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The social media strategy question?

Blog post by on June 14, 2011 Editor's Pick 2 Comments

The social media strategy question: To build a social media strategy, or suffer the confusion of mindless tactical efforts, that is the question.

Over the past two years there has been a lot of education happening on social media – books, webinars, live presentations, videos, and podcasts. In the business to business (B2B) space, the education seems to be taking a longer learning curve. Not because there is more to learn, but because the businesses say they are looking at more proof of concept examples (and ROI). Social media strategy, content strategy and action plans are used interchangeably, but should they be? Are you confused over these terms yourself?

Ready to move forward yet?

Small and medium size companies, especially those in manufacturing, technical products and professional services, are now just gathering the troops to move forward with the social media channel. Still, the majority of businesses are approaching social media by looking at the tools first and trying to build a tactical strategy around the tool.

Or they are confusing a content strategy with a a social business strategy. While they are now planning blog subjects, tweets, LinkedIn updates and corporate approved news link sharing out 6 months and tracking mechanisms, they have not aligned the content to a business function that can improve how they work with customers better. They have not embraced a strategy around their business goals that will transform their organization through a cross-functional social media team ( including customer and partner stakeholders). Even farther from nurturing customer relationships, they have not empowered their staff to be a unified customer service team nor allowed the greater community to be the amplifier of their message.

Social business strategy comes first

In an article on Social Media Examiner, Rich Brooks, Flyte New Media interviewed Susan Cato, Senior Director of Web and New Media Strategies at CompTIA, said,

“You can’t have a social media strategy without a content strategy.”

I don’t think this is true at all. You must understand what content to create that will address goals, which existing business functions you can improve, and how your customer relationships will change. Which of course makes my case– social media business strategy comes first.

Even with social business leaders such as Axel Schultze and organizations like Social Media Academy teaching leadership and strategy, not enough organizations are taking this seriously and many are making the same mistakes over and over.

Does this sound familiar?

A company decides that they have to be in social media, they have anyone (often an intern – no disrespect intended) build a page and get to it. You can find these pages and profiles, where the activity lasted as long as the internship, or the first few posts due to lack of staff and management buy-in.

Some companies have a strong content strategy for the information they are sharing. They know the questions the audience is asking, they know where the audience is asking those questions and have joined those communities, they get comments and interaction on what they post, not to mention they even have gathered a variety of tools to measure and track their progress. The business clearly has the means to the end, but are lacking the end goal. That of transforming their organization to a social business with relationships with the audience. How can I tell? They have regular posts, they have how tos, case studies, view points, reviews, tool commentary, videos and interviews. All the right content around keywords and subject titles.

Your goal could be to improve one aspect of your business

In a post listing 22 social media tactical tools, Peter Kim says

“I haven’t found a single company doing all of these today. Forget divining a big, meaningful business objective before getting started – you’ll end up in analysis paralysis. Just make sure you’re making an existing business function better and get started.” Peter Kim

The points to make note of is the need to find at least one business function that you can improve. To do that your social media strategy needs to align and recognize the business goal drivers. And secondly, a content strategy will make using one or more tools more effective and efficient.

Enterprise level adjusts to social business strategy
Large enterprise (Fortune 1000) are regrouping as well. They might have started with a social media person/team that was in the marketing group for each division, but they are finding that each group started in slightly different directions with out a unified strategy across the corporation.[ insert visual from forester/owang on organization for SM teams]

This leads to perhaps inconsistent messages, branded profiles. personal profiles, inconsistent brand messages across a platform and across the social media tools. If you look for them on Facebook, you can find multiple Facebook pages, managed by employees or by non employees. When problems escalate in the social space, people react via emotion and not with a plan to follow. And yes, they forgot to complete a social media policy.

They are moving from the left-side configuration of a social media function to the far right as they re-analyze success and failures. I think this is the right direction for organizations large and small.

Do you recognize your company or yourself in this description? Are you now ready to make that effort more strategic? Maybe it’s time to regroup and work on a social business strategy to guide your progress.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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2 Responses to The social media strategy question?

  1. Walter Adamson June 16, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    Nice post. I especially liked your para about confusing a content strategy with a social business strategy. If you think about a hierarchy of Goals-Objectives-Strategies-Plans-Actions then the business objectives have to be decided and committed to before the development of Strategies.

    In this model the business objectives would be thrashed out, and then the social media and the content strategy would sit “below” and be aligned with those objectives.

    One of the objectives may be to become a social business with various metrics, over a set time-frame. This sets the agenda for the strategies.

    Having any strategies without clear alignment with business objectives isn’t going to yield the best value for money.

    You’re right that we still have a way to go, but things are moving forward positively across the globe as the strategic significance of social business moves up the exec ranks.

    Walter @adamson
    PS By the way a recent survey showed that while a majority of enterprises now believe that social media is “strategic” to their business, only 1/3 of those engaged in social media have a strategy http://goo.gl/Z7OZs

  2. Rob Peters June 20, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    Excellent article Wendy!

    Appreciate your mentioning Metrics as one of the objectives.

    In the past, customer-centric processes have been more talk than actual practice. Having the client/customer be the true bulls eye of any social strategy requires focused processes and intelligent metrics to execute the social strategy.

    There is a battle in the executive halls regarding the strategic importance of B2B social networking and social media. Let’s not confuse the current use of consumer-centric social media tools with the power of peer-to-peer communication. B2B Social Business is the future and it is now for those first-movers who want to lead their industry.

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