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Is Social Media Strategically Relevant?

swot-for-social-media-strategy-281x300As more and more organizations adopt the use of social media there is an obvious difference in perspective as to whether social media is a strategy, a tactic or just another set of promising tools.

Our perspective drives our actions, attitudes and relevance of importance to our lives, our business and entire markets.  Strategic relevance is a higher priority than tactical relevance.  Finding things as tools has less relevance and thus does not get thought of as strategically important.  Unless things are of strategic importance they will not get top management attention and support, it will be delegated down.

Is Social Media Of  Strategic Relevance?

In a Business Week article titled “The Overlooked Side of Social Media” the Corporate Executive Board said “Most companies are embracing social media—but too many are wasting their efforts through sloppy management”

More than 70% of companies are already using social media; many are planning to increase their spending on social media across the coming years. Whether for learning from customers, building their brands or a range of other hoped-for outcomes, companies are clearly diving in.

Unfortunately, few have thought very hard about managing these initiatives. In a classic case or “ready, fire, aim,” companies are committing resources to social media efforts with very little process behind them. The result? A hodgepodge of unrelated initiatives, wheels re-invented and resources wasted.

The Corporate Executive Board has found that the best companies recognize that social media are just another set of promising tools and as such are to be understood, mastered, and used efficiently as they journey into the space.  That journey has three stages:

Discovery: At this stage, the organization is just finding out about the potential uses (and risks) of social media for its purposes and making initial forays. The goal: understanding (“could this work for us?”).

Experimentation: As an organization does more with social media, the importance of learning efficiently becomes urgent.  These bodies should develop and steward a learning agenda for the firm’s efforts, using each initiative to deliberately increase the institutional knowledge of social media use.

Adoption: While few companies currently find themselves in this stage, those that do loosen their managerial posture, moving away from oversight toward support.

The short story: Social media isn’t a fad about to fade away; it’s a good idea for your organization to learn how to use it to your advantage. The best companies will learn faster and get more out of social media by aggressively managing their efforts.

Just Another Set Of Promising Tools?

In my humble opinion the Corporate Executive Board is misleading CEO’s by stating that social media are just another set of promising tools.  Corporate Executive Board influences what and how CEO’s think and this statement discounts the strategic importance of social media.

A tool is something you give to people to use for whatever purpose. A tactic is an initiative aimed at producing a result. A strategy is the science or art of combining and employing the means of beating competition in planning and directing organizational efforts aimed at winning markets. Communications is the means of deploying sound strategies.

Social media is a system of communications.  What and how you communicate to suppliers, employees and markets is the science and art of using social media. If you deploy the system of social media without first considering the strategic implications and relevance to all stakeholders the “tools” may hurt your overall strategy. In other words as the Corporate Executive Board states “Most companies are embracing social media—but too many are wasting their efforts through sloppy management”

Not understanding or considering the strategic importance of social media is like saying communications is not of strategic relevance to reaching our goals. In case you didn’t know, what, how and whom you communicate with as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of your communications have serious strategic implications. Don’t believe it? Ask yourself how many strategies have failed because of a failure to communicate effectively and efficiently? More than you can imagine.

What say you?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mike Templeton 11/05/2009, 2:36 pm

    I think the BusinessWeek article and the Corporate Executive Board is moving in the right direction on this, but I think we are caught up in semantics. Social media as a communication channel is certainly strategically relevant. If you don’t understand how this style of communication impacts your business as a whole (or how it fits in with your other efforts), you will end up with a mess of activities that don’t measure up to anything.

    When the article talks about social media as “another set of tools,” I believe they are referring to the tools themselves: Twitter, Facebook, blogs, wikis, etc. Those are a set of tools that are to be mastered (in terms of how they are used and what they do), but a social media strategy looks at the results those tools will produce and how they match up to the organization’s objectives.

    Also, relegating things like Twitter and Facebook to “tool” status is exactly the way to approach these platforms. The reason to treat them as tools and not to develop a “Twitter strategy” is because everything will change in a few short years. Your business needs to understand the style and method of social media–how it is different from the way things have been done before–because that is what you will carry forward, no matter what the tools are.

  • petertennis 11/05/2009, 1:55 pm

    Strategy and social media – are they relevant to each other? http://ow.ly/zjbK

  • Peter Tennis 11/05/2009, 1:55 pm

    Strategy and social media – are they relevant to each other? http://ow.ly/zjb6

  • Peter 11/04/2009, 4:25 pm

    Good job on pulling the head out of the trees and seeing the forest. Social Media is a channel for communications. In the end, your use of such channels is only as good as your communications strategy as a whole, be it corporate or marcomm. http://petertennis.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/creating-a-social-media-strategy-putting-the-cart-before-the-horse/

  • Steve 10/05/2009, 1:25 pm

    The definition of tool/tactic/strategy regarding how social media fits in is more basic. A tool is used to perform a tactic to follow a strategy. Looking at how social media is being used will tell which of the 3 definitions it falls under and so, how best to use it.

