation starter. Example: If someone comments that they enjoyed your post, say thanks and ask them which part they liked the most and why.
- Quiz or poll your audience.
- Contribute (thoughtfully) to other conversations happening on your page(s) or online and centering around your industry.
Then, once your community has warmed up to you, try to go a little deeper. Consider asking things like:
- What’s your biggest question about [industry]? Our [industry] experts would love to answer them!
- What is your biggest challenge with [what your company does]?
- If you could re-invent something about our [industry/products/services], what would it be?
We also use Sprout Social to monitor keywords about our company and clients’ companies so we can ensure we’re always responding in real time to mentions.
The power conversation allows you to show you care, show you are listening, and most importantly, allows you to take your would-be consumer’s attitudes about your industry or company and put them to work for your brand.
Connection + Conversation = Collaboration
Collaboration is the 4th C, and if you’re doing good with conversations that connect through your content, this can be one of the easiest Cs on your social media roadmap.
Collaborating with your social media connections is what social media is all about; it’s the social in social media.
However, you can’t simply start with this step … the roadmap is truly a step-by-step plan that builds on itself.
You start with connection, build a content that connects with like-minded individuals, and start having lots of in-depth conversations. Remember, those conversations are going deeper than cliché and fact-based posts. They’re spurring conversation by sharing or soliciting opinions and feelings from your audience.
These don’t have to be boring, either! Look at what LinkedIn Marketing Solutions did to draw a ton of attention:
And they’re a B2B brand! So, I don’t want to hear that only B2C brands can accomplish more conversation. Furthermore, take this example and imagine you’re LinkedIn Marketing Solutions (LIMS). Couldn’t you take the 25 horror stories that were shared and use that voice of customer (VOC) data to create content that addresses those pain points (horror stories) and pitch LIMS as the solution?!
I hope you’re seeing the pattern now. Through these creative and emotionally-based conversations, you should start to see bigger areas of collaboration.
For instance, maybe you see a potential to create user-generated content for your brand. Or maybe you take your most engaged followers and ask them if they’d be interested in being an Admin and beta testing a community for your brand.
There are probably hundreds of ways you can collaborate with your followers if you do the deep work. Ask yourself: What do I want this group of loyal would-be customers to DO?
You probably want them to buy something, am I right? That leads me to the fifth C in the social media roadmap …
Connection + Content + Conversation + Collaboration = Conversion
Is the cycle making sense now?
Layered on top of one another, the 5 Cs are the ultimate social media roadmap to follow.
And when they’re used together properly, each C is working in tandem and you should start to see a return on your social media efforts.
Conversions would be hard if you started out with posts about buying your things. However, when you use conversion as the 5th step, and then cyclically, things should fall into place.
Convert social to sales
First and foremost, you absolutely must create a clear path to purchase. That may look like this:
- Publishing a whisper word (like “awesome sauce”) on your Facebook Page that when stated in your brick-and-mortar store, gets a 10% discount. (Then all whisper word sales can be tied directly to Facebook ROI)
- Using a special phone # on your Twitter handle for leads. (All leads calling that # who close can be tied to Twitter ROI)
- Have email subscriptions on your content (and track all sign-up sources).
- Use social-only links for “acquisition conversations” or when people have pre-purchase questions.
- Use social-only promos for those pre-purchase conversations as well (to track organic ROI).
Your conversion options will be limited by specific social platforms, but there are creative ways to track your social media efforts to direct ROI.
We’d also suggest tracking key-performance-indicators (KPIs) as well — you can use our free template.
Community Comes As A Big, Fat Bonus
Community is a big trend right now with marketers. But should everyone have a community? Probably not.
However, if you already have a thriving community or creating one is on your social media roadmap, here’s what you should think about.
Your business runs on customers. And your sales likely come from two places: new or returning customers. It’s easier to maintain sales volume with return customers. How can you use this as a guide for your community?
Use these six tips when managing your social media roadmap and community:
- When choosing your social media platforms for your community “home”, go where the people are, not where you want to be.
- Pay close attention to content; is it content that connects with opinions and feelings? How are you collecting and using that VOC data when it does?
- Figure out the “Rules of Engagement” with your community. When will you post? How fast will you respond? What do you do with trolls? And so on …
- Think Conversation (not campaign) — our favorite! People should feel safe to share their experiences. If your community is just another sales channel, it will wither and die a painful death.
- Uplift, elevate and celebrate your community members. And do it often.
- Don’t forget: Communities don’t build themselves! You’ll have to work hard at growing your community, too.
Finally, more than anything, humans connect and build trust through shared experiences. Stories are usually how we share those experiences. How can your community becomes a storytelling machine?
Putting Your Social Media Roadmap Into Action
We truly believe these six Cs make up the Ultimate Social Media Roadmap and have seen it work firsthand for ourselves and our clients.
Or course, there are many tactics that you can drill down into under each C — but keeping these six in mind will certainly help guide you in the right direction.
And, if you want a sneak peek into Chapter One of my book where I go into much more detail about how to create conversions through organic social media, take a look at the Conversations That Connect landing page.
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