5W’s of Social Media


The first day of high school journalism class, the teacher asked if anyone in the class could name the 5W’s.  No one could.  “Well, learn them now — and never forget them.  They’re the cornerstone of everything useful you’ll do in journalism, marketing, PR, sales, advertising or any other job you wind up in,” she said.

She was right.  The 5W’s I learned that day are:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why

In marketing, I usually start with the last one in that list.  Why something is being done is usually the most important factor in how I approach it from a marketing standpoint.  Am I trying to build awareness for my brand?  Generate leads?  Get people to attend an event? 

“Who”, as in who’s the target for the message, is second in my planning.  In my career I’ve worked with nearly every kind of product there is to sell — from canned vegetables and margarine through diamonds and designer clothes to semiconductors and flight simulators.  On the tech side, I’ve lost count of the variations in hardware, software, and firmware I’ve crafted strategies around.  The principles are the same with all of them — but the target audience varies greatly, and that changes everything.

Once you have the “why” and the “who” straight,  you can get to work on “what” (on an offer or a message that’s tailored for the audience).  “Where” can be the most difficult, because that’s a matter of knowing the behaviors, preferences, and social media profile of your target audience. 

Last, but hardly least, once the first four are aligned, the “when” usually sorts itself out.  There are predictable metrics that show the best time to reach different audiences via different communications channels.  (For instance, Facebook posts early in the morning get the best results among some demographic groups, while those posted in the late afternoon work best for others — geography plays a large part in both Facebook and Twitter.  For instance, a post at 8 a.m. Pacific will be read at lunchtime by someone in New York, or in the early evening by someone in London, and just before bedtime for someone in Auckland.)

Want to know more about the 5W’s of social media?  Join me and Christie Campbell of Socialware, and Steve Selby of LIMRA for a free webcast on Wednesday, August 10.  It’s free, but registration is required — here’s a link to register

Graphic credit:  Angelo Amboldi made this graphic available under a Creative Commons license on Flickr.

About debmcalister

I'm a Dallas-based marketing consultant and writer, who specializes in helping start-up technology companies grow. I write (books, articles, and blogs) about marketing, technology, and social media. This blog is about all of those -- and the funny ways in which they interesect with everyday life. It's also the place where I publish general articles on topics that interest me -- including commentary about the acting and film communities, since I have both a son and grandson who are performers.
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