It's Not Social Media Strategy, its Business Content Strategy.


Allow me to express my very huge disappointment in some of the so many traditional brands that have been misled to thinking there is something called Social media strategy as a standalone strategy. I know if you are reading this article you are now confused why I claim there is no such a thing as social media strategy but content strategy. 

First things first, 
Some may see that there is no need for a social media strategy definition. Surely it’s obvious what it is!
Recently the marriage of SEO and social media has dazzled marketers with the consequential rise in content marketing. As a result the opportunities to use social media more strategically have taken second place or been lost.
There are three compelling reasons for using social media:
·      Marketing – understanding customers, developing brand awareness and fit to customer acquisition.
·      Employee Engagement – developing company culture, improving internal collaboration and recruiting talent.
·      Collaboration – creating social spaces to collaborate with partners, suppliers and customers.


Unifying how social media fits to the overall business CONTENT STRATEGY is crucial to build and grow a business. Social media plays an unusual role in that it fuses together the building of a brand internally and externally. Internally it forms part of ‘the way we do businesses, which in itself forms and establishes the culture of a business. Externally, it is not only the outward communications mix, but the reactions and opinions to those communicating both good and/or bad: the conversations that determine brand reputation.
As a discipline social media crosses HR (recruitment), sales, marketing, customer service, suppliers and partner relationships and sets the tone of the culture within the business.
Fitting into the Overall Business Strategy:
The question “What is strategy?” has ignited hours of debate amongst academics and management thinkers alike. This perhaps is a good indicator of why there is no one single definition of strategy and why businesses struggle with it as a mystery thing to date. So producing a definition then for what is a social media strategy promises to be no less controversial. Let’s look at this

·      Goals – the aims of the business, its purpose and what it wants to achieve.
·      Strategy – defines how you will achieve your goals: the plan.
·      Objectives – are the specific details and accompanying measures.
·      Tactics – tactics are specific actions.

I doubt if there is one definition of a social media strategy that everyone could agree with, but let’s dig deeper and throw more light on this puzzling aspect of business.

The goal of this blog is to get businesses to look at the main principles of social media, step back from the hype (which is mostly marketing focused) and revisit what they could do to help fuel growth. In particular it is how businesses can collaborate together at a local level that has the potential for innovation. Together businesses can form beneficial alliances that could fulfill requirements that normally would go to larger businesses through a clear understanding of a business content strategy and social media strategy.
As a matter of fact we are now witnessing a second phase of social media where marketplaces facilitate people sharing resources and work e.g. Uber, telecommunications companies, beverage companies and many brands. This is a clear indication that in phase one power was concentrated to the brands themselves but in phase two it’s concentrated in the hands of individuals who are trusted and respected in society, many currently call them Influencers.

Building blocks for social media strategy:
Marketers reading this are probably already two steps ahead thinking about social media marketing plans, tactics and tools for the future.
But let’s just put the brakes on that train of thought and go back a few steps to what every business starts with – its business strategy.

A target audience is another way of describing the desire for a business to build relationships. It is relationships that brands desire not just transactions. Relationships create a sustainable business model and offer businesses life time value from customers.
It is useful to understand what makes up a business Content strategy (broad terms) so we can understand how a social media strategy then needs to work alongside this to achieve business goals.
If we dismantle a business strategy we can use it to piece together a social media strategy and look at the links between the two.

·      Customers – profiling and targeting customers.
·      Analysis – gathering and analyzing relevant information needed to make strategic decisions.
·      Value – determining a competitive value proposition.
·      Planning – the planning process – financials, risk assessment and strategic choices to achieve goals.
·      Resources – skills, experience, headcount, capital, suppliers, partners…needed to achieve the plan.
·      Objectives – the specific details to implement the plan and measure it.

