When I recently presented in Japan on how the agricultural industry could best utilize social media in a country where Twitter usage is more widespread than the United States yet Facebook was only beginning to grow, I was reminded by my Japanese friend Katsuyo Nakao of something very important that affected my view on how businesses can create and leverage a social media strategy: PDCA. Although I did not use that terminology per se in my speech, she correctly interpreted my advice as aligning social media activities with the PDCA cycle. Let me explain further.
I started my career in Japan and ended up working at a Japanese company in Japan (in Kyoto, the ancient capital, to boot) for the first nine years after I left college. My approach to business, work ethic, and understanding of branding have all been deeply effected by my work not only at that Japanese company but also representing foreign firms in Japan for six years after that.
Japanese companies are big on internal education and training, and since I worked at a manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry, they were naturally big on quality control. It is at that company where I learned about W. Edwards Deming, who some claim is the Father of Japanese Quality Control. William was an American but ended up teaching and becoming much more famous in Japan than he ever was in the United States.
One of the things that Deming taught, which became standard in business practice in Japan, was the so-called Deming Cycle about PDCA. Rather than myself explaining it, here’s how it is described in Wikipedia:
The Deming Cycle (or Shewhart Cycle): As a repetitive process to determine the next action, the Deming Cycle describes a simple method to test information before making a major decision. The 4 steps in the Deming Cycle are: Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA), also known as Plan-Do-Study-Act or PDSA. Dr. Deming called the cycle the Shewhart Cycle, after Walter A. Shewhart. The cycle can be used in various ways, such as running an experiment: PLAN (design) the experiment; DO the experiment by performing the steps; CHECK the results by testing information; and ACT on the decisions based on those results.
I have slightly modified the above approach using the same terminology resulting in the following which I teach my social media strategy consulting clients:
PLAN = Creating a social media strategy.
DO = Implementing tactics and campaigns aligned with the social media strategy.
CHECK = Regular (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) review of metrics created as part of the strategy to determine if business ROI in social media has been sufficiently achieved or not.
ACTION = Fine-tuning the social media strategy, tactics, plans for campaigns, and even potentially refining or changing metrics or how measurements are performed.
It is a never-ending cycle because of the changing nature of social media websites, how we use them, and companies always wanting to maximize their investment. That’s why I also sometimes refer to campaigns as social media experiments to confirm the effectiveness of their strategy.
Although it sounds rather simplistic, PDCA is the framework for how I believe businesses should be strategizing on, implementing, confirming their ROI, and fine-tuning their social media activities over time. It provides them confirmation of their objective and a roadmap for how they can be successful or at least a plan from which they can measure and ascertain the business ROI of their activities.
Does your company or yourself practice PDCA in your social media activities?
Video explaining this blog post in Japanese appears below.