  • Sanjay Maharaj 09/21/2009, 6:31 pm

    Social media is relevant in the era of a 24 hours news cycle. People wnat to know what is new and want to know it now. Gone are the days when we catch up on the whats happening in our world by watching the evening news cast. Social media is on the go news. Corporations and individulas must embrace this greta tool

  • Israel García 09/18/2009, 5:39 pm

    Is social media strategically relevant? http://bit.ly/qAYsW

  • Deborah Overdeput 09/17/2009, 8:44 pm

    RT @JDeragon Is Social Media Strategically Relevant? | The Relationship Economy…… http://bit.ly/CkScp

  • Deborah Overdeput 09/17/2009, 3:44 pm

    RT @JDeragon Is Social Media Strategically Relevant? | The Relationship Economy…… http://bit.ly/CkScp

  • Deborah Overdeput 09/17/2009, 4:01 pm

    I am an advocate for social media and feel strongly that it needs to be a part of the overall marketing mix. Just like any other marketing effort, it needs to be strategically thought out. The tactics of defining the buyer, developing the content, and publishing come only after a company has asked the question: How does this fit into our strategic plan? What goals are we achieving? Can we measure the outcome? Who is executing? Passing the responsibility of managing social media to the PR team is not a strategy. Social media is about creating a dialogue with your market, developing relevant content, and becoming a trusted source/partner. It’s about educating your buyer long before they buy, keeping them happy during the purchase process, and managing your reputation after the purchase is complete. In other words, it takes a company, not a department. Doing it right means developing a strategy, committing the resources, and engaging staff at multiple levels across various disciplines.

  • Brian C. Citizen 09/17/2009, 1:16 pm

    Daily Deragon Dose: Is Social Media Strategically Relevant? http://bit.ly/26zkwp

  • BrianCitizen (Brian C. Citizen) 09/17/2009, 1:18 pm

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  • Eric Posner 09/17/2009, 11:04 am

    Is Social Media Strategically Relevant? | The Relationship Economy…… http://bit.ly/CkScp

  • EricPosner (Eric Posner) 09/17/2009, 11:08 am

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  • Robert Austin 09/17/2009, 8:43 am

    Finally! As a public relations practitioner, I’ve been very annoyed by the messages in the profession that “you have to have social media,” “If you aren’t Tweeting, then you aren’t doing modern PR,” “All the rules of PR have changed,” etc. You still have to do research first, set measurable objectives — ideally outcomes (this is what seems to be lacking most), and evaluate social media channels for their ability to reach your intended audience and achieve your objectives. Over and over I’ve heard from others about how they are using social media, but few can answer the questions,”What are your objectives?” and “How will you measure success (other than by activity)?”

  • olcayto (Olcayto Cengiz) 09/17/2009, 7:17 am

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  • Alma Mater 09/17/2009, 3:04 am

    RT @clab: RT @JasperOng RT @belindaang: Is Social Media Strategically Relevant? ( a good read) ~ http://bit.ly/1TSiM1 #socialmedia #strategy

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    RT @belindaang: Is Social Media Strategically Relevant? ( a good read) ~ http://bit.ly/1TSiM1

  • Belinda Ang 09/17/2009, 2:37 am

    Is Social Media Strategically Relevant? ( a good read) ~ http://bit.ly/1TSiM1

  • almameise (Johannes Lenz) 09/17/2009, 3:07 am

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    RT @clab: RT @JasperOng RT @belindaang: Is Social Media Strategically Relevant? ( a good read) ~ [link to post] #socialmedia #strategy

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  • clab (Claudia Becker) 09/17/2009, 3:05 am

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    RT @JasperOng RT @belindaang: Is Social Media Strategically Relevant? ( a good read) ~ [link to post]

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  • modesto6 (modestodistrict6.com) 09/16/2009, 8:34 pm

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  • Tom Rapsas (@tomrapsas) 09/16/2009, 4:57 pm

    These days, it’s hard to think of a strategy in wish social media would not be relevant, especially when it comes to customer retention. If as a company you’re looking at the long-term picture and want to enhance relationships with customers, it’s a must-have tool. It offers the almost instant gratification many consumers demand these days.

  • Nathan McKelvey 09/16/2009, 1:39 pm

    Social media in principle is no different than attending a networking event, polling customers or sending out a newsletter or broadcast email. It is another promising tool, but just like the marketing tactics of old if not used properly then falls flat.

  • Dianna Kolb 09/16/2009, 11:56 am

    I believe social media is a strategy. It is one that takes much time and preperation, and even more follow up. If you start a social media campaign then you had better have the resources to follow through with it. If not, what your left with is a group of people that will be more disappointed that you abandoned your product and disillusioned. So it is better not to delve into social media unless one is ready to commit the time/energy.

  • reshminath (Reshmi Nath) 09/16/2009, 9:35 am

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  • campo524 (Joe Campolieta) 09/16/2009, 9:34 am

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    RT RT @Alltop_Social: Is Social Media Strategically Relevant? [link to post] @lesleylambert Thought this might be of interest

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  • campo524 (Joe Campolieta) 09/16/2009, 8:32 am

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    RT @Alltop_Social: Is Social Media Strategically Relevant? [link to post] @mmpartee @lesleylambet Thought this might be of interest

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  • smconnection (smconnection) 09/16/2009, 6:37 am

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  • ChicagoDiane (Diane Saucier) 09/16/2009, 6:33 am

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    Is Social Media Of Strategic Relevance? Interesting blog post argues it is: [link to post]

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    RT @ChicagoDiane: Is Social Media Of Strategic Relevance? Interesting blog post argues it is: [link to post]

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  • Tom Loosmore Jr. 09/16/2009, 6:03 am

    I own a company that raises money for non profit orgainzations across America. I thnk Social media is a great way to meet and discuss possibilities with others but it seems like others want you to join their group just so they can have large numbers of people in their contacts and with any luck, make a sale of some type. Our CMS monitor registers very few visits from these sites. I am planning to invest funds further down the road as soon as I can find out which of these sites will be the most relavent to my business model. Right now I think some consolidation needs to happen to eliminate the mass confusion related to the words, “WHY THIS SITE?” Our focus is on direct contact with larger corporations around the country to help us improve our donor base. Social media comes in a distant second at this time.

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