2.1 Social media affinity

Reading time: approx. 15 minutes

Learning Objective: Understand and develop social media affinity.

Exercises: Exercises are in the PDF of all exercises of this course. Download it from here.


The question “Can social media be used to achieve something in a particular market in principle?” should be largely answered by the social media affinity of the market.


Social media affinity is an element of the potential-based strategy model pbsm that shows whether social media can generally influence something in a market and how strongly a certain market / certain topics can be influenced by social media.

Strategic importance of social media affinity

Social media affinity is a fundamental element throughout the strategy development process that helps define the success of a strategy in the marketplace.

Efficiency of a strategy

The social media affinity shows – via the social media affinity of the topics of our strategy – what degree of effectiveness our strategy can have overall and in detail.

  • In topics with low social media impact, we will also be able to achieve a correspondingly lower impact because this topic does not receive the attention in social media that a topic with high social media affinity receives.
  • If our strategy is predominantly focused on topics with little social media affinity, this problem is correspondingly greater.
  • If the decisive topics in our strategy have a low social media affinity, the economic benefit of the strategy is correspondingly lower than if only less important topics have a low social media affinity.

Social media affinity thus also explains why strategies that are very successful in one company can be anything but successful in another. If the topics of the company operating successfully in social media have a high social media affinity, the strategy of this company can build on a correspondingly higher potential impact. If the topics of the less successful company are “blessed” with a significantly lower social media affinity, the potential impact of the social media strategy is correspondingly lower.

Mapping of reality

Not every topic is equally suitable for social media, not every brand automatically has an affinity for social media, and not every business model is confronted by social media to the same extent and with the same opportunities and risks. Social media affinity gives us a way to map this individuality of markets, business model and corporate goals, to do justice to its strategic importance and to take it into account in the use of social media.

Practical use of social media affinity

Social media affinity has enormous practical benefits. For example, a cause of the problems of active strategies in the market can be identified or problems of future strategies can be avoided in advance or during development.

  • Strategy evaluation of existing strategies: Social media affinity helps us analyze the root cause of less successful social media strategies and decide whether these strategies can be better adapted or should be relaunched.
  • Strategy evaluation Strategy drafts: social media affinity helps us evaluate strategy drafts. We can identify corresponding problems in advance and either adjust or sort out the draft strategy.
  • Strategy development: we can develop social media strategies that have a correspondingly higher chance of success because they avoid identifiable problems from insufficient social media affinity. For example, by focusing on topics that are more promising based on their social media affinity. This also contributes to the effectiveness of strategies.

Analogy Social Media Affinity

To understand this, let’s take an analogous example, which is of course not perfect: imagine two sports cars that differ in only one respect. Vehicle 1 has a 5-speed transmission with all gears usable. Vehicle 2 has the same transmission, but can only use 1st gear. Who has a better chance in direct competition?

Social media affinity as a characteristic

We do not measure social media affinity as a detached variable but as a characteristic of a topic in the broadest sense. This means that in addition to topics in the narrower sense, for example, brands also have their own social media affinity.

Social media affinity is individual and changeable

Social media affinity expresses a potential for change or influence via social media in markets. This potential for change or influence is also of an individual nature, because people draw to varying degrees on the opinions and experience of others in forming their opinions. Some people take their cues from others, while others form their opinions largely autonomously.

Sources of social media affinity

We should not see social media affinity as an immutable law, but as a changing and mutable influencing factor. An influencing factor that is, however, very fundamental in its effects. On the one hand, the individuality and variability of social media affinity unfortunately does not make daily work easier; on the other hand, this individuality makes it possible to influence opinions.

Social media affinity comes from utility. Social media affinity is expressed in behavior. This behavior is influenced in no small part by a benefit enabled by social media. If social media creates a desirable benefit for users, this results in a preference – in the sense of an attraction or a preference – for social media.

Social media affinity through benefits

Imagine a topic that interests users. If dealing with this topic in social media does not bring any practical benefit to these users, this topic will receive less attention in social media than if a clear, attractive additional benefit (through social media) arises from dealing with this topic in social media.

Measurement of social media affinity

We measure the social media affinity of topics via

  • the communication intensity: i.e. whether the topic is communicated about in social media and how intensive this communication is.
  • the degree of organization of communication: i.e., the organizational framework in which communication in social media takes place. Whether more casually in general communications or in the form of dedicated sections within social media. The degree of organization of communication can take several forms – up to the whole possible range – and vary widely within user groups.

Note on the measurement of communication for the determination of social media affinity

In practice, we can only use communications to determine social media affinity that are publicly visible. Communication in closed rooms cannot be used to determine the social media affinity of topics. This can skew results, and we need to be especially mindful of this for topics that suggest communication is increasingly or predominantly private.

Communication intensity

The regularity of communication on a topic gives an indication of the importance of the topic for the respective users. Via communication intensity, we thus get an impression of how important / pronounced the communication on a topic is. This, in turn, we understand as the importance of the topic for the users. We use the different importance of topics for users to determine the priorities of topics (for users).

For the company, topics can have a high priority that are far less relevant for users. The relevance of topics for users is crucial. The bait must now taste the fish and not the angler. If our topics have low relevance for users, we have to accept this and solve the problem elsewhere.

For the sake of simplicity, we distinguish between

  • rare appearance of the subject
  • frequent to regular occurrence of the topic
  • permanent presence of the subject.

