4 Ps for social media


You can tell the future marketers in kindergarten—they're the ones who stutter as they get to P when they recite the alphabet. So, in the fine tradition of forced alliteration in mnemonics, I present my 4 Ps for social media to add to your collection.

If your alphabet drawer is overstocked with Ps, these writers have other collections of letters you might find interesting (and useful, all):

Let's see, that's 4 As, 7 Cs, 5 Es, 4 Fs, 4 Ms and 4 Ps, not including the original 4 Ps (which have been endlessly restated). It seems that everyone gets to have letters. Here are mine, presented in chronological order for most companies:

Pay attention to what's happening online and understand what it means to your business. Learn your way around the online environment (or hire a native guide). Know where people are talking about you—and your competitors—and listen to what they're saying (this has tactical and strategic applications). Notice when something new appears, and don't be caught off guard when someone else asks you about it.

Be prepared to react to events in social media. Customers complain; help them. If they point out product problems or areas for improvement, get that information to your product group. When critics gripe or point out your flaws, be prepared to respond—if not to the critics, to the mainstream media who might also read their complaints.

Join in relevant online discussions. Comment on blogs, join online communities. Understand and follow online norms and policies, avoid the Streisand Effect, and don't try to subvert the medium (by, for example, using a fake identity). Be appropriate, and you can be a constructive part of the conversation.

Once your listening skills are solid and you understand the new online environment, it's ok to use them yourself! Blogs, media sharing and social networking sites can be useful for promoting your business (just avoid the activities that lead to active opposition). Social media are also good for projecting your personal brand. As you speak, just remember to keep listening. This is a world of two-way communication, and listening will tell you how your speaking is going over.

Next: the 4 Bs and a P of Raspberries.



I was talking with the executive of a high profile company this morning. She asked why they should pay attention to blogging. I can give them a lot of letters in response. And I give you an A for aggregator, too. Well done.

Thanks, Valeria. I have a few humorous 4-letter lists, too. It's a little addictive... :-)

Hi Nathan, one of the people who read my blog suggested that the 5th M was mayhem if people were not guided through the process of dealing with social media... I like your 4Ps too, it matches so well with traditional marketing :) I have a contact for you, I mail you today. Simon

I've been learning that participation is the key. The more you comment and spread your knowledge around to different blogs, the more respect and awareness you generate.

Nathan - Excellent article. Anxious to see the 4 Bs and a P of Raspberries!

And the 5 Cs of Viral Marketing

C, viral, get it?

Yeah I know it's punny obscure but there you have it.

Hey, look, participation! (Sorry, I don't usually get a lot of comments...)

Dan and Cindy, thanks for your comments. Raspberries are a summer crop, so we'll need a list for strawberries first.

Simon, I'm not sure newcomers will be encouraged by that 5th M, but it's not hard to come up with examples to support it.

Susan, I'm going to have to plead slow here, sorry. I don't always catch virals going around.

Good Morning Nathan, all,

It's great to see some commentary generating on this blog -- speaks to the insightful, accurate, and compelling articles and musings you are posting here Nathan -- well done.

I risk sounding a bit like a broken record, but I had to respond to this first comment here regarding the "why" in "why should I pay attention to blogging." I want to qualify though that I am speaking fairly strictly about the analysis side of the coin here -- I do believe that blogs are a great new platform for consumer expression, and I do believe that CEO's and brands blogging "the right way" is a good thing, adds transparancy, humanity, and personality -- however, "the right way" is a sometimes difficult path to put businesses on.

I think that blog analysis and corporate activity in the blogosphere should not be a rule -- in fact, our company, Kaava, has done a significant amount of research that focuses first on "whether" the blog world is a necessary listening factor for the business we are working with. Every business and brand should certainly take blogs into account -- at least to find out initially whether or not there is anything relevant there to pay attention to.

Typically a company takes interest in the blogosphere when the whisperings around negative commentary make it up to the Executive Suite. Again, typically, the Executive Suite begins to lose sleep -- that "ears burning" effect when you just know someone is talking about you. When the Executive Suite loses sleep, something is not right in their world and something needs to be fixed. Someone in the organization suggests that the CEO start a blog, that they find negative comments and address them directly, that they take out huge full-page ads in targeted local newspapers to "curtail" the negative energy they feel is growing and surrounding their brand in the blogosphere.

