Characterising different approaches to social media.


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I gave a presentation today at the Exact Target Connections conference in London. The purpose of the presentation was to take a light-hearted look at the different approaches organisations are taking towards social media. The slides are in the slideshare presentation below:
Structures for authentic social media engagement
View more presentations from Laurence Buchanan.

In Summary, I described eight different approaches to social media. Although these could be seen as evolutionary steps, in fact, I emphasised during my presentation that there is no “right” approach per se. Different approaches will work for different organisations, with different requirements in different industries.
Approach 1- The ostrich approachAs the name suggests, the ostrich approach is one where the organisation chooses to simply ignore social media, either through fear, or simply lack of relevance or perceived value. The ostrich buries its head in the sand and hope that the danger will soon pass.
Approach 2 – The megaphone approachThis is one of the most common approaches that I see with organisations that have only dabbled with social media. Typically they start in Marketing / PR and view social media as another outbound channel to Tweet special offers, or link to press releases. Normally organisations that take this approach are poorly set up to handle two-way interactions when customers comment or complain. They assume that peer to peer simply means that people will forward on or re-tweet their broadcast content.
Approach 3 – The chameleon approachIf there’s one thing guaranteed to whip up a social media storm its deceit and a lack of transparency. Amazon incurred the wrath of bloggers when some of its product reviews were exposed as being written by authors, promoting their own books. The chameleon approach (also known as the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” approach) is one where the organisation tries to disguise itself and blend into a “public” forum, posting suspiciously positive comments and reviews…
Approach 4 – The dancing dad approachI borrowed this one from a colleague of mine at Capgemini. The antithesis of the chameleon approach, the dancing dad stands out like sore thumb. Think about the industrial German manufacturer who sets up a Facebook Fan page so that its customers can “like” it. Not cool.
Approach 5 – The command and control approachOften an approach embraced by organisations that have been burnt by social media. The command and control approach is one where only a select few can engage in social media and their participation is governed by strict guidelines of what they can say. Every blog, every Tweet, every video posted is heavily audited and in strict alignment with brand guidelines. Usually only a select few are allowed to participate.
Approach 6 – The hare and tortoise approachThis is one of the most common approaches to social media that I come across. The hare and tortoise approach is one where some parts of the organisation race ahead to set up new social channels, grab followers and “engage” with customers. Other departments lag far behind creating a disjointed customer experience both across different departments and also across new media and traditional CRM channels.
Approach 7 – The joined up approachClearly a tough approach to master. As its name suggests, the joined up approach demands the breaking down of silos across departments and across channels. Organisations that aspire to this aim typically show outside-in, customer-centric thinking and consider the customer’s cross-channel experience.
Approach 8 – Handing over controlA small number of organisations, typically start-ups, have found considerable success with this approach.  The organisation hands over control of product development ideas, recommendations, customer service etc to its customers via social channels. is probably the most famous example (t-shirts are printed based on user-generated designs and votes). GiffGaff is another good example; the UK-based MVNO in effect outsources its marketing, sales and customer service to its customers. Customers are rewarded with points that can be redeemed for pre-pay credit (or donated to a charity voted for by the community!) in exchange for their participation in the GiffGaff community.
This is far from an exhaustive list and clearly each organisation will have different needs and objectives. Can you think of any others?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Laurence Buchanan
Laurence is CEO of EY Seren and leads EY’s global Customer & Growth practice. He works with clients to help them re-imagine growth through human-centered design, innovation and the transformation of Marketing, Sales & Customer Service functions. He is a recognized authority on digital transformation, customer experience and CRM, he has worked across a wide range of sectors, including telco, media, life sciences, retail and sports. He received an MA in Modern History from the University of Oxford.


  1. Hi Laurence Good presentations and really punchy slides. The ostrich and the head in sand man resonate with me.


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