Social Media Strategies v Social Business Strategies

Social Business Strategies v Social Media Strategies

An Altimeter report by Li and Solis defines the difference between a social business strategy and a social media strategy.

“A social media strategy lays out the channels, platforms and tactics to support publishing, listening and engagement.” – Li & Solis

A social business strategy, however, is the way an organisation integrates social technologies into business values and practices to help build relationships and encourage people to talk about the business. A social business strategy will be successful if there is an alignment between the strategic goals of the organisation and the support that executes the strategy.

Elements of a Social Business Strategy

Li & Solis define six main elements or stages of a social business strategy. These can all be seen in the image below.


Image received from
  • Planning – the first step in a social business is gathering information about the market and what consumers want/need.
  • Presence – become even more active on platforms that the business is involved in already.
  • Engagement – try to engage potential or existing customers in online conversations about the product. These conversations can be between two or more consumers, or between consumers and the business. The more active/supportive a business is online, the more people will want to engage with the organisation.
  • Formalised – rules, regulations, and goals around employees use of social media will help a business to control what is being said online as to not offend anyone and keep a level of professionality.
  • Strategic – This element involves connecting social media to all other business units, not just ICT technicians.
  • Converged – by this point, social media should be incorporated into all different parts of the business, whether it is used as business-to-consumer or even within the organisation.


Success Factors of a Social Business Strategy

Li and Solis also define 7 success factors of a social business strategy.

  • Goals – a business strategy is formed around what the business wants to achieve using the strategy, so goals are a necessary first step.
  • Vision – a long-term vision will help a team remain focused and passionate on the strategy and achieving their goals.
  • Support – the support of executives is necessary so they can be an advocate for the strategy and back the goals and progress being made.
  • Strategy – A strategy roadmap is helpful as it will help the organisation get from A to B, from where the business is now to achieving the goals.
  • Guidelines – Clearly defined guidelines and rules will help all employees to know what to do in certain situations, instead of doing something that isn’t important and helping the company towards the goal.
  • Staff – In order for your social business strategy to be effective, the organisation should work on improving the skills of every business unit, and make them more social.
  • Invest – make clever social investments. Instead of just doing what everyone else is doing, research and work out a strategic plan before deciding to invest in a certain technological decision.

Guidelines, in particular, can be very helpful to ensuring the success of a social business strategy – if an organisation has no guidelines, then employees will be unsure of what they can or cannot do. Guidelines such as IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines are used to show employees of the company how social media should be used to make the social business strategy successful.

These guidelines include:

  • Being who you are and positively exchanging and supporting ideas.
  • Know and understand not only the IBM guidelines, but copyright laws also.
  • Think before you type – be careful of how you present yourself on social media, respect the audience of your posts, if it doesn’t add value, don’t post it.
  • Protect confidential/private information about coworkers, clients and suppliers.
  • Use common sense to decide what is appropriate, but if you do something wrong then be the first person to respond to your mistakes.


Thanks for reading, feel free to comment on what you thought! :~)

Online Communities v Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice:

A Community of Practice (CoP) is formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of interest.Or as explained below:

“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”


Communities of Practice have three defining characteristics:

1. The Domain

People are connected through a shared interest/domain. They commit using membership – a shared competence links members and separates them from other people.

2. The Community

Members communicate with each other, by joint activities or discussions, helping each other and building relationships by sharing experiences so they can learn from each other. Members meet with each other regularly, but this doesn’t have to be every day.

3. The Practice

Members of the practice are ‘practitioners’, who have a shared practice as they share resources and tools.

Online Communities:

Online communities are different to Communities of practice in various ways, which is expanded on in this article by Stork and Zhang. Where a CoP demands private membership of users, online communities are open and accessible to anybody, meaning the number of members an online community can have is limitless.

Another difference between the two is that Communities of Practice are based around face-to-face communication at a regular meeting, but an online community is internet-based, where members mostly communicate online. Members of an online community are dispersed geographically and they have a segregated practice.

Online communities, unlike CoPs, have a recorded history. As almost all information produced by members of an online community is on a public site, the information will always be accessible.

Communities of Practice in Business Strategies

CoPs are use in companies as they focus on long-term problem solving of issues for senior management – each CoP is usually sponsored by a senior manager. However, CoPs only work as well as the human systems that run them. CoPs need focuses, goals and management oversight to make decent contributions to the organisation and operate efficiently.When used properly, CoPs can be a powerful management tool.