Our first intent when we come upon this client situation is to qualify the essence of the negative commentary, then measure it and its growth over a fixed period. However, once done, and sometimes regardless of the blog-specific mass and growth relevant to the issue, the most important exercise is to begin to measure and understand the ways in which, IF ANY, the messages and opinions being expressed in blogs are crossing over into a wider audience.

To do this, we match the concepts illuminated within the blogosphere to their potential matches within subject-matter relevant forums and message boards. In our view, bloggers represent the "intelligensia," a smaller, more educated, and more agenda-driven group of voices when compared to participants in forums and message boards (as Nathan pointed out previously, less barriers to entry etc.), and we view the participants in these more traditional forms of social media as being more representitive of the "mass consumer."

If we see no cross-over between the blogosphere and this wider communication platform represented by forums and message boards, we begin to formulate the essential "influence" that the bloggers are actually having on the wider consumer-set....and more times than not, in our experience, the sentiments being expressed in the blogosphere are contained, relatively closed, and rarely (on their own as stand-alone, collective opinions) appear to infiltrate or saturate the consciousness and conversations of the larger interacting consumer audience.

The "why" for blog analysis should move fairly quickly to the "whether or not" for blog analysis.

Apologies for the long, run-on comment...

Hey, comments are welcome, long or short. I think I made it clear that I'm happy to see a conversation develop in the comments here. Participate, you know.

"Whether or not" is an interesting question. While I lean toward defensive blog monitoring as a basic PR activity, it's certainly worthwhile to consider how much insight value blogs offer. I assume the answer varies quite a bit by client and industry.

When I talk to people (actually talk, not write), I tend to emphasize the benefits of listening to various functions, as well as on an individual level. Market research is one application, but there's more. I've talked with companies who are focusing on corporate security and investment applications. One is helping a government agency detect incidents for safety investigation. Source selection is an important step that needs to support the objective.

4 Bs is added here:

4 Ws is here:

Keeping a list on our post as I find them.

Excellent post Nathan!

I caught this post at the tail-end of last week, and then got tied-up. I feel like I'm arriving to the party late, but I'm glad I got a chance to revisit with the follow-up comments to enrich the experience.

Your Perception point was very well articulated - especially the part regarding staying on guard.

I find the Participation point to be the most complex and misunderstood. I'll explain.

It has recently come to my attention that there appears to be a very high level of expectation as it relates to corporate reach-out and engagement. More specifically, that if a company doesn't have an online presence, isn't as active in engagement and reach-out and doesn't use the tools available to them, then it almost implies that they are just "too lazy to type in their company name in a blog search engine" - and they probably deserve to fall at the hands of a good online lynching. This is not only ridiculous but overly simplistic.

I'm not suggesting that this is the only aspect of participation that is fraught with problems - but this particular opinion that is making its rounds as of late, specifically in this whole free vs paid service debate, is one that ought be looked at through a lens of tolerance, varying need and requirement.

For instance, there is a difference between business steeped in traditional communication strategies, and those that regard social media as a disruptive force to their communication strategies.

My opinion is that those companies that listen to feedback, participate online and make the necessary changes instructed by their users and maybe even their critics are the ones that have either procured this level of versatility in their business models, or have forced it upon themselves in a reactionary way to improve their staying power within their industry.

For those companies steeped in more traditional strategies, perhaps participation opt-in ought be looked at as an evolving and maturing aspect of social media as opposed to one where everyone must rush in haste to embrace.

Those companies opt-in strategies may be best served by tapping into online feedback as an early introduction to social media or for specific business applications (ie. your reference to security is a good example), but hiring a native guide or enlisting volunteer bloggers to take a more active role of participation and engagement might be looked at as a quantum leap and a threat to tested-true practices and traditions.

There should also be some recognition that social media monitoring/analysis will work better for some businesses than it will for others. This Quick and the Dead approach to rallying companies into new online environments isn't particularly tolerant to the laggards, and might eventually reveal an outcome that forms as the antithesis to the whole notion of Participation, marginalizing those wanting to weigh in, but on their own time and terms.

- Joseph


There's no doubt that companies will adjust to the changing environment at different paces, and I don't see that as a particular problem. I listed the Ps in the order I think most companies would adopt them--everyone should Perceive, even if only to confirm that nobody's talking about them. Protect is almost instinctive, at least once there's a problem. Participate and Project build on what a company learns ealier; I'm not one who thinks that everyone should have a blog, nor is that the only option for participating online.

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About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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