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Social media is nothing new. It’s been around for almost two decades. However, new practitioners are constantly entering field, and with every new marketing professional comes the risk of repeating the mistakes of the past. The old aphorism, “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” is just as true in marketing as it is in life.

In this series, we’ll examine modern enterprise social media strategy, what marketers need to know to make social media work for the midsize or enterprise organization.

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Part 5: Connect

Once we know where we want to distribute our content and what content we will be distributing, we need to dig deeper into who we will be distributing it to. Connection is about reaching out to our audience and understanding the landscape in our industry. If we fail to connect, we will not amplify our message to the audiences we care about most.

Identify the Audience

We begin by understanding the broad audience. Who are the people sharing content relevant to our enterprise, and to whom are they sharing? Using large-scale audience analysis tools like Crowdtangle by Facebook and Sysomos, search for our topic to identify the many people talking about it.

Most measures of influence built into social media monitoring tools are overly simplistic, so don’t focus on influence just yet. What we want to do is simply understand the audience.

Take the audience we’ve found and feed it to a large-scale natural language processing program like IBM Watson or Google Cloud NLP. What words, topics, and entities show up in our audience?

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Next, look for the people with the largest following bases within our topic. Use the same software and process to analyze their audience. Our goal isn’t to put large audience broadcasters on pedestals as paragons of influence, but we should understand what the broad audience looks like, and these individuals have pre-curated some of that audience for us.

Identify the Interconnectedness of the Audience

Once we know the audience overall, we need to understand three kinds of people in the audience. Malcolm Gladwell identified these three roles in his book The Tipping Point: Mavens, Connectors, and Salespeople.

  • Mavens are the the cool finders, the trend hunters who discover the great stuff first. In a map of an audience, these people do relatively little talking to the audience, but influencers do a fair amount of talking about them.
  • Connectors are the influencers’ influencers, the people who find the trend hunters and connect them to the salespeople. These are the folks that are always networking at parties, brokering introductions. In a map of an audience, these people talk about and are talked about equally.
  • Salespeople are the broadcasters, the spreaders, the sneezers, the amplifiers. These are who marketers traditionally think of when we speak of influence, the loudest people in the room, the people whose message reaches broad audiences. In a map of an audience, these people talk far more than they are talked about.

We use network mapping software to identify each kind of node, as shown here:


Tthe current gold standard for network mapping is Gephi.

Choosing an Influencer

When it comes to influencers, marketers default to working with the Salespeople above, the loudest voices in the room. However, this is not always the best choice for connecting with an audience. Why? Two reasons:

  • Salespeople tend to be very loud, which means that our message, should they choose to share it, is one of many.
  • Salespeople tend to be very expensive; the media model means that they ask for and receive very large sums of money to promote our message. Depending on the influencer, this can be between five and seven figures for a single campaign.

The logical question is, do we need a Salesperson as our influencer? Perhaps not; if we can reach the Connectors, or even the Mavens, our message might be more effective.

For example, if we reach a Connector instead of a Salesperson, chances are that Connector can ambassador our message into multiple audiences through multiple Salespeople.

Reaching Out to Influencers

After we’ve identified the different types of influencers, we must reach them. While picking up the phone and dialing – metaphorically or quite literally – is one way to reach these folks, it may not be the most scalable or efficient way to do so, nor would purely cold outreach necessarily invite the sort of reception we want.

Instead, consider using a two step campaign structure: air cover and ground effort.

Air Cover

To generate air cover, a military expression meaning to provide support to ground troops, we will Custom Audiences in social media to reach all three influencer types at once.

How does this work? Based on the network maps we generated earlier, we will group our Mavens, Connectors, and Salespeople into three lists of social media handles. Once assembled, we load these lists separately into social media advertising systems with messaging, copy, creative, and calls to action which are tailored for each audience.

Our goal is to introduce influencers to our message and brand gently at first. Advertisement creates awareness of us, of what we are sharing, and may incite the behavior we seek by itself.

Ground Effort

Once we’ve run an air cover campaign for a couple of weeks to introduce our message, we can begin the ground effort, the manual outreach. By now, assuming we’ve invested heavily in our air cover campaign, all three influencer types should have been introduced to our message.

Our best starting point for ground effort is not the Salespeople, but the Connectors. Using our network maps, reach out to the Connectors. Determine their interest in our message, then work out whatever arrangements need to be made to ensure their support. Our goal is to have Connectors ambassador us into the Salespeople, who should have already seen our brand and message through our air cover efforts and be more receptive to it.

Influence Is Not a One-And-Done

After the campaign ends, continue to work with our influencers. Nurture and grow the relationship further, so that when we need their assistance in the future, we will require significantly less ramp-up time.

In the next post in this series, we’ll discuss coordination and execution.

The 8C Enterprise Social Media Strategy Framework

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