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The difference between social media strategy and social media as business strategy

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Social Media Strategy

Social media strategy is like our marketing strategy, our HR strategy, our IT strategy, or indeed, strategy for any part of our business.

Our social media strategy is part of our overall business strategy and it looks specifically at the events, opportunities and difficulties that we expect to encounter in the next five years.  Our strategy plan and document describes what we intend to do about the challenges and events as they occur.

Because social media strategy is so new, our social media strategy is likely to begin with “we don’t know what will happen in social media but we do know that we will use it more”. “We also know that younger people will expect us to use it and older people may have difficulty understanding it”.  We know that we are going to need resources to monitor developments, develop policies, and deliver training.

A loose structure is probably the best to use.  In a large corporation, I would pull people who are interested in working in social media into one place.  I would survey our skill levels across the corporation, and I would organize unconferences to suggest ways to use social media in part of the business.

Far from banning Facebook at work, I would encourage it – but in a thoughtful way.  I would ask associates how they would feel if our business encroached their personal space.  I would ask them which of their friends are interested in our business.  I would bring together their ideas about how we would use social media, and their thoughts on the opportunities and risks that social media brings, and about the policies and training that we need.

Social media as business strategy

The wider question about social media in our business strategy is a lot more interesting.  When we jump up two levels of management to the Board and ask “What business are we in?”, we find that businesses are changing dramatically because of social media.

At this level, the specifics of social media are less important. At this level, the general principles help us think about the way whole businesses will change.

Now if we are in a business like deep water oil extraction it may be quite difficult to imagine how social media will change our business.  If we are in a knowledge and service business like universities, it may be hard to take in that our industry may just get trashed by this emerging art form.

It is very likely that our Directors, being older, have little ‘feel’ for changes on the horizon. It is also very likely that the Gen Y in the business have neither a ‘feel’ for our business nor indeed, the conceptual understanding of social media to be able to brief the Board on the possibilities.

Herein, therefore is another task for the ‘social media function’ – to gather ideas – wild and woolly or concrete and specific – any ideas about the impact on our business.

The purpose of a social media unit

The purpose of that unit is not to define the answer.  That is the work of the Directors.

The purpose of the unit is to structure the conversation so that Directors can start to ask better questions.

We are winning once the Directors are asking good questions for the social media strategy group to answer.

Wouldn’t it be fun to do this work?

And for your business and mine?

  • What are the questions that you ask about your business and social media?
  • What questions are you asking?
  • What puzzles you?
  • What would you like to know more about?
  • What do you dismiss with a wave of your hand – and so really should put back on the table?
  • Where will social media put your business significantly ahead of your competitors?
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Published in Business & Communities


  1. Some answers perhaps:

    * dont follow a gazillion people, what is the point?
    * learn, extend, shorten the ramp up time, stand on the shoulders of others _and_ innovate, then share.
    * everyone moves forward 1%,do that 100 hundred times and guess what? your business will benefit!
    * small biz can really win, turn and spin like a speed boat, cut out blind alleys, become more efficient!!

    Great stuff

  2. Jo Jordan Jo Jordan

    So for you it is

    – Understanding filters and presumably reviewing your filters on a fixed time or external prompt basis
    – Follow innovations and turn them into procedures
    – Look for incremental improvements continuously
    – Stay small, nimble and results oriented.

    I could see that being delegated to a social media unit even in a bigger outfit.

    You are the SWAT team or special forces of social media. Quick, incisive, effective.

  3. The question I’m asking is ‘When will Google search and social media merge together?’
    Search is slowly moving to being more conversational than strictly word search.
    No longer are we typing a single word into search engines but we’re trying to have a conversation with the search engine by asking questions. In a way our searching is turning more into a social type activity than a simple task.
    Online businesses are being built based on key word research and business strategy is about dominating certain key words to get competitive advantage so as this activity become more social and conversational the effect of social media will become more mainstream.

    • Jo Jordan Jo Jordan

      Indeed – the future of search problem belongs at the macro-environment level of strategy – in the PEST analysis. Every organization needs to consider where the internet is going and factor that into their strategy!

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