Friday, July 29, 2011

The two kinds of social media 'strategy'

There are two kinds of social media 'strategy'. And they service two kinds of orgs; the ones which see social media as a channel through which to sell stuff and the ones who realise that social media offers a bigger opportunity to become an Open Business - with all the benefits that apply.

There's a simpler way of putting that: There are the orgs that are prepared to change, and those who are not.

Social Media Strategy 1. 
This requires the gathering of evidence from which to derive org/brand-specific insights. The evidence is gathered in a structured way, from all stakeholders, across operational axis - creating a living and live strategic framework for best-fit delivery of not just discovery and engagement of relevant customers and potential customers, but also of methods with which to deliver products and services with those for whom they are intended. It is the framework which keeps on giving - a platform for social media excellence to apply across the org now and into the long run.
This first kind of strategic approach is the one taken by organisations who, 'get strategy'. They appreciate that any project is far likelier to fail than succeed if the evidence and insight phases are absent. They have learned that much energy, time and cash is wasted in wild goose chases driven by ego or gut instinct.
They seek to remove risk by increasing knowledge.

Social Media 'Strategy' 2:
And then there's the other kind of 'strategy'.
These are the orgs that ask for 'a social media strategy' but mean - 'please, let's go straight to tactics'. They rely on the experience of an expert - the gut of their judgement. And as the small print always says - past performance is no guarantee of future results. The only possible outcome is a generic 'strategy' since no evidence has been gathered and no insight derived to make it an org-specific plan. And one thing I'm damn sure of in the world of the web - one size most certainly does not fit all.

Those who tend to select this approach are likely to see social media as just another channel through which to sell stuff to people. And they want to know how where and when.
This approach delivers short-term campaign-style results. It's cheaper. But, of necessity, more prone to failure.
It's quite quick and easy to get to that 'know the channel' stuff. What's harder is making the org ready to connect with its consumers in this open way. The two-way flow is typically not something they have been used to.

They have yet to establish what is required of them from their customers, what needs to change within the guidelines, governance, roles, job descriptions and so much more to make the most of the participation coming their way.
And when their rush-to-tactics delivers poor results who and what will they blame?

I'm counting the days until we collectively wise up enough not to describe that second kind as 'strategy' at all.
That's going to require some honesty from both sides.

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?