What's your social media strategy?
Harvard Business Review has a piece in its latest issue (July/August) called “What’s Your Social Media Strategy?” Except it’s not really about strategies so much as styles or profiles or user types. No one says (I hope) we’re going to achieve this goal by being a “predictive practitioner”. Semantics aside, it’s interesting research that can help companies (and people) better understand and assess their social media styles.
The authors (H. James Wilson, PJ Guinan, Salvatore Parise and Bruce D. Weinberg) analyzed social media practices at 1,100 companies and did interviews with 70 executives. They identified four distinct social media user types, which depend mostly on a company’s tolerance for risk or uncertainty.
The Predictive Practitioner: Do you confine social media usage to a specific functional area, such as customer service or marketing, with little or no cross-functional coordination? Does every social media project have a clear business objective measured with existing metrics? Then you are this type of user, according to this study. My two cents: regardless of which profile you fall under, your social media plan should still be tied to a clear business objective and metrics.
The Creative Experimenter: Do you embrace uncertainty and approach social media more as an opportunity to learn, for the purpose of improving business functions and practices? Do you position projects as “experiments”? Are you not overly concerned with predefining expected outcomes? Then you are a creative experimenter. My two cents: you can be both a predictive practitioner and an experimenter at the same time. True, most times, one style will dominate, but elements of both are certainly beneficial. If the basis of your practice is very predictive, bringing some experimentation and creativity into it may be very invigorating. Being entirely predictive is so…predictable.
The Social Media Champion: Do you have a centralized social media group and leaders dedicated to coordinating cross-functional social media/social business efforts? Does the group develop policies and guidelines for social media use? Do you enlist executive champions and other evangelists, including external influencers, to promote and participate in your projects? Do you share best practices and lessons learned throughout your organization? Then you are a social media champion. My two cents: This relatively advanced social media style begins to truly integrate social into the business and should, at some point, be the minimal “stretch goal” for most (not all) organizations.
The Social Media Transformer: Do you have a portfolio of social media projects involving both internal employees and external stakeholders, including customers and business partners? Are your social media technologies tightly integrated with how you learn and work? (For example, the article mentions the Cisco Integrated Workforce Experience platform, created specifically to facilitate internal and external collaboration and decentralize decision making.) Do projects typically encompass multiple functions and departments? Do you have group tasked with thinking about how social media can inform business strategy and culture? Then you are a Social Media Transformer, and, I might add, most likely a true social business. My two cents: many organizations (including ours) would benefit from putting additional thinking and action to how social strategies and technologies could truly transform their business.
As a side note, I found one of the most interesting statements in the article to be this: Carefully engaging those who have a sizable influence in social networks can reduce risk. Too often, engaging external stakeholders heavily in social media strategy and implementation is seen as heightening risk.
What’s your company’s social media style? Does it fall neatly into one of these categories, or is it a hybrid? What type of social media user do you envision your organization being in the future?