For many organisations, CoPs provide a new approach to managing knowledge – using people to bounce ideas off each other so everyone can learn. This creates a direct link between learning and performance, as people that are in the same CoP may be in the same business unit.

Benefits and Limitations of CoPs

There are many benefits to using CoPs:

  • Improvement of internal communications and knowledge sharing in an organisation.
  • Any issues can be identified quickly as there  is little need of providing extensive background knowledge.
  • Awareness of other members abilities helps to speed up processes.
  • Inexpensive but efficient way for experts to share knowledge.

There are also limitations to CoPs:

  • Time – time is needed for members to engage in a CoP enough to make it effective
  • Organisational Hierarchies – CoPs are usually formed within a company where there are already established roles and heirarchies. This is difficult for CoPs as forming a CoP, which usually does not have a heirarchy, can interfer with the already decided roles of the business – which can cause problems as some people are more focused on following a heirarchy rather than working towards the best possible outcome.
  • The Socio-cultural environment – Socio-cultural differences such as whether a region is more egoistic or collective effects how a Community of Practice works. More collective societies are better at sharing ideas and helping others as they work together to achieve the same goals, which means that CoPs in these regions have more effective results compared to an egoistic community where people prefer to keep things to themselves.

Approaches to Social Media

The Four C’s

Entrepreneur Niall Cook, author of the book ‘Enterprise 2.0‘, created this concept of ‘The Four C’s’ to distinguish between different social software styles that a business could have. The Four C’s allow a group to produce something that is a lot better than if is was created by just an individual.

The Four C’s are:

  1. Communication
  2. Collaboration
  3. Cooperation
  4. Connection

Communication platforms allow people to communicate with each other, through either just text or various kinds of media.

Collaboration focuses on the process of creating something. Collaborative software encourages people to work together,

Cooperation focuses on product, which is the main difference between collaboration and cooperation. Cooperative social software allows for interaction in informal structures.

Connection tools are all about connecting employees with both content and each other. Tools such as tagging, search, syndication and mash-ups all help to do this.


The Four C’s can be catergorised by formality and interaction, as seen in Niall Cook’s diagram below – collaboration and connection are formal, where as communication and cooperation are informal; and collaboration and cooperation are interactive, while connection and communication are not.


Cisco’s SOCIAL Approach

Cisco Systems, an American company that manufactures and sells networking equipment. Cisco is not only a worldwide leader in the production of this equipment, but also in knowledge on how to use different kinds of technology, including how to deal with social media for your business. For this, they created their S.O.C.I.A.L. approach – a guide on how employees should act when using social media.

Scalable – Train employees on how to use social media in a productive way

Open – Lead from the top

Consistent – To show commitment to social media, checking or posting often

Intuitive – Make the social media easy to connect to and navigate around

Active – Be present on social media by creating/sharing content to trigger other users

Limitless – Be flexible

This framework is centered around 5 pillars: Enablement, intelligence, engagement, measurement and advocacy.

Enablement is about the standards a business holds when it comes to the use of Social Media. This includes training employees, having policies or having a hiring process.

Intelligence means intelligent listening. Cisco has created a listening process to help with this. It is split into two steps – ABC’s and 123’s.

ABC – Classify conversation into categories – for example, support, criticism, idea

123 _ Rate conversations by priority – priority 1=urgent, priority 2=semi-urgent and priority 3=not urgent.

Engagement includes using the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where, why – to improve the quality of the conversations held online.

Measurement deals with different ‘metrics’ that are measured by the company to try to reach goals set – the metrics measured could be volume, reach, engagement, influence, share of voice or sentiment

The final pillar is advocacy  – social media helps the business to support and appreciate advocates of the company.


Issues and Challenges of Social Media

The Importance Social Capital and Trust

Social capital refers to the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society’s social interactions. – The World Bank

Social capital is essential in any business. The better that people in businesses get along together, the better they are at working together and collaborating – giving a better output than if every employee was working in self-interest.

Trust is also super important in a business. Distrust between employers and employees can put stress on the business relationship, which usually leads to the employee not wanting to be at work because they feel like they are being constantly watched and checked up on. However, trust in a business means that all employees can work comfortably, knowing that their every move isn’t being scrutinised.

