Simple Template for Social Media Strategy: Update

Two years on, Forrester Research’s POST template for developing a social media strategy still works extremely well

It’s almost two full years now since my post here on the subject Simple Template for Social Media Strategy and still, month in, month out, it keeps coming up as the most visited post on this site.

Time for an update.

A lot of that December 2007 post was about a podcast show I was developing. That’s not what I want to focus on here. The update is more about the strategic approach and accompanying tool provided by Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research, as set out in his post at that time, The POST Method: a systematic approach to social strategy.

At the time of that earlier post I concentrated on the basic structure of the POST system. The acronym stands for People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology, explained as follows:

People: assess your customer’s social computing behaviors

Objectives: decide what you want to accomplish

Strategy: plan for how relationships with customers will change

Technology: decide what social technologies to use

I’ve drawn on this approach many times since, most recently in a workshop I co-presented a couple of months ago.

It works. What’s more, it can prompt the user to take account of a range of previously unconsidered aspects of introducing social media in business or in various organizations.

The approach is central to the book Groundswell, by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li and I can testify that the book, with its detailed explanations and case studies, still rewards reading and re-reading, a couple of years down the track from when it was first published.

What takes the application of the POST technique from something really interesting to something quite captivating, and something I did not cover in my 2007 post, is the Consumer Profile Tool, which is on the Groundswell site and, courtesy of Forrester and using the code supplied on the Groundswell blog site, can be embedded your own sites.

The consumer profile tool uses the categories of the consumer, as provided by Forrester and the tool utilizes Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data:

  • Creators
  • Critics
  • Collectors
  • Joiners
  • Spectators
  • Inactives

Forrester Consumer Profile tool
You can change the country, the age groups, the gender and have the tool deliver statistically-based graphs to show you the usage patterns of the various groups you want to know about.

I had studied the Forrester “ladder” back when I first read Groundswell, but I got a much better understanding of its significance and its power as a strategy building resource, thanks to an illuminating presentation by Forrester Senior Analyst Steven Noble, at a Social Media Club gathering in Sydney a few months ago. I am indebted to Steven for his very clear explanation of how the framework is applied and insight into the underpinning statistical base.

In the example in the screenshot above, with the age range of 45-54, specifying the US but not specifying gender, I might use that data to start thinking about a project I am actually working on now, focused on the Baby Boomer generation. Yes, the age range for that group is wider, but this picture can help me start to formulate some ideas, which can then be tested.

One of the best things I have found about using the Consumer Profile tool is that it helps, sometimes dramatically, to cut through the preconceptions any of us can develop about who, in different age groups or in gender classifications, use different social media tools. Then, as is illustrated by case studies in the Groundswell book, we can start to think and plan more effectively about which tools might be more or less appropriate for a specific company’s customers and prospects, in particular countries.

For more granularity of data than the free online tool provides, it is necessary to contact Forrester Research. But without wanting to do Forrester out of any business, I have already found the tool in its free version tremendously useful in helping business people get much clearer about where their customers and prospects fit in the social media adoption and usage jigsaw.

So there it is. My promise to myself, to update the most visited blog post on the site, fulfilled.

Have you used the Forrester Consumer Profile tool? Have you found it helpful? I hope you will share your experience.

Des Walsh

Business coach and digital entrepreneur. With coach training from and its Graduate School of Coaching, and a founding member of the International Association of Coaching, Des has been coaching business owners and entrepreneurs for the past 20 years. Over the same period he has also been actively engaged in promoting the business opportunities of the digital economy. He is a certified Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) coach, and a certified specialist in social media strategy and affiliate marketing.

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  1. It’s funny – re-read the old version and it still holds true today for the most part! Now that’s good content. You’ve asked so I’ll throw in my two cents – two categories I would add are Goals and Measurement (POST GM). My social media plan for clients and my own company includes these two additional items and it makes for clear communication – we know exactly what we hope to achieve and how we are going to measure the results. I read a great blog post recently by Steve Woodruff (I’ll link below) and he answers “What’s the ROI of social media?” – saying that it is akin to asking “What is the ROI of breathing?” Companies want numbers so we do our best with available tools to measure results and justify whenever possible. Defining the goals and saying how the measurement will be done is important, even if it’s not part of the acronym.

    Thanks for the update!

    Sarah at GY&K (@gyktweets / @sarahdoespr)

    Link to article:

  2. Thanks Sarah
    That is spot on. My presentations from now on will feature GM (thanks to @sarahdoespr) as well as POST!

    And I’m becoming more aware each day that, even with the current limitations of some of our measurement tools, we are often able to give clients much more specific, quantifiable feedback on the response to social media outreach and engagement than they have ever been able to get from their often highly expensive phone book and newspaper/magazine ads.

  3. Excellent “post”. I’m researching a few things to put together a small scale social media strategy and using the POST method to put together the project plan is making this a great effort to help even those not really understanding the social network environment become experts.
    .-= Joe G.´s last blog ..In the Holiday Spirit =-.

  4. Well this page goes down as the most useful site I’ve visited today! Agree that incorporating a measurement as part of planning boost usability of the POST method. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Lyrian

      Glad you found it helpful.

      It’s great fun to work with a group, using the POST tool on the Groundswell site, clicking through different configurations, and getting people to work through what that might mean for their company or organization.

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