The Shibumi 7 of Social Media Marketing

Many a social media campaign we see today is either riding on the hype and traffic created by the term “social media” itself, or are in the mode of “testing the waters”.

The reason for this trend has much to do with the limited number of experts in many developing markets of the world. Experts, Specialists and best practices available in some pockets of the emerging economies – India, China, West Africa, etc. – are at best limited compared to the higher needs and demands of these markets. Additionally the social media jargons in circulation sound exciting, but are unable to help meet the simplest of social media requirements of many of the companies operating in these markets.

Social Media strategy for any campaign need not be complicated in design or delivery. Like many other highly successful offline campaigns of the past, online campaigns in general and social media campaigns in particular, could be thought of being designed and driven by the simple principles of Shibumi.

In his book “The Shibumi Strategy”, Matthew May talks about 7 of these concepts, which are a cohesive set of principles to guiding one’s pursuit of excellence, elegant performance and effortless effectiveness in any front. I feel the same concepts could be effectively applied in social media marketing too.

The 7 principles / concepts are: Shizen, Koko, Kanso, Datsuzoku, Yugen, Fukinsei and Hansei. Let’s see how these principles are universal in application in Social Media Marketing (SMM) too.

SHIZEN is the Japanese word that’s closer in meaning to “naturalness”. The idea captured by shizen for life and business is that before taking any action, one needs to look for naturally occurring patterns and rhythms, so that one’s ideas are constructed in a way to fit within these patterns.

In terms of SMM, this translates to “listening” – listen to your prospective target audience, customers and stakeholders; observe the patterns of their aspirations and needs; develop your conclusions and targets based on these needs, and design your framework for the campaign.

KOKO is the Japanese term for “austerity”. Koko suggests that one should refrain from adding what is absolutely not necessary in the first place, while imparting a sense of focus and clarity. Koko emphasizes restraint, exclusion and omission.

In social media marketing – or for that matter, in business – koko translates to setting a clear and focused “primary objective”, which is free from any kind of unnecessary distractions. Many social media campaigns tend to fail, since the marketers fail to encapsulate the core goals of the campaign properly.

KANSO is the Japanese word for “simplicity”. Kanso emphasizes elimination of anything that doesn’t matter, to make enough rooms for anything that does.

In SMM, we often need to follow the “keep it simple, stupid!” cliché to its core! To do this, Kanso principles inspire us to have the understanding to create fresher, cleaner and neater frameworks for social media marketing strategies. A simple, no-frills social media campaign usually brings in unexpected customer responses and viral benefits.

DATSUZOKU means and emphasizes “break-from-routine” or habit, which gives a feeling of unexpected amazement or pleasant surprise.

The social media landscape being extremely crowded, datsuzoku highlights the need for transcending the ordinary and conventional, to develop a tactic or a plan that makes the target groups react in an unexpectedly positive / pleasing way. Needless to say, this requires a the shizen insights of the target groups in conjunction with the seijaku of creativity – essentials for create something fresh and original.


YUGEN means “subtlety” in Japanese, which highlights the need to limit information, so that there’s something left for vivid imagination. The principle suggests that when some things are left open for interpretation, the participant observer makes that extra effort to get involved easily by injecting his imagination into it.

Social media being an extremely changing landscape, the chances of getting a target group involved is increasingly becoming more difficult. Therefore applying Yugen principles, if there’s something left for the imagination of the target group – which is subtle & simple yet challenges their minds – it would definitely succeed in wooing their respect and attention in the long run. Examples: quizzes, polls, comments, shares, etc.

FUKINSEI is the Japanese word highlighting “imperfection” or “asymmentry”. Fukensei “conveys the symmetrical harmony and beauty of nature through clearly asymmetrical and incomplete renderings”.

In terms of SMM, Fukinsei recommends that strategies must be built around some amount of imperfections. This will leave the door open for the target groups to get involved in the marketing effort, to supply the missing symmetry and participate in the act of creation. In social media jargon, it’s known as “co-creation” – which has been proved to be extremely successful for many flourishing brands.

HANSEI means “reflection”, which is recommended after every action regularly regardless of the outcome of the action. Hansei is an active discipline performed to better understand the underlying process that led to a specific result.

In SMM as well as in business, the importance of “gap analysis” is an important part of the process. It generates constant “feedback” and insights, which helps in refining the strategy. Hansei in social media strategy is even more important since the “reflection” process is real-time and performed more frequently, as social media itself is “real-time”.

