Hang around any medium or large business for a while and you’ll start hearing many of the same corporate buzzwords. Phrases like:

  • Ping me if you need me!
  • Let’s figure out how to be more collaborative!
  • How can we be more innovative?
  • Are their opportunities for synergy between these projects?
  • Can we put together a cross-functional team?

All phrases based on buzzwords that often are nebulous in their meanings, which means they’re difficult to measure. How does one measure the level of “collaboration” in your organization? How do you know if you’ve found “synergy” between projects? Does “pinging” someone actually mean you received a response from them?

And let’s be honest. Social media isn’t without these nebulous phrases or buzzwords either. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t hear phrases like:

  • What is our return on engagement?
  • What can we do to increase our influence?
  • I’d like for this content to go viral!

Again, fun words to say, but all terms that are difficult to understand and nearly impossible to measure.

My latest favorite buzzword that is invading both the business and social vocabulary is “Agile”. As an ex-software developer, it makes me giggle a little when people use it incorrectly. It brings to mind those famous words of Inigo Montoya (from The Princess Bride) when his employer continually used the word “inconceivable”.


Since the introduction of the Agile software development methodology in 2001, businesses have slowly started to adopt the principles of rapid, incremental change into areas beyond software development. Information Technology, Sales, Research, and even Marketing organizations are adopting terms like “agile”, “scrum”, “sprint” and “stand-ups” into their business vernacular. The problem is that their use of words like “agile” often demonstrate that “it does not mean what you think it means.”

agile is becoming a dirty word Is Your Social Media Strategy Truly Agile?

I do believe, however, that the 12 core principles of Agile software development methodology can be easily applied to social media activities. So, rather than toss around corporate buzzwords that we may not understand, take a few minutes to understand the core principles of Manifesto for Agile Software Development (in bold below) and learn how you can best apply them to your social strategy:

  1. Customer satisfaction by rapid delivery of useful software – You can apply this to your social media activities simply by ensuring that everything you do is focused on providing your customers with the best service you can possibly offer. Engaging with your customers is a MUST!
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development – Issues arise in the social space frequently. Be prepared to address them and do your best to ensure that your communications and tactics are evolving as the needs of your customers evolve.
  3. Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months) – Successful social media requires commitment. Blog frequently, monitor your channels, respond to as many questions and inquiries as you possibly can.
  4. Working software is the principal measure of progress – You should measure the success of your social media activities based on whether your customers feel they were delivered a solution. Whether it’s an answer to their question, a request for more information or just an acknowledgement that their concern was heard, it’s your customers who will evaluate the success of your activities.
  5. Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace – Social media is a long-term commitment. You need to be in it for the long-haul and ensure that you are staffed appropriately to maintain the growth of our channels and serve the needs of your customers.
  6. Close, daily co-operation between business people and developers – Your social media team needs to understand the core of your business and be in constant-contact with the various business units. If there is a product issue, they need to be informed. If your sales team is engaging prospects via social, they need to be informed. If HR is recruiting via social media, the team needs to be informed.
  7. Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location) – Internally, face-to-face is the best. Via social media, however, a 1:1 conversation is best. Don’t just blast out communications to the masses. Listen for individual questions or inquiries. Answer them in a way that is meaningful to that individual.
  8. Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted – Your social media team needs to be empowered to be the face and voice of your company. Provide them all the tools they need to be successful (including a real social media budget) and then trust that they are communicating with your customers appropriately. Don’t forget to reward them for a job well done!
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design – Continuous attention is never a bad thing. In the social space, it’s attention to your communications, attention to the response you receive and attention to the way your community is responding. Always work to find ways to improve on what you are doing.
  10. Simplicity- The art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential – Keep it simple, stupid! Don’t over-complicate your communications. Be open, honest and transparent. Answer the needs of your community.
  11. Self-organizing teams – You cannot define where your community is going to engage. Maybe this week they’ll be all over Twitter. Next week, it might be YouTube or a private forum. As your community self-organizes, so you should. Your social media strategy has to be flexible (hence the word “agile”).
  12. Regular adaptation to changing circumstances – If there is one constant in social media, it’s change. Platforms change, rules change, players change, communities change, your headcount changes….be prepared for change. If you don’t adapt, you will become extinct.

So…is your social media strategy “agile”? Are you prepared to live by the tenets that were set forward by the authors of Manifesto for Agile Software Development? If not, stop tossing around the word “agile” like another corporate buzzword. If you’re ready to truly implement an agile social media strategy, print these principles out. Hang them in your cube or office. Revisit them frequently.

If you’re using an agile approach to social media, I’d love to hear about successes and challenges in the comments. Share them with us!

Cheers!