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You Need a Business Strategy, Not a Social Strategy

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  • Pragmatic Institute is the transformational partner for today’s businesses, providing immediate impact through actionable and practical training for product, design and data teams. Our courses are taught by industry experts with decades of hands-on experience, and include a complete ecosystem of training, resources and community. This focus on dynamic instruction and continued learning has delivered impactful education to over 200,000 alumni worldwide over the last 30 years.

social media strategy

Just like other shiny objects which have come before, the tech is out front in many of the discussions – social media is no different. Tools, tactics and activities seem to rule the day and social strategy continues being infused into the discussion.

Social media strategy is a consistent theme of blog posts, twitter stream tidbits and infographics and it might not be the discussion most folks need. I get the opportunity to work with a good deal of folks week in and week out from companies of all sizes and consistently I find that many organization’s are still trying to find the fit for social media into their activities.

While social tools and initiatives have been around for good bit of time, questions consistently arise around integrating social into marketing and operational efforts. The Pragmatic Institute Social Media survey from November 2011 validates this reality when implementing social with 32%% of respondents having no policy or are unaware of a company’s policies and only 1/3 of organizations have processes for addressing social interactions.

With the general ambiguity around policies and processes, social is still a open area for many marketers and organizations of all sizes and in all sectors.

Leverage Social to Achieve Business Goals

Start with the business.  The anchor for all social efforts should be the business and goals set forth.

To that end, how can an organization use social tactics to drive business benefits. Depending on the business priorities, you may want to focus on different activities.  For example – improved service might require one set of tools and resources and changing perceptions and creating awareness another set of tools, tactics and resources.

Since I first looked at social media as a transactional platform it was clear that participating in communities, engaging your market and the overall process improvements present a great opportunities throughout the business (marketing, support, sales, education, fulfillment….). So with this immense opportunity easily recognized through the business, social projects continue to be a key priority for 2012 and beyond for marketers, product types and operational teams -where do you start?

Be a Better Business

Jay Baer brought this post to the forefront of my thinking again with a post that challenged the concept in total of a developing a social media strategy, but I’m not sure he went far enough.  Nevertheless, he was willing to state:

The goal is not to be good at social media. The goal is to be good at business because of social media.

A pretty strong statement, it should be the spirit in which all social options are evaluated.

Case Studies: Goals of Business and Beyond

There are a handful of case studies which are always cited as successes in social media by bloggers and tweeters alike, some of them years old and still being used as rallying cries for the benefits of social.  Many of the examples are awesome, but didn’t these didn’t start with a social strategy, but a business need.

So I’ve decided to look at some case studies and gain some facts on what many of the showcase implementations in social were trying to achieve for their business.

Social Media is JUST part of the marketing mix and social media is anything but free, you are making a choice of how to invest your time and when you choose one approach over another, something gets dropped.  So if you choose social over other options it’s minimally opportunity costs.

Examining Success Stories and Goals

Dell Outlet:  The most visible success story online is the Dell Twitter Outlet account.  With over 1.5M followers is one heck of a broadcast channel which can improve awareness of the Dell outlet, which was the initial goal of the effort per Stephanie Nelson of Dell.

If you look at @delloutlet‘s stream, you will find that it isn’t conversational per se (they do respond to inquiries and service needs though – admittedly it was more engaging historically), the overall the account is providing awareness to promotions and alike which are designed to deliver on the goals set by business to achieve an overall goal – revenue!  In fact, the Dell story of $6.5 million in 18 months is only interesting because achieved results for the business via a set of tactics (content development + twitter) to provide access to a bigger part of the market than previously was aware that Dell even had an outlet.

Old Spice:  This is a social story writ large for marketers, but it started with a goal.  Change the image of the brand, in the language of the Brand Manager, James Moorhead:

…In some ways, the oldness of Old Spice was part of the problem. Every young man in America has a memory of his father or grandfather’s pungent aftershave—and young men don’t want to wear their father’s cologne…

While the online tactics gain the most chatter online, it is important to note the strategy and plan to achieve this goal started with TV commercials and overtime it prioritized social efforts from the brand team to achieve the business goals, but it was not a “social strategy”. Social became the most effect tactic in an execution plan for the brand which included traditional media and IRL events.

Name Cheap – Name Cheap is a domain service which is competing in a really crowded and highly commoditized segment and have used social to differentiate in this crowded marketplace.  If you look @namecheap ‘s Twitter page, it becomes evident, that service is important with them.  Not just service as it relates to support, but to buying too.   Don’t take my word, take the CEO’s.  Here is what Richard Kirkendall says on his bio:

Our company culture is entirely dedicated to you, our clients and how we can help you buy and manage your domains in the most efficient and hassle-free way possible.

Name Cheap has not only leveraged social strategically, but they strategically chose that the customer is king and social is a main channel for engagement.  Effectively social has been integrated into their  DNA – operational processes, their products, systems and during the buying process.  So how has leveraging social tactics helped support this business tenant? Their use of twitter has had significant benefits, including as much as a 20% increase in domain registrations based on their Twitter contests and alike.

5 Common Elements of Social Success

There are cases studies all over the web, but there are some key themes:

  1. Good Content
  2. Good Service
  3. Increased Awareness/Visibility of a product, company or promotion
  4. Achieving Business results

Balancing the Marketing Mix with Social

Let’s be clear, social is real and valuable for all businesses and there isn’t an option to not participate, but the questions should be around the level of investment and what is the focus of the effort – awareness, revenue, service, other…?

So when thinking social – You have to start at the highest level as noted by J. Baer in the graphic below with strategy, not at social which is the essences of JB’s argument that social needs to support business:

While that makes a easy to digest drill down in a single slide, I take a little  issue with social strategy and the fact that the hierarchy starts with business strategy rather than goals.  So I spent a little time to think about it and while I’m clearly graphically challenged, here is my take on the flow to market execution.

While this shows a marketing view, there should be a support view, a sales view, a product view and alike to drive toward the goal of the business and any given department or program may or may not deploy social tactics.

Net-Net: Start with the goals/objectives of the business, understand the high level strategy and mission and align your marketing strategies – then pick the tactics. Don’t let tools, tactics and other lower level items constrain your options.  If it’s social great. If it’s thought leadership great.  If dancing bears at a trade show works – awesome.

So what’s your business’ strategy?

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  • Pragmatic Institute is the transformational partner for today’s businesses, providing immediate impact through actionable and practical training for product, design and data teams. Our courses are taught by industry experts with decades of hands-on experience, and include a complete ecosystem of training, resources and community. This focus on dynamic instruction and continued learning has delivered impactful education to over 200,000 alumni worldwide over the last 30 years.

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