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Building Downstream Capacity

by Randall Craig on April 24, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Growth, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Social Media

Tagged as: , , ,

Have you ever heard the expression “you’re only as strong as your friends?”  No where is this more true than with digital marketing, and particularly with Social Media.

Too achieve a particular objective, organizations will often invest in a focused campaign.  It has a beginning, middle, and end.  Its results can be measured.  And when the results come back, it will either be a success, or it will not.  Sadly, the question of could the campaign have done better rarely get asked.  Even more rarely asked is should we have invested somewhere completely different?

There is one group that is often taken for granted: external partners.  This can be members, volunteers, suppliers, media, or any other stakeholder outside of the organization.  Strangely, these groups are all assumed to be expertly capable with Social Media (and computers generally), completely up-to-date with your messages, and perfectly aware of their key role in helping move common goals forward.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Many are too busy with their own problems to be concerned with yours.  And if they do have some degree of Social Media knowledge, it is likely focused on achieving their goals – not yours.

Building downstream capacity means helping external partners/stakeholders be more effective using Social Media to achieve their objectives.  When you do so, they will be equipped – and more open – to using Social Media to help you achieve yours.  And unlike campaigns, the return on this investment is cumulative: as they become more fluent with Social Media, and become more comfortable with your organization, they will become ever-stronger advocates and ambassadors.

Example ideas to improve downstream capacity:

  • Keynote presentation at a conference on how they can use Social Media to achieve their objectives.
  • Newsletter or Magazine article on the subject.
  • Development of a no-cost Social Media resource toolkit that shares ideas on the subject
  • Webinars on the subject
  • Half-day seminars on the subject
  • Tweet-chats on the subject
  • Social Media (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc) discussions on the subject.
  • Newsletters and blasts celebrating successes
  • Gamification: leaderboards and other mechanisms to encourage/identify/reward participation

This week’s action plan:  Before building downstream capacity, or even thinking about it, reach out to your primary external partner (members, agents, clients, etc) and ask them what they might want.

Marketing Insight:  Sometimes an argument is made that it isn’t “the role of the organization” to build capacity externally.  We disagree fundamentally with this, as building downstream capacity amplifies the effective execution of all of the organization’s Social Media initiatives.  And even if the argument were true, building downstream capacity is still the responsibility of the organization for one simple reason:  risk mitigation.  Embedded within the How to messaging is equally powerful Don’t do’s.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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