Issues and Challenges of Social Media

Many businesses have different issues with adopting social media in their business. One of the main barriers is executive resistance. Many business executives believe that if they enable social media, it could result in a reduction of productivity or produce a risk for the company – it could produce legal challenges if people post inappropriate things online.

Another typical case is the fact the the executives or senior leaders of the business are more comfortable with using paper-based methods over computer-based methods. Paper is a tool that senior leaders are used to and are comfortable using, so are cautious about changing to a kind of technology that they aren’t too sure about how to use exactly.

Negative Aspects of Social Media for Business

Social media is growing quickly and so it makes sense that it has also accessed peoples work lives. It can be a great tool for businesses to use to collaborate, combine and share information and projects with colleagues and the public. But that also means that it is easy, when you’re at work on a computer, for your mouse to slowly move to the address bar and start typing f a c e b o o k . c o m. This is one of the downsides of using social media at work, employees using an increasing amount of time checking what their friends are up to, or seeing if anyone retweeted your latest tweet. Access to social media also allows employees to easily send information to people outside the company, information that could be confidential or give access to an organisations network. A big concern for employers is the fact that anything that a work computer is used for, even if the employer had nothing to do with it, can be pinned on the employer and the business can be faulted for ‘letting’ any employee take part in uninvolved illegal or unethical action.

These are some of the reasons that businesses have started mitigating this behaviour. A big way that this is being done is by employers monitoring the use of electronic devices. Employers at many businesses have access to all work computers that use the server to check on what employees are doing online.

This does have limitations however, as many people take their own phones or even laptops that can access the internet and cannot be monitored by the company.

Governments and Social Media

There are always going to be people that are against a  certain government. This means that governments and party members really have to watch what they say or post online in case they say the wrong thing, or say something that allows opposition to twist their words to turn what they said into something bad. These party members already have to be careful with traditional media, so why would they choose the extra stress of social media?

There are many reasons a government should choose to not use social media. The process from writing a post for the internet to it actually being posted is very long – there are many people that must check, edit and ‘okay’ a post before it is allowed to be published.

Also, there are still many households which do not have access to the internet. In the U.S.A., this is 40% of households. Life can be a lot harder for those citizens who aren’t connected if the government decided to go digital. Households that do not have access to the internet are usually low-income, so  if a government posts something that may help  low-income families – such as a free or discounted course – online, then many families or individuals that need the help are not able to access it, for example, when a US Fire Service offered a free house checks, many high risk homes were unable to get the help as they did not have access to the internet, and the low risk homes were able to get the free check.

The government also has to consider the costs of ICT and social media. Though governments can save a lot of money by having all information stored on a system, some governments, especially smaller ones, may find it difficult to make the switch to using more ICT. It may be hard for a government to access the technology – and even if they can access it, the government may not have enough money to pay for the technology. Extra staff may have to be found that can create and update the system, and then they have to be paid for as well. A lot of time also has to go into deciding what the aim of using the technology is, what they want it to do and how it should look. These costs all add up and it can be an expensive and lengthy process.

So why Should a Government use Social Media?

There are also so many reasons for a government to use social media. Having governments posting documents on social media increases transparency. Transparency of a government increases trust between the government and citizens, as citizens can know exactly what the government is up to. It also leads to less corruption as everything the government is involved in can be seen by everyone.

Internet has greatly reduced the costs of many things. Collecting, distributing and accessing government information is a lot cheaper and easier when it all can be accessed from your own home! A parliament research paper found that out of the citizens that participate online, only half participated offline, which is most likely because online participation is so easy.

Online participation is also a lot cheaper, meaning more citizens can be engaged  and involved in government decisions. More citizens are then empowered, as they feel that they have a voice and are valued by the government.

The Public vs. the Private Sector

In both the public and private sector, there are stages of social media adoption – from early adopters to laggards, which is explained in this diagram for anyone who is unfamiliar:


Both sectors also share the process from simple to complex technology. These processes start on average 10 years earlier in the private sector than in the public sector. This is sometimes because before implementing certain technology, which can be time-consuming, the government can wait and analyse how citizens use the technology and what works/doesn’t work for users, so the government knows how they themselves should use it.