Identify the roles in your social media strategy

This is the 3rd post in my series, “Know the Flow: tools and theory for distributing social media content”.

To effectively share your content though social networks you have to identify the roles of each service you employ. You can’t design a distribution strategy without understanding where your content resides and how it travels.

Most web properties can be classified in one of 2 categories.

Outposts

An Outpost is a content warehouse. Any digital property that is primarily reserved for creating content is your outpost.outposts

This will probably include your blog, video channel, flickr stream, or perhaps your podcast feed. Regardless of the platform the goal of a digital warehouse is the same as its real life counterpart, it exists to store content.

You may maintain several different outposts so have a clear vision of each outpost.

For example here is a chart of my outposts.

Site Priority Focus Audience
KnowtheNetwork.com 1 Original content concerning social & computer networks Social Medians, IT pros, small businesses, regular folks needing a digital concierge
NetworkEvangelist.com 2 Curated stream of social media articles created by others Social Medians, businesses looking for social media research & advice
tsudo.posterous.com 3 Mobile blog Friends & Family
FlashTraffic.tumblr.com 4 Random & Interesting content from around the web. all of the above

Charting your outposts accomplishes three very important tasks:

  • Focus: This is essentially your mission statement for this outpost. What is it? What will it contain?
  • Importance: This applies both to the amount of development the outpost receives and it will serve to establish priority routing in your distribution strategy. (If you are a networking geek think of this as QoS)
  • Audience: Defining your audience is crucial to both content creation and designing your data distribution.

The goal on any creator is to invite people to engage their content so once you define your outposts it’s time to tell the world about your content.

Channels

A Channel is any platform we use to distribute content. Channels are the connection between your warehouse and eyeballs. channel

Channels are easy to identify. Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, etc… are all distribution channels.

Sidebar – Let me be clear. Your singular goal in social media should not be “how do I get seen”. This is not a ticket to become a broadcaster. Social media is first and foremost social. Be engaging, be personable, promote others, and help others every chance you get. The community rewards engagement. Channels are simply a part of social media.

As you identify your channels also understand that each platform brings different communities and expectations. This simple fact goes to the heart of why “how you share” is so important. Listen to your community and ask them for feedback.

Hybrid Services

As web services evolve the lines between an outpost and a channel can become blurred. Tumblr and Posterous are perfect examples. They are both a content outpost but have strong distribution options. Even traditional outposts are building distribution channels, from YouTube’s autoshare to Flickr2Twitter.

How do we classify and manage these hybrids?

Segment their functions logically.

Understand what function of a particular service is primarily your outpost and which functions are channels. These hybrid services are cool but they can get messy and allow noise and redundancy into your stream if not managed properly.

An example of logical segmentation.

I use Google Reader to read hundreds of blogs but it also has a powerful share feature. I can share items to friends in Google Reader, I can create sidebar widgets of my shared items, and it creates a webpage of my shared items. I’ve extended this channel by integrating Google Reader into my friendfeed stream, autotweeting shared items to @tsudoshares, and pulling this shared items into blog posts. By extending the channel I’ve created a broad distribution system. The moment prior to clicking share I must cross a mental threshold where I decide if I want to put my channel in motion. Is this item worth sharing? I’ve segmented Google reader into 2 services, reading and sharing.

Takeaway

What services are you using? What role do they serve in your strategy? Define them and chart them.

Next we’ll learn the art of Oceanography, Charting the flow.

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