Social Strategist Aren’t Thinking Strategically!

by Jay Deragon on 11/23/2010

Today’s social strategies are not strategies. The evidence  of this is reflected in a recent Altimeter Research report which indicates that the #1 objective for corporate social strategist in 2011 is “website integration.” Is web site integration a strategy?

The difference between a strategy and a tactic is the difference between thinking and doing. If what we do isn’t of strategic importance or tied to a strategic aim then what we do becomes a waste of time, effort and money. Worse yet doing the wrong things with “social” could cost you more than you know.

Simply integrating “all things social into your web site” without thinking and defining the business and organizational strategy for using “all things social” is an accident looking for a place to happen.

A Strategy Without Leadership Isn’t a Strategy

While the demand for social media talent continues to rise there is a huge disconnect between the demand and the leaders behind the organizations hiring “social media gurus”.  Corporate leaders need to consider what the new social paradigm means for organizational and business strategy before delegating a social strategy to people with no experience in thinking strategically.

In an HBR article by Soumitra Dutta states: Take the world’s leading CEOs as a sample. According to data from Fisheye Analytics, the top 50 chief executives (as identified by Morten T. Hansen, Herminia Ibarra, and Urs Peyer in “The Best-Performing CEOs in the World,” HBR January–February 2010) are increasingly discussed in online venues, but few are using social media to spread their own messages: Only 19 were on Facebook, only six had a LinkedIn page, and only two—Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former Norilsk Nickel CEO Mikhail Prokhorov—were tweeting or blogging (although some used their corporate pages for blogs). Anecdotal evidence suggests that the story is the same for leaders below the CEO level and that even those who have a social media presence aren’t using it strategically. That is a mistake.

Social media isn’t a secret but what seems to be a secret is why and how it is  changing consumer behavior and workplace expectations. If leaders understood why and how just maybe they would begin to think about the strategic implications of the why and how and plan for relevant changes within the entire marketplace they aim to serve. Knowing and understanding changes within the marketplace is critical to planning a strategy to either adapt or lead the changing market dynamics.

The Role of  Leadership Is To Think

A strategic approach to all things social  varies in its application but basically demands that leaders become clear on what their organization is to do in the context of current external and internal implications of “all things social” then establish  systems to ensure the organization does the right things.  Coupled with an appreciation for good people in the organization, careful management of processes, and the development of an intimate understanding of their markets dynamics, focusing on what and how to think is essential to organizational success.


Strategic thinking about the implications of social technology revolves around the notions of visioning, scenario building, and forecasting. In this sense, strategic thinking is about inferring future what’s, why they may or may not occur, and then devising plans to handle such potential eventualities. Such an approach requires the creation of a vision based on legitimate assumptions, expert analysis, and what- if thinking that is communicated throughout the organization and implemented through good management and monitoring processes.

Strategic thinking about all things social  is a unique competency of leadership based more on organizational philosophy than organizational tactics. Today there is a void of understanding how and why all things social is changing business philosophy relative to market relations and consumer preferences.

Today’s leaders must embrace social media but first they must learn relevant implications that effect strategic thinking. Most organizations are actively participation in social media but few are thinking strategically about their participation and the relevant implications.

Integrating social tools into your web site without thinking and planning a sound strategy for the entire organization reflects a lack of thinking which means you’ll end up doing the wrong things.

References:

Altimeter: The Corporate Social Strategist Must Plan for 2011

Leadership & Organizational Strategy: Matthew Fairholm

HBR:  Managing Yourself: What’s Your Personal Social Media Strategy?

5X6 Social Revenue Matrix

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