Putting the social in social media strategy


We’ve all heard, ad nauseum, about social media’s marketing potential.  While its value has been demonstrated in areas such as political mobilization, the jury is still out on how effective SM is as a marketing tool.

Few marketers think beyond abstract objectives like generating buzz and building 1:1 relationships when developing SM programs. In this context, little consideration is paid to how SM is a reflection of a firm’s core values, how SM is impacted by consumer behavior and how SM is influenced by social psychology, all of which are encompassed by Social Strategy.  

Given this, it should not come as a surprise that most SM initiatives do little to positively sway consumers. For one thing, the vast majority of what is pushed out in social media is of little value.  Social media pundit Umair Haque,writing in a Harvard Business Review blog claims that 95% of what organizations generate in social media is of no value or relevance to the recipient.   Secondly, the assumption that SM can increase both the relationship breadth (e.g., the number of Twitter follows) and relationship depth  (how much a person cares for the brand/company) fails the common sense test.  Individuals don’t seek out deep relationships with a company (save for a few iconic firms like Harley Davidson and Apple), outside of a commercial one.  Finally, despite the egalitarian appeal of SM, people do not change their fundamental values or adjust their social behaviour when online.  SM research conducted in Brazil showed that online participation in various sites mirrored offline social stratification.

To improve SM’s impact (read: appeal and acceptance),  companies need to focus more on the social side of the equation. To achieve this, marketers must address their Social Strategy.

SM strategy is shaped by the marketing strategy. On the other hand, the Social Strategy exists outside of business strategy, but shapes its. A firm’s Social Strategy is how they relate within societal and individual norms and beliefs.   Developing a Social Strategy involves three steps:  1) building the capacity to understand an organization’s role in society;  2)  crafting a business framework that aligns corporate values with those of the surrounding society and; 3)  acting in a more meaningful, relevant and authentic fashion than your competitors.   

To assist firms in this process, the following are some of our best practices and those of Umair Haque:  

  1. Organizations need to work on their character.  Rampant and unfettered use of social media without respect for the individual’s wants and needs is anti-social and counter productive to building deep relationships.
  2. Marketers needs to relinquish some control.  People don’t want to be over-marketed to with canned messages.  Most often, they seek compelling and relevant dialogue with company experts who are found in product management, operations and customer service.
  3. Companies should embrace the market clarity provided by social media.  Typically, customer and stakeholder feedback is filtered through an organizational lens which shapes and biases its message.  Social media can enable unfettered, real-time market feedback which can be used to create better products and more relevant customer experiences.
  4. Customer relationships need to be fostered and nourished to flourish.  With customer relationships, seek and cultivate quality, not quantity. One way to do this is by using Tummling techniques, a form of social moderation, to facilitate rich and productive conversations.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.

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7 comments so far

  1. Anthony Wilkinson on

    Well put!

  2. […] overall productivity. Finally, as has been demonstrated with Twitter and Facebook, there is a tendency for some people to over communicate and generate excessive information, creating data paralysis and process […]

  3. […] overall productivity. Finally, as has been demonstrated with Twitter and Facebook, there is a tendency for some people to over communicate and generate excessive information, creating data paralysis and process […]

  4. […] brand promise remains paramount – If it doesn’t reinforce a brand’s winning value proposition and character, a SM program will be nothing more than a cool (and often expensive) marketing […]

  5. […] brand promise remains paramount – If it doesn’t reinforce a brand’s winning value proposition and character, a SM program will be nothing more than a cool (and often expensive) marketing […]

  6. […] character limit – requires a completely new kind of creative execution and campaign development. Compelling content is social by nature, unique and relevant to the community.  It incites engagement (i.e. having conversations, sharing […]

  7. […] character limit – requires a completely new kind of creative execution and campaign development. Compelling content is social by nature, unique and relevant to the community.  It incites engagement (i.e. having conversations, sharing […]


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