Open SoSi: The Concept Jam part 5How to create a social media strategy document that identifies options and opportunities

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We deliver the Concept Jam to clients who are seeking their best social media opportunities: the campaign, site features or applications that can help them reach build relationships with their key audiences, generate revenue or deliver a key message.

The final deliverable in the Concept Jam is a document that gives them a set of options that reflects their organization's very particular goals, audiences and strengths. Today, we're releasing two documents that share our internal template and approach for delivering social media options.

The Concept Jam is all about sparking ideas from within an organization's team. But the sheer volume of ideas that come out of a workshop session make some kind of filtering and prioritization absolutely essential.

The first part of that work happens during the workshop itself, with participants shaping the priorities. But even a prioritized list often contains ideas that are duplicative or undeveloped. Once the workshop wraps, it's our job to take those top ideas and turn them into coherent, feasible concepts. In that process we often combine related ideas, integrate suggested details or features that came up in the workshop but weren't prioritized, and flesh out top options with features or approaches that are based on our experience in the field and our knowledge of what's possible.

The result is a set of options that are organized to support effective decision-making. We typically give our clients about 6 options that represent different price points, levels of complexity, and anticipated pay-offs. If some of the simpler options could serve as pilots or steps towards a more ambitious undertaking, we highlight the possibilities for smarting small and then growing into a larger project; in fact it's that ambitious end vision that often informs the client's selection of a modest starting point, since it is more useful to invest in an initial pilot that puts you on the path to the web presence of your dreams. And while we sometimes recommend one option in particular, we only present options that we believe in: there are no straw dogs here.

We are sharing two documents to help illustrate what an options document can look like. For confidentiality reasons we can not share a complete example of an options document. Instead we are sharing two halves that make a whole:

  • The options document outline shows the structure for a Concept Jam options document as we deliver them today. You could use this to structure the final deliverable for any workshop or strategy process that leads to a set of social media opportunities.
  • Open SosI: Concept Jam options document outline
  • The sample options document presents a slightly edited version of three options we delivered to a past client. While each of these options is delivered in slightly more detail than we typically provide, it demonstrates the level of focus, clarity and innovation that we expect from each option we deliver. Nobody needs a social media consultant to tell them to create a blog, Facebook app or social network: what matters is how that blog will be framed and structured, what that Facebook app will actually do, or how that social network will bring a group of people together.

OpenSoSi Concept Jam: Sample Options Document

We're always keen to strengthen and refine our deliverables, so we'd love to hear from other strategists about how they structure social media options and opportunities for their clients.

Reflecting on the Concept Jam

Back in the day, we jumped right into delivering options documents after only a conversation or two. Drawing on our own knowledge of the social web, and a basic understanding of what our client was about, we would come up with ideas for nifty things organizations could do online.

In some cases that worked great. Tyze, a personal support networking tool that we created for the PLAN Institute, was something we imagined before we even met the good folks at PLAN (though it was inspired by a book they published.) The vision we helped develop for HappyFrog (now part of 3rd Whale) was an intuitive extension of a terrific database of green living resources.

But we faced several recurring problems:

  • Execution. Just because we came up with a couple of ideas we loved didn't mean our clients loved them, too. We had our hearts broken a few times as we watched clients shelve our social media options in favour of more traditional online approaches.
  • Integration. The ideas we developed were sometimes at cross-purposes to the broader online or communications strategies our clients were pursuing.
  • Profitability. We delivered our Big Ideas quickly and at low cost -- then played catch-up by trying to make money on the design and implementation. Our revenue came from web development services (an increasingly commodified service that forced us to complete on price) and our strategic services (which were virtually unique) became a loss-leader.

So we decided to give our ideas a real shot at being implemented by tying them to a more intensive process, one where our clients and their organizations would feel a sense of ownership and buy-in. And, not coincidentally, one where we would be able to demonstrate the value of our strategic work. That process centered on a client workshop that ultimately became the Concept Jam.

But a funny thing happened when we started including our clients in the process of developing social media concepts: it turned out we weren't the smartest people in the room. We could help a client team learn the fundamentals of social media through an hour's worth of slides, rolled out over the course of the day. But each person in the room brought years and years of insight into the organization's goals, strengths and audiences.

Our excitement about social media was born of the belief that the best decisions emerge from processes that are decentralized, bottom-up and participatory. Yet in our own work, we wanted to be the creative geniuses who dropped from the heavens with the Perfect Social Media Opportunity.

The Concept Jam has proved to us, over and over again, that a room is always smarter than any one person in it. We're still active participants in the brainstorming process, because our immersion in social media means that we can help flesh out or translate some of the emergent ideas into feasible development options. But so many of the very coolest things that have happened in our recent online projects came from workshop participants contributing ideas like asking Global TV anchors to solicit donations to BC Children's Hospital Foundation, encouraging British Columbians to form teams to compete on energy conservation, or inviting the parents of disabled kids to share their wisdom on navigating social service bureaucracy.

The more we learn about social media, the more we discover that our clients (and, later, their projects' participants) are our most important teachers... and the Concept Jam is a great classroom. It's our pleasure to share it with you.


Another take on how to present social media options and oppo says

October 30, 2009 - 12:10am

[...] (For a discussion of how the options document fits into the Concept Jam, read our blog post about the other document.) [...]

Shalon Sims says

November 12, 2010 - 11:38am

Thankyou so much for all of this valuable information Social Signal!  It shows that your company truly walks your talk--open source is where it's at. Information silos and gatekeepers will not stand when the wave of collaboration and integrity hits them; it's not about the information--it's about the relation-ship.

The big question is, how do we convince companies that still follow the old hierarchical order to invite this change into their operations, when they are so busy trying to protect their ass(ets)?

Rob Cottingham says

November 15, 2010 - 12:26pm

Thanks, Shalon!

I can understand why many organizations would find this unimaginable - especially those that don't have the advantages of a supportive community steeped in open-source practices. For them, I'd suggest starting small and seeing what the returns and opportunities are.

Social Signal on...

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