The Social Strategy: A Five-Step Process For Social Media Marketing Success

By Kimberlee Morrison Comment


It’s well documented that companies with a defined strategy are the ones that experience the most success on social. For others, the challenge is knowing where to start. 

According to Gretchen Fox, cofounder of the social strategy and training agency Made To Order, the social media marketing industry is operating under the guise of nascence, but that’s not the reality anymore:

The industry has been around long enough that we need some procedures; we need some standards. This is our attempt at starting to create some standards.

Fox admitted she didn’t really create the standard, rather she and MTO co-founder Kyra Reed discovered an undocumented standard while developing their own proprietary process. Together, Fox and Reed identified five steps they believe are the underpinning of any good social strategy, and dubbed their discovery “The Social System.”

The first four steps are common sense to marketers, it’s just that they haven’t been looking at it through a social lens. The fifth step is purely social and that’s where the tactics come in.


The problem is that people want to start with tactics, she said, when really they need to start with the first step. After that, each step builds upon the next.

The steps in The Social System, as documented by Fox and Reed, are as follows:

  1. Social Identity: This is “the root from which your social strategy will develop.” According to Fox, it’s important to define who you are, but from the perspective of a two-way conversation. Developing a brand identity is pretty standard. However, two-way conversation requires brands to define the parameters — what to say, what not to say, and the tone to maintain — for the person or team managing the social media accounts.
  2. Community Activation: Traditional marketing approaches community in terms of outreach, but on social people come to you. And Fox noted, “it’s not just your target audience — it’s investors, employees, journalist, it’s everyone.” She said this is the most common point of failure for brands who just want to promote. In this step, companies need to understand themselves from the perspective of who their audiences are and what those audiences expect from them.
  3. Content Strategy: Fox said that people understand the need to create content but they’re taking a “throw it up against the wall see if it sticks,” method rather than building based on the first two steps. The problem with this approach is that you can’t create an effective content strategy without first knowing who you are and, second, knowing who your audiences are.
  4. Social campaigns: Fox called campaigns the shiny object. “Everyone wants to do campaigns.” Without the foundation of the first three steps, she said campaigns provide short-term wins, but no sustainable growth. 

  5. Social intelligence: Lots of people are talking about big data and social analytics, but according to Fox social intelligence is more tactical than strategic; it’s where you discover just how savvy your organization is when it comes to social. Social intelligence is not the beginning of social strategy but where social strategy is executed through policies, procedures, metrics, tactics and tools you use to listen, measure, respond, integrate and engage in real-time online conversation.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.