Whilst these are common elements in the definition of a business strategy how they come together and their meaning vary enormously. You can simply get into a game of semantics.
In business basics the strategy defines the what, who, how, and why you use resources to win the hearts, minds and business of customers. Strategy and planning is not purely mechanical. Both employees and customers react and vote with their feet not just on price or wages.
For employees the culture of a business and how it is perceived on social media can play a huge part on talent acquisition (it’s not just about the money).
Resources sounds a cold term and employees don’t always do justice to how critical the people within a business plays in its success. The culture of a business can make or break a business and has a massive impact on customer service.
The key in terms of strategy is that both employees and customers are not fixed inanimate objects. They are humans that are part of bigger social settings (offline and online) that influence their behavior, their decisions and their perceptions of your business. They and the ways they communicate and behave changes constantly due to technology e.g. mobile, social networks but also the many other factors that then form part of a strategic plan e.g. political, legal, economic and environmental.
Internally relationships determine company culture which if done well can create a formidable competitive advantage. Now this may seem like common sense but many businesses focus on marketing without listening to their customers or brand name on social media. Many likewise do not consider their social media silence or corporate social media face as destructive. Yet from the outside in stale, bland and pushed business communications that purely aim to improve SEO or generate potential leads shows a gap in how social media is being used.
There is often a disconnect between sales and marketing use of social media and the consequences to the broader business.
So what exactly is Social Media Strategy?
A social media strategy then must consider how social media can be used and if it is needed:
·      for social communications internally and externally
·      to harness value from collaborative relationships
·      as a tool to manage and monitor brand reputation (internally and externally)

Earlier I mentioned the fact that businesses need to build relationships and this is perhaps the defining point about social media is that it offers tools and methods to not only facilitate conversations, sharing of information and collaboration BUT it also forges relationships.

So the main difference is in how you develop relationships, what value they offer as a potential for your business and what resources you then need to use (including technology/tools). Relationships vary in value. If you for instance are looking to promote a new organic face cream as a product, you might target high profile women bloggers who have a large social following. If a blogger endorsed your product and was willing to promote it to their audience the value of this relationship would be significant.
A social media strategy defines the why do we want to do this?
Social media needs to consider the relationships the business needs to develop, the types of relationships (number of people, type, who, context, relevance…) and the communications processes. Because of the dispersed nature of these relationships the brand becomes part of the way of doing business. The standards, routines, culture and leadership cascade across real world communications by water coolers and equally across social networks. Governance then determines policies, guidelines, processes, and educational resources to guide your relationships and provide consistency for your brand.
I would therefore like to define in the following way;
A social media strategy defines the relationships, their value and sets out a plan to harness them to achieve a particular goal or set of goals.
This view of strategy sees a business as part of a wider set of networks that involve social interactions and levels of influence that then determine a business’s capabilities to access resources (e.g. talent, funding…) and organize these to achieve its goals.
Businesses can align a social media strategy to many different goals:
·      improve rate of innovation and new product development
·      improve knowledge management (reduce duplication of work)
·      gain crowd sourcing investment
·      acquire customers
·      to improve quality of talent applying for jobs
·      to save costs on operations with suppliers
Social media has to be tied to solid business goals that deliver a clear and tangible benefit to the business.


A NOTE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
So this all may seem as though it is purely focused on those businesses that can afford the time for big strategic plans that have lots of resources and people to play with.
Well small businesses a lot to gain from using a well thought through content strategy and social media strategy. Forming alliances and collaborative spaces that are local can result in new revenue streams that allow small business to compete with much larger organizations. Social networks offer some of these benefits, but they are dispersed and informal.
Formal collaborations ARE NOT networking spaces or simple networking groups – they are formal places that companies can submit tenders, see examples of collaborative projects and have visibility of capabilities.
I have covered more than I initially intended in this blog post. But as the titles suggests it is thoughts on a social media strategy and Content Strategy definitions. I would like to know what you think about social media strategy and business content strategy, write your thoughts in the comment box.

By Mwebya Fred
mwbyfred@gmail.com
www.twitter.com 

Comments

  1. As with most things the key is in the balancing: Internal control vs outsourced expertise; but I think the biggest value comes fro. The insights it stands to offer a business. At which point SEO techniques can be deployed on your own social media exchanges if the traffic grows really big. Twitter@OmitoInnocent

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Innocent,
      I am very glad for all your points in the above comment.

      Delete
  2. Well, alot of valuable points noted. I personally believe that the business content strategy should be geared towards creating a firm and rooted relationship with the clients, workforce and partners, its through this that the desired capital gains and market size can be increased. Companies (big or small), can capitalise on such relationships and make their products or services known to the public. The main information passed out to the public should emphasize how the product or service will improve the livelihoods of the people. (paulmugeni8@gmail.com)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey PAUL,
      Thanks for your wonderful take on this article. I am very glad

      Delete
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