In July, Sean Ryan, Director – Social and Mobile at J.C. Penney spoke to the Social Media Club of Kansas City about the company’s social media efforts during a topsy-turvy period that’s been rocky again the past few weeks (but more on that tomorrow).

7 Success Factors from the J.C. Penney Social Media Strategy

Sean presented an insightful overview with real world examples of strategic concepts we view as integral to a brand’s successful social networking and content effort.

1. Create an audience persona as a focal point for social media content.

The audience persona of the “new” J.C. Penney (modeled after Tina Fey and others) helped focus the personality, voice, and editorial content decisions for the brand’s social media implementation. In Sean’s words, the Fey Roniston (as the persona was named) personality represented who the brand is, her voice is how the brand talks, and her sensibilities shape what subjects and events the brand covers.

Sean-Ryan-Visual-Resume2. Strong social media people represent a combination of business person and reporter.

Sean was a reporter in the first half of his career before transitioning to Target and then J.C. Penney. His career path suggests a strong social media profile: a reporter’s ability to ask questions and distill information along with a business person’s knowledge and sensibilities. Sean highlighted the two halves of his career with an intriguing concept: a one-slide, visual resume.

3. Reach into the organization to develop a social media editorial calendar.

Since many people outside Sean’s team (i.e., buyers for one) have early visibility and potential content on stories of interest to the brand’s fans, regularly reaching out for leads (as a reporter would) helps ensure timely, meaningful content on its social media editorial calendar.

4. Conduct weekly meetings with anyone touching the social strategy.

No one department “controls” all aspects of the social strategy so planned checkpoints among stakeholders enhance integration, provide visibility to developing stories, and ensure people with responsibility for key touchpoints are well-coordinated.

jcp-facebook5. Be willing to pick up your strategy and move it.

The original J.C. Penney Facebook page was mired in a seemingly unrecoverable Facebook Edgerank situation, savaged by fans complaining about the retailer and its Facebook content (which was being recycled from other media).  It was typical for negative Facebook fan actions (marking posts as spam, hiding some or all of the brand’s posts) to surpass positive actions (likes, shares, comments) on a regular basis. Rather than try to reverse the Facebook Edgerank perspective on its page, J.C. Penney moved its presence to a new Facebook page built around its updated strategy. The new Facebook page started demonstrating positive results immediately.

6. Build the trust needed to operate in social time.

When asked about differences in the review process for day-to-day vs. crisis communication-oriented social media, Sean said former CEO Ron Johnson commented that he trusted Sean’s team to edit and make solid decisions about what to share. This reflects a previous Brainzooming post on social networking critical success factors: real-time social media response depends on a level of trust from senior management in the judgment of those running the operation.

7. Produce weekly social media metrics linked to business performance.

If social media wants to be taken seriously as a business function, it has to deliver metrics at the pace the line organization does. It’s also imperative to provide a bridge to how social media contributes to making the numbers that move the business. One regular feedback loop among the J.C. Penney social media metrics involves reporting trending topics for marketing & merchandising to see what customers are talking about online. – Mike Brown


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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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4 Responses to “Social Media Strategy – 7 Success Factors from J.C. Penney”

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