Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

A Holistic Approach to Social Media

Steve Nichols discusses "The Three C's"
Nichols explained that “The Three C’s” not only include content, but also context and conditions.

We at Above the Fold are big proponents of social media and the great things it can do for your newspaper and classifieds. As a result, we have offered many tips and tricks for building your business strategy. Much of this has to do with who should manage your social media, what they should post and how often. However, there is more to social media than content. Steve Nichols said the widespread focus on content is too narrow a view of social media. So instead, he offers his more holistic approach that he calls “The Three C’s” in an article for The Huffington Post called, “Why Most Companies Fail at Social Media – Understanding the Three C’s”. Nichols explained that “The Three C’s” not only include content, but also context and conditions. Below, we have synthesized the steps your ad department needs to take in order to implement Nichols’ approach to social media.


Before you can even get started on producing the content for your various social media accounts, Nichols argues that you must first create the context in which your social media strategy is implemented. Contrary to popular belief, Nichols does not believe that only one social media pro should be creating your strategy and single-handedly implementing it. Instead, the senior level staff should not only understand the necessity and purpose behind social media, but they should be involved in its process every step of the way.

Nichols also says that the context of strategy hinges on the understanding of your industry, competitors and the inner-workings of your office. That way, your team can create a well-developed and thoughtful approach to social media strategy that starts with the company leaders and trickles down to the rest of the employees. The strategy should be backed with intention, including social media goals that are based on your over-all business goals. For instance, if one of your business goals is to improve customer relations, you can then create a social media goal of having successful conversations with customers via Twitter or Facebook. Social media shouldn’t be isolated from the rest of your ad department’s goals and functions. It should be a key component in reaching those goals.

In order to create those social media and business goals, Nichols says that execs need to have a complete understanding of the benefits and dangers of social media. Know what exactly social media can do for your newspaper (i.e. streamline communication with customers, boost website views). While the manager at your office may not be a social media expert, Nichols stands by the fact they need to be involved in the creation and implementation of the strategy. So even if they’re not well versed in social media, make sure they’re surrounded with people who are so they can help your manager understand all the possibilities of social media.


Once you have figured out the context in which your social media strategy can operate, you then must create the conditions for its implementation. If done right, conditions can help you take advantage of all the benefits and possibilities of social media, while avoiding or managing the risks of social media. And there are risks, such as public relations and human resources mishaps. If the people who contribute to your social media feeds aren’t fully versed on the conditions you create, you can run into these issues. Therefore, the conditions should be a step-by-step approach to your various social media accounts, so everyone in the office knows what they should and should not write, post and share.

Of course, problems do inevitably arise. When they do, make sure they don’t get swept under the rug (and aren’t resolved by a mere click of the “delete” button). Acknowledge them, address them and then reconstruct your conditions accordingly so mistakes don’t get repeated. In a sense, this should be a no-brainer. As we’ve always advocated, social media should be an on-going aspect of your ad department. It should be updated regularly and kept active. Likewise, your conditions should change and adapt as your social media strategy progresses.


Once you have developed the context and conditions for your social media strategy, then you can start posting content to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. This is a topic that has been discussed frequently: What you should and should not post on social media (i.e. industry articles, answering questions, etc.). Nichols one rule for content is creating a social media language that is known and understood by everyone in your office. This is constructed by ensuring that everyone is on board with the context and conditions surrounding your strategy, and thus can contribute to the feeds appropriately. This will help create a cohesive tone for your accounts and help you avoid the risk of someone posting something that hinders the goals of your social media strategy, because they didn’t understand your business model from the get-go.