The Five C’s of Social Marketing Management: Commerce, Company, Consumers, Content and Community

It seems like every business has jumped on to the social media bandwagon these days. Everyone is out to exploit virtual communities and networks for commercial purposes. It is certainly true that for the purposes of creating brand awareness and managing the image of a company and its particular products, an internet presence is essential. But with ever more complex software apparently enabling engagement with multiple social networks, and fancy analytics to match, it seems that many social marketing management teams are losing sight of the basics.


First, there’s the tricky question of sales – ultimately, you’re engaging with social networks because you want to improve your bottom line. But the way this works is complicated. It is widely argued that the return on investment of social media marketing is negligible. In other words, all of those Facebook fans and Twitter followers don’t actually translate into business transactions. Well, not directly, anyway. But then, neither do most offline advertising methods – the direct ROI of television or radio advertising, for example, is often negligible. But it’s clearly still worth doing because it increases sales indirectly. A company’s online presence can help to increase awareness amongst prospective customers, establish trust in and loyalty to a particular brand, and increase the purchasing frequency of established customers.

The important principle where commerce is concerned is to let go of any notion of a hard sell. Most people don’t like the feeling that they’re being sold to, and the internet is no exception to this rule. Instead of trying to promote your product at all costs, focus on building relationships. That can feel like you’re going off track sometimes. But what you’re actually doing is building interest and trust that will underpin sales in the long term.

How do you do this? By having a clear image of your company and your brand, knowing your consumers, creating quality content and fostering a sense of community.


In order to market effectively, you have to have something effective to market. The fanciest technologies and most dedicated marketing team available can do nothing for a poor product or a hazy company image. Social media can do a lot, but it cannot sell a product that nobody wants.

You have to be absolutely clear about what you are trying to sell before you go about selling it. That means developing a first-class product that meets genuine demand and putting a lot of careful thought into how you want your company and your product to be perceived. Without a quality product and a coherent brand and company image, no amount of internet wizardry will lead to increased sales.


As well as being clear about what you are selling, you need to know to whom you are selling. This is basic market research – focusing your efforts on a particular group of consumers rather than attempting a scattergun approach. Who is your target audience? What are they looking for, what interests and engages them? Any social marketing management strategy worth its salt needs to include extensive research into these questions.

The great thing about the internet in this context is that it can work like a vast and virtually free focus group, providing a wealth of consumer data. Your research might include hanging around on your close competitors’ web forums, sending out polls or surveys on social networks, and identifying and following key “influencers” on different social media platforms.


A company’s social media presence comes in many different forms. There’s your company’s web page and Facebook pages, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. There are blog posts, ebooks, podcasts and email newsletters. The list continues and is limited only by your imagination.

The really important point, though, is that the form your company’s internet presence takes is nothing like as importance as the content. What you say matters much more than how you’re saying it. So before you get too excited about the prospect of YouTube interviews or webinars, consider very carefully what you’ve got to say. How are you constructing the story of your product and your company?

Internet users are being bombarded with an unprecedented wealth of information and entertainment. This makes the creation of quality content both very difficult and very important. It’s simply not enough just to advertise your product. You’ve got to find a way of grabbing people’s attention, of making them laugh or think or gasp with surprise. The material has to be interesting or funny or cool enough that people are going to want to share it on their social networks.

And once you’ve figured out a way of doing that, you have to keep doing it. This is the core challenge of social media marketing: creating quality content, not just as a one-off but day after day after day. You need regular updates of fresh material to keep potential and existing customers interested and engaged. It’s a bit like publishing a newspaper – you can’t just rest on your laurels because yesterday’s edition was fantastic.

Fortunately, high quality content has a way of perpetuating itself. If people are sharing and commenting on your material, you can build on those responses to existing content to come up with more.


Finally, the highest quality content will be of no use if it’s not being disseminated in an interactive way. Remember: the whole point of all of this material is to engage people and build relationships with them. It’s a two-way process. You’re trying to start a conversation, not broadcast a monologue. Again, it helps to let go of any notion of a hard sell and to focus on human interaction as an end in itself.

There are many different ways of doing this. First of all, you need to be responsive to the way people engage with the content you disseminate. Invite and respond to comments, positive and negative. Keep up with communications on web forums, Twitter and Facebook. And remember: A complaint that is dealt with swiftly and well can be as beneficial to your reputation and brand image as general praise.

You can also create a sense of being part of a wider community by being an active consumer of social media. Think of it as an unspoken “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” policy. Post on forums. Comment on people’s blog posts. Connect with prospective customers across your social media footprint. Keep in touch with contacts established via Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Guest blog or engage guest bloggers.

The five C’s: All interlinked

In order to build a successful social marketing management strategy, you need to consider the five factors of Commerce, Company, Consumers, Content and Community not as isolated areas but as interlinked components of a dynamic process. Here are some examples to illustrate how these components interact: The development of your company’s product and brand image will be influenced by the needs and interests of your target consumer audience. Any content you post on the internet will reflect your brand image and bring it to that audience, engaging people in a way that builds up a sense of communit