Thus we see that instead of getting lost in the complex process of understanding and then applying social media marketing strategies, all one needs to do is to apply the 7 Shibumi principles actively.

Leave your observations and experiences in applying these principles in your SMM strategies.


6-point framework for Social Media Marketing strategy

Social Media Marketing Strategy is the buzz-phrase of all marketers these days.

However, we recently found out that all the “strategy” related buzz flowing around actually boils down to the TOOLs used – and not the STRATEGY. In a previous post we briefly outlined the 3 foundations on which SMM strategy should be built upon. This post will focus upon developing a framework for developing SMM campaign strategy.

Like any strategy, the framework for SMM campaign can be simply depicted as a closed loop system (see figure).

6-point closed-loop strategy framework

Where are we?

To know this, we need to gain intelligence on our competitors and customers. We need to monitor and listen to the buzz around our industry and category, utilizing independent resources and tools available online.

Secondly, even though social-media knowledge is high among most customers and industries, we still need to assess the current level of social-media readiness of our customer universe. An understanding of this will make a difference in deciding the tools we’d like to employ during the later stages.

Thirdly, we also need to identify our digital assets and our available content, which should give a fair indication of the level of resource allocation needed for our campaign.

Who are with us?

Analysis involved in the above steps will specify the target audience we need to address and their social-technographic profile. We need to identify which social media clusters or combination of these would work for us.

Where do we want to go?

Our Analysis would also give an indication about our realistic Goals / Objectives for the campaign. These objectives must be aligned with the target audience clusters and the metrics we’d employ to monitor / measure our campaign. From this, we’d have targeted and measurable objectives.

While setting objectives we also need to gain a balance between “effectiveness” and ‘impact” of the campaign. Broadly, the objectives could be:

  1. Listening – Researching to gain customer understanding
  2. Talking – Spreading Co. messages
  3. Energising – Powered buzz created by enthusiastic customers
  4. Supporting – Helping customers support each-other
  5. Embracing – Integrating customers into the business (e.g. participating in design process) – though applicable in case any of 4 other objectives has already been met.

How can we go there?

The processes involved in achieving our objectives need to be carefully formulated. The need and current level of social-media readiness will lead to employable tactics from an ever increasing universe of tools available; e.g. blogging, micro-blogging, multimedia sharing, bookmarking, etc. From this we’d get an idea of the share of investments needed out of overall online budgets.

Secondly, we need to integrate the social media tools with other online tools and tactics employed (e.g. SEM, PPC, SEO, SMO, etc.). Monitoring and management of tactics and resources is crucial at this stage. We need to select SM platforms based on tactical effectiveness and architectural fitness.

Are we ready to go?

Once the processes have been formulated, we need to develop SM architecture in order to map out the multiple activity levels. For any SM campaign, the Blog acts as the hub, while the communities (e.e. Facebook, Youtube), forums, outposts (e.g. Twitter) act as the spokes of the structure.

Taken as a whole, the SM architecture acts as an interface of the SM campaign for the target audience, as well as acts as a dashboard to control campaign implementation.

What’s our progress?

Once implemented, we need to constantly monitor the campaign for its effectiveness, based on the metrics set at the 3rd stage and take steps to amend tactics as we go along.

Last but not the least, we must not forget that the above framework has been developed within the 3 foundations of SM campaign planning, discussed in a previous post.


Related articles:

3 Foundations of Social Media Marketing campaign

Ever since the social media marketing started making noise, scores and scores of so-called “experts” Social Media Marketing tips, tactics, tools, are afloat on the cyberspace. More often than not we find that most of these keep blubbering on the same things again and again, in different colors and shades.

Is there any method to madness in formulating and implementing a Social Media Marketing strategy today? This question was thrown open on a popular social media platform, to check the general understanding on whether there’s any strategy behind this madness, The responses received in this experiment suggested that if there’s any, social media strategy is all about (a) Identifying Audience (b) Identifying Content Hubs (c) Identifying traffic drivers (d) Creating and participating in communities. Many books written by “expert authors also outline and elaborate upon some basic guidelines as follows:

  • Why Social Media marketing
  • What are the tools
  • How to use the tools most effectively for marketing
  • How to measure progress and adapt

Doesn’t this indicate that Social Media Marketing (SMM) is still being primarily used as a TOOL? For example, the buzz flowing around the subject is all about “Tactics” – which sites, how to listen, how to be effective, how to optimize, etc. – and not about “Strategy”. A strategic framework or approach is usually either missing or is just superficially touched upon.

