Putting The Strategic Cart Before The Social Horse

by Jay Deragon on 07/29/2013

Social Cart Before HorseThe predominant message from the market about social media has been in the context of marketing and PR.  That message has initiated billions of dollars of spending by corporations chasing  friends and likes followed by self-justification of the ROI on such efforts.  But for the majority the numbers simply don’t justify the cost.

Now leaders are being led to believe they need a social business strategy designed to engage stakeholders so the organization can better identify and respond to the wants, needs and desires of buyers, suppliers, employees and the general community at large.  Sounds logical and certainly strategic but just maybe we are putting the cart before the horse.

Without A Social Belief System Strategy Doesn’t Work

Mental models have their way of “blinding -muting” primal and important information to the eyes and ears of those who really needed to hear and see what actually is going on in today’s marketplace.

Business leaders need to see beyond the strategic issues and listen to understand the human voices representing philosophical changes driving the markets behavior.  A strategy grounded in the wrong beliefs puts the cart before the horse and thus your strategy will take you no where.

From a business perspective the mental models for social have been molded to propagate “media” designed to appear social but with the real intent of crafting viral messages with the aim of selling something. Everyone knows the intent.  From a human perspective the philosophical model for social is grounded in sharing ideas, testing new beliefs, collaborating around the creation of new value and facilitating change.

Recognizing the need to change perspectives business leaders are now pursuing social business strategies hoping to make business more engaging and trustworthy. This isn’t going to happen simply from changing business plans or strategies.   The WSJ reports: The 2013 Social Business Global Executive Study and Research Project finds companies face significant challenges maturing their social business initiatives, even as they increasingly buy into the value of these efforts.  

Despite burgeoning social business activity, companies’ efforts largely appear stuck in first gear. Respondents cite three major barriers to progress: lack of an overall strategy, competing priorities, and lack of a proven business case.  In other words business leaders are still trying to frame all things social into a “neat strategic box” rather than even attempting to understand the philosophical shifts created by all things social.

The differences between the human and business uses of “all things social” are philosophical rather than strategic. By focusing on social business strategies business leaders will not even begin to understand how to transform their organization’s from an ego-system to an eco-system.

The  difference between the two is one represents a change in plans and the other represents a change in beliefs. Now really ask yourself, which reflects the true meaning of all things social?


John Jenkins August 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Hi all. Not sure I understand the distinctions being offered here; an ‘ego’ vs an ‘eco’ system and between Philosophy and Strategy…perhaps I’m being thick?

On reading this I was reminded of Peter Senge’s book on the ‘Fifth Discipline’ (amongst others) and the ‘Fieldbook’ that followed; where a number of ‘change initiatives’ required a clear vision of not only the ‘strategic’ goal but also the ‘philosophy’ or set of beliefs (mind set) that underpin the change being sought. It seems to me that our philosophy provides the motivation, maybe even the passion, for any choices we might wish to make, strategic or otherwise…

Ann Holman July 31, 2013 at 4:37 am

Agreed that what’s required is not a change of skills set but mind set first. Social business is being identified as an external function, one that is solely for customers. Its not. Its actually about how you bring connected employees and customers together to collaborate around innovation. Thats an education process with the ‘C’ suite in itself.

I’ve written more about it in this many blog posts but specifically what I am seeing in client organisations: http://www.ourthinklab.com/thesocial/social/ourchallengeisdigitalandsocialilliteracy

Jeniffer Cooper July 30, 2013 at 1:28 am

According to me, before starting any business it is strategy which plays an important role. But execution of the strategy is also very important.

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