I’m writing a series of posts that I’m titling, “The Clean Social Media Methodology,” and this blog series is my attempt to introduce people to a very simple way of approaching social media marketing.  I chose to call this the Clean Methodology for two reasons.  First, the Clean Methodology specifically counters the perception that social media marketing is always messy and confusing – it doesn’t need to be either.  And second, my own thinking on the Clean Methodology was strongly influenced by Eric Ries, who is the author of something called the Lean Startup Theory, which is a management theory for building and scaling startup companies.  (If you’re interested in learning more about the Lean Startup Theory, I highly recommend reading Eric Ries’s essays over at Startup Lessons Learned.)
What is the Clean Social Media Methodology?
The Clean Social Media Methodology can be summarized like this: today, the social media marketing experience is defined largely by a high level of uncertainty, and in order to achieve success using social media channels, you must begin systematically reducing this uncertainty. And by reducing the degree of uncertainty you face you will help reveal your optimal social media strategy.
Consider the following questions: what actions should you take to begin your social media marketing campaign?  Should you post videos, Tweets, a blog?  Should you podcast?  How often should you leave comments?  Should you allow comments from anyone, or should they be moderated?  How often should you produce original content?  How often should you share the content of others?  Should you address your competitors by name?  Should you ask your readers questions?  What actions should you take to acquire new subscribers?  Do these actions differ from what you need to do to retain your current subscribers?  How do you identify your most loyal or valuable followers?  How should you measure success?  And two of the most important questions: how should you determine a social media marketing budget, and what type of return on investment should you expect for all your efforts?  
Many people have a hard time answering these questions with any degree of certainty.  In fact, even people who have seemingly effective social media strategies often answer these questions by pointing to the examples set by high profile social media marketers, or other soft metrics.
I will lay out the Clean Social Media Methodology in a series of blog posts that are aimed at helping people systematically eliminating the uncertainty they face, and helping you answer questions like these in a satisfying way.  The result will be a much cleaner social media marketing experience, whether you are marketing a nonprofit, a school annual fund, a local business, or an ambitious corporate campaign.
The Clean Social Media Methodology stands in stark contrast to the toolbox-first approach to social media, which essentially seems to state that you should begin your social media marketing campaign by looking at where your customers are congregating on the Internet, and trying to engage them in conversations in the most popular venues.  This “toolbox” approach is obviously very technology-centric and it’s easy to see why it’s so attractive: (1) it’s simple, and (2) it makes logical sense.  The problem is that it is highly limiting.  It is a good way to begin engaging with customers, but it is a bad way to achieve measurable progress against business goals.  Further, the Clean Social Media Methodology is able to take the valuable elements of the toolbox approach, but it is able to focus your efforts on the Minimum Feasible Effort (apologies to Eric Ries), and this allows you to extract tremendous effort from your social media actions.  
More to follow – specifically, in the next post, I will explain the Minimum Feasible Effort and explain why that concept is so important to achieving your social media goals. 

Photo caption: I took the photo at the top of this post on a visit to a great charity called the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program that I’m happy to be working with. 
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Will Marlow co-founded AlumniFidelity which provides a Web 2.0 platform to colleges, nonprofits and secondary schools.  He is also an Internet and social media marketing consultant.  He’s working with clients such as UVA, the College of William & Mary, the University of Oklahoma, Bowling Green State University, Randolph Macon College, and he loves nothing better than a thorny marketing challenge.  He would love to help you market your business on the Internet, boost the fundraising numbers for your school or nonprofit, or sellout your next big event.  Email him at