How to Create a Social Media Strategy: The Ignite Method

One of the questions we get from serious brand marketers is exactly how does a company develop a social media strategy that drives business results. In December, I had a chance to consult with 7 companies throughout Australia over a fun-filled, but hectic line-up of meetings in Melbourne, Geelong and Sydney. And I shared with them a deck outlining how we do exactly that.

We call it the Ignite Method of Social Media Strategy Development and we’ve taken a number of the world’s best brands through it, producing detailed strategic plans that outline the social media marketing execution path for the next 6 to 12 months. If I’m willing to share it in those meetings, I thought it would be helpful to share on the blog as well.

Below I’ve re-created the 24-minute presentation for you as a screencast. If you have the time, it may be the best way to absorb it. If not, I’ve summarized the deck in the rest of the blog post below.

We created the Community Analysis and Community Engagement Plan model in late 2007, at a time when few people were applying serious marketing planning to social media efforts. Now, having taken many brands through it, we’ve honed the process from that experience.

At a high level, here are the six key steps in developing a social media marketing strategy:

1. Discovery

If you’re working with an agency, this is where the agency gets up to speed on what you sell, who you sell it to, how you market, who you market to and much more. They also discuss with you what you’re hoping to get out of a social media marketing investment. This is an important first step, because if the agency doesn’t have their hands wrapped around your product and your market place, they can end up going off in the wrong direction right away.

If you’re not working with an agency, this is where you get buy-in from any project influencer as to the expected outcomes of being involved in social media. If you don’t, you’ll end up trying to answer these same questions six months after you start a Facebook fan page. By then, that page will either have few fans (in which case they’ll ask what’s wrong with what you’ve done so far) or it will have lots of fans (in which case they may say, “So what? What does having a bunch of fans get me?”) Head this off at the pass and show that you’re a strategic marketer by asking these questions up front.

You should also have a discussion about budget and resources at this point. Do you have $25,000 this year? Do you have $2.5m this year? Do you have to do the work in your “spare time” or is there an internal team plus a budget for an agency? What you can and cannot do depends in part on the resources available to you.

2. Community Analysis

Major Deliverable #1. The Community Analysis is the first major deliverable. We conduct a deep dive into the social space, uncovering where target audiences are active, how they are interacting and engaging with each other and brands, what terms they are using, etc. This also includes a complete review of current social media efforts and those of competitors.

The more time you can spend on (and the more data you can apply to) audience analysis, the better off you’ll be. If you can determine websites they frequent, psychographics, leisure activities, even shopping habits, you can begin to understand your target in a three dimensional way. We’re going way past demographics here, so try to be more detailed than men 18-34.

3. Goal Setting

This is where objectives are chosen for social media activities, success metrics, and a foundation is laid down for a measurement plan.

This is more detailed then your objectives outlined in the first step. At this point you’re trying to determine what success looks like relative to the investment. If you’re not sure, a good place to start is the results you get from other marketing investments. This begins to lay the framework for investments being judged equally.

4. Engagement Plan

Major Deliverable #2. Remember, a strategy refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. It’s not a list of “neat ideas.” It’s a detailed plan and set of recommendations on social media tactics, resources, timelines, and budgets that support business and marketing objectives. Hopefully some of them are still neat ideas. But the best ideas are those that drive results. There are three major areas to think about in the Engagement Plan, including:

  • Content Strategy,
  • Channel Strategy and
  • Campaign Strategy.

5. Metrics & Measurement Strategy

Given that we’re trying to achieve a set of goals and we’ve now delineated the tactics that will accomplish those goals, we still have to think about how we’re going to know if and when we’ve done that. So this is where we agree on how our objectives will be measured, what goals will be assigned and reported on, and what long-term monitoring needs are.

This is a very specific set of tactics. So if the goal is to measure, for example, growth in backlinks to improve our search engine optimization, and we have tactics to do that, what’s our goal and how are we measuring it? Are we using MajesticSEO for that, or Yahoo Site Explorer? They will give you very different numbers. Neither one is necessarily “right,” but you need to figure out each number and how you’ll be able to track it.

6. Training and Implementation

Time to get to work. This is where we develop assets, train specific teams, put the plans in motion, and provide ongoing support.


This is all explained in much more detail in the video embedded above, so if you ‘re immersed in creating your social media strategy, it may be worth the 24 minutes to save you some time down the line.

Leave any questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Ignite Social Media