With my involvement in social media approaching it’s fourth year, I see a pattern emerging in the foundational elements of an effective online presence.  There are three elements in the strategy that encompass the tactics that I believe need to be adopted to support a presence.

I see it as particular to the timeline of an exchange or conversation and how it contributes to social capital.  The caveat is of course that no one strategy fits all companies.  If however you are not going to engage for a professionally developed social media strategy, this is a good one to cut your teeth on and get going.

The Trinity of Social Media at StevenGroves.com an image of the blog component The first point of the triangle is the blog.  Recently social media strategist have suggested that CEO’s and thought leaders might want to reconsider their use of the micro-blogging phenomenon, Twitter.   That’s because as valuable as a CEO’s time is, posting to a micro-blogging tool that is not indexed by search engines represents content that cannot be later referenced in the conversation with an audience.  A blog on the other hand will retain the conversation, search engines will find it and those that want to, will then be able to find the content via search, by referral or via direct reference by other sites. 

The blog is the component that represents the location on the web where you would want to to open or reply to conversations regarding your public strategy, the reasons you’ve invested in the products / services you have and the virtues of the organization (your organization) behind it – it’s the stuff you want the public to know about you, your product and your company. 

It’s also where you’ll respond to comments posted elsewhere that you want to reply to that require more than a few dozen words.  Lastly, and this is a point I’ve debated before with friends, pundits and followers, do not attempt to moderate the comments made to your blog.  You can always delete spam, remove rude remarks and ban people who cannot be civil.  An attempt to moderate a blog implies you do not trust your audience – a mistake when trust is the commodity you have to trade in a social media setting.

The Trinity of Social Media at StevenGroves.com image of the Microblog element The second point of the trinity is micro-blogging.  A lot of life and business happens between the more formal blog posts you make.  Sprinkled into the millions of inane tweets are much more salient tweets that, in a well prepared social media strategy, could serve to connect you and your company to your prospects, customers and stakeholders.  One at a time, the tweets might be irrelevant, but taken in context they can present a more human image of you and what you’re trying to accomplish.  They might also support a powerful ROI, one modeled by Gary Vaynerchuk of WineLibrary.TV in his now famous comparison of direct mail, freeway billboard and micro-blogging-based campaign results.

The Trinity of Social Media at StevenGroves.com image of the Social Network element The third point of the triangle is social networking.  You may find that one social network is insufficient to connect to the audience you’re targeting, or you may find that there is a special-built social network that is already targeting your audience.  A Pew Internet Study shows that the majority of Internet users are participants in social networks now and their use is growing.

The social network rounds out the model by enabling a conversation unfettered by you or your company.  Unfettered, but not unmonitored.  You want your users to be able to connect with one another in a place you can connect with them.  They are going to talk about you, your product and your brand – there is just no stopping it.  By providing a platform for the conversation at least you get a chance to engage.

Trinity_AllAs an opening effort for the do-it-yourselfer’s out there, The Trinity of Social Media is complete with a blog, a micro-blog and a social network.  Pay attention to this, use at least this as a strategy and you’ll get a more positive result in social media than doing any single one of them without a strategy.

Is there a secret to it?  Only if you think there is a secret to strategy and a coordinated effort.  They need to be coordinated and developed to support one another in their operation and in the way they support one another.  Could one be implemented without the other?  Certainly – I present this strategy often enough to recognize that not everyone want to type / input their content. 

What else needs to be answered in this model? a lot.  If the blog was a video blog or a podcast would that work?  If the micro-blog was video or audio based would that count?  Which social network is the right one or should it be special constructed?  How do you get the answer?  subscribe here, join the community at TheSocialMediaBible.com or get a professional on your team and they can step your through the evaluation quickly.

Are there pitfalls to be avoided in the strategy?  Undoubtedly – but the overwhelming failure is to not engage in social media and believe you will somehow not be ignored or that your competition will also be complacent.  Actually, if you are a company and you are ignored, that is an important data point by itself – what might you be doing wrong?

Trinity of Social Media Mind Map 080309 [Update] I had someone suggest I create a Mind Map to help illustrate the Trinity of Social Media.  Neat idea! I used MindManager from Mindjet to create a Mind Map of the Trinity of Social Media.  Make sure you are current with Adobe Acrobat8 and Flash9 installed and this mind map & player should work (MindJet requirements)

If you’re on an Apple / Mac, you may only be able to open the .JPG of the map (click the image to the left).