What should be the approach to make sure that your investment in social media is not just an experiment?

There are 3 foundations on which SMM campaign is built upon. We’ll talk about these 3 elements in this post and dedicate another post to the talk specifically on Strategy Framework for SMM.

Foundations of Social Media Marketing (c) one%inspiration

First and foremost, we must consciously acknowledge that there are 3 main drivers of successful SMM campaign: (1) Strategy (not tactics) (2) Technology and (3) Design. Strategy involves analyzing the needs and goals for engaging the brand on social media platform, and outlining potential tactics in doing so. While Strategy is the way to go, Technology acts as the backbone and Design as the interface of any SMM campaign.

Secondly, we must be clear about the role of technology. Even though it’s the backbone, it’s not an end in itself. Many thought leaders (e.g. Charlene Li) advocate that the most important mantra of social media marketing is:

It’s NOT about Technologies; It’s all about RELATIONSHIP.

As a result, when you say that your SMM strategy is to be on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube, you’re actually talking about the Tools and Tactics only. It’s the relationship you create by using these platforms which makes a difference for you. Once you understand this and adopt it in practice, it’s easy to follow any guideline or develop your own simple framework.

Thirdly, Design being the interface with the users, a lot of effort must go in to make innovations and not just copy / replicate design approaches of successful companies. By saying this I necessarily mean that before you sit on the design table, you must imbibe into “Design Thinking” – which is an attitude to Solve a problem in simple newer ways at hand rather than aiming for a “good looking” interface. For example, if you need an interface to woo your customers to your Facebook page, you must get deeper into the social media behaviors of these customers and utilize these insights to see what’s required out of the interface. It’s only then you should go to the design table.

My next post will talk about a strategic framework for SMM campaign.

How to Reposition brands in a Connected World

Whether or not many companies and marketers accept it, we’re living in an extremely connected world. Mobile phones have revolutionized the way we verbally communicate with each other; Internet has drastically changed our behavior within our groups and society at large; and the integration of both these technologies, has shifted our perspectives of “reaching out” to the world outside of ourselves. As a result we’re discovering hundreds of different ways everyday to re-invent ourselves on every frontier of our existence – perhaps like never before!

However, what about the brands, which have been constantly giving us meaning and reasons to use them, since our toddler days?

Many brands have been able to retain their stronghold, by delivering the values they have been promising over all these years. It means that these brands have been extremely successful in differentiating themselves from the competition. It means that these brands have been consistently maintaining their presence within the purchase consideration set of their customers, and in most cases making sure that they are indeed the chosen ones from this set.

Then, there are many other brands who have found themselves cat-napping during the communication revolution happening around them. How can these brands re-invent / reposition themselves?

The answer lies within the “communication revolution” itself. Here’s how:

Creation of a new value-system of the customers (Image (C) Shantanu Sengupta)

A brand is after all a composite set of direct and indirect value-based proposition / promises delivered to the customer, in order to differentiate the core product from a competition. The best way to visualize brands is perhaps to visualize them as human beings / personalities in the real world. In this way, brands are able to mirror important facets of their target customer personalities, while creating a unique set of promises that satisfy the customer’s needs at the time of purchase.

Therefore, just the manner in which the customers are changing their ways of communicating and evolving into new “avatars” or personalities, these “cat-napping” brands too need to reposition, by following the changes embraced by their prospective customers, to evolve into new “avatars”. The figure below makes it clearer.

Today’s Customer M, who is connecting more and more frequently thru various virtual means, to other customers with different value-sets, is destined to adopt additional set of values, influenced by his network. As a result, Customer M has now an augmented value-set (Core + Influenced values). On a longer time frame his core values may have the chance of being proportionally dominated by influenced set of values – to the extent that he might now have a newer value system – “MX”.

Lesson for “cat-napping” brands:

  1. Augment the value proposition, by promise of the additional benefits that meet the needs of the socially enriched customer
  2. Retain the Core values intact during the process of augmenting the value-proposition
  3. However Give Up Control, if the core value system is meta-morphing into a new, but composite value system
  4. Re-Gain Control by promising long-term benefits, reflecting upon the new-composite value system
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