Please note: We take the frequency and intensity of exchanges between social media users on a topic as a measure of social media affinity. For the effect of the social context, the exchange between users is needed. Otherwise, the effect does not take place.

Note on social media impact

If the exchange in a social media presence is functionally not optimal or (technically / conceptually) hindered, the effect of the social context – i.e. the social media effect – is also hindered. In such a case, the social media affinity of the topic may be high – but the social media impact remains low. In addition, the propensity to share suffers, which then erroneously suggests a lower social media affinity.  
We encounter these cases wherever the exchange in a social media presence is suboptimal. So often. So also pay attention to how good the communication functions are for the topics you monitor / observe.

Degree of organization of communication

The significance and scope of the organizational framework of communication allow conclusions to be drawn about the importance of the topic.

  • If communication on a topic takes place in a framework created specifically for this purpose, this is a sign of a more intensive and constant interest in a topic. A specially created framework is, for example, a section in a forum, a separate section in an Audience or separate groups in communities or social networks.
  • If there are separate presences and platforms for a topic, this is an indication of a high permanent importance of the topic and a particularly high social media affinity. Own presences and platforms are, for example, own forums on this topic / this topic area, own audiences and own communities or social networks.

Social context as a criterion for social media affinity

As a criterion for an existing social media affinity, we take the impact of social context, which expresses the influence of a social environment and or social communication on decisions, assessments or behavior.

Social media affinity thus expresses the extent to which the assessment and evaluation of a topic, a brand, a need, a problem or a service can be influenced by the opinion and assessment of others. The more we listen to our social environment on these topics, the higher the social media affinity of these topics.

Social context and its influence also takes place outside of social media. We focus on social media because we want to create a social media strategy.

Social context works in social media through information and communication. If neither information nor communication takes place in any way in the social context, no effect of the social context takes place either.

In this case, one can also question the social context itself, because communication is one of the foundations of the social context.

Social context and issues

Information and communication deal with issues. Without content, there is no information and communication in social media. (Yes, smileys are content, too).

Content and topics do not only describe markets. Contents and topics are also the way about the social context affects. This makes topics and content doubly important to our intention to use social media to support and increase the success of the company.

Measurement of social media affinity through monitoring

Monitoring determines

  • how often (frequency)
  • where (platform, organizational form of communication)
  • by whom (user, influencer)
  • like (sentiment, content)

The communication about the respective topic and also the effect (dissemination) of this communication in social media.

Limitation: Social media monitoring only covers publicly available sources.

Quality of social media monitoring tools

Please note and keep in mind: Social media monitoring here refers exclusively to the use of professional tools. Free tools are too often questionable in their quality. Avoid basing your strategy on questionable results. And fundamentally question the interpretation of the results. You will learn and at the same time experience how well-founded the know how of your monitoring specialist is. 

Our monitoring should answer the following questions:

  1. What issues move people in my market (the most)?
  2. How regular is the communication on (which) topics of our market?
  3. Which protagonists (sources, media, users, multipliers, providers) can be identified?
  4. Have the users of our market already organized themselves (groups, forums, communities)?
  5. Which external platforms are important?
  6. In addition, we should have – from external or studies or a knowledge / surveys – sufficiently robust findings on buying behavior and the role of social media / the recommendation marketing.

Here you should take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and experience of Marketing, Mafo and Sales.

Recommendation monitoring

  • Check if all relevant sources of social media communication of your topic / market are covered.
  • When monitoring, pay attention not only to the quality of the monitoring tool but also to the appropriately qualified interpretation of the results.
  • Involve experts from your service provider to interpret monitoring results.

Strategic importance of social media affinity

Efficiency of a strategy

The social media affinity shows us – via the social media affinity of the topics of our strategy – what degree of effectiveness our strategy can have overall and in detail.

  • In topics with low social media impact, we will also be able to achieve a correspondingly lower impact because this topic does not receive the attention in social media that a topic with high social media affinity receives.
  • If our strategy is predominantly focused on topics with little social media affinity, this problem is correspondingly greater.
  • If the decisive topics in our strategy have a low social media affinity, the economic benefit of the strategy is correspondingly lower than if only less important topics have a low social media affinity.

Problems of famous brands

Some famous brands achieve a lower level of attention and response on social media relative to their importance. It’s relatively easy for them to build social media reach through their existing marketing channels, but it’s much harder for them to actively maintain that reach or activate it into a desired behavior.

The brand’s social media affinity is one possible explanation for this situation. A low social media affinity indicates that despite a high level of awareness, the brand itself plays a much smaller role in social media. The reason for this lies not least in the benefits created by the brand in social media, which we refer to as user benefits in the potential-based strategy model.

One approach to solving this is as obvious as it is simple: building a compelling benefit foundation through the brand in social media. The implementation of this solution – the user benefit through the brand – is much less simple. On the contrary, it might not be easy to find a common user benefit that excites users in social media, that is of a lasting nature and covers the entire breadth of users with an interest in this brand, and that – not to forget – can also be realized in the long term.

A challenge for the little gray cells in between.

Make a note of two or three well-known, large b2c brands (such as Coca Cola, Nike and Volkswagen) and consider which user benefits could be realized by the brands in social media in the long term, which could reach and motivate the entire range of users, and which prerequisites would have to be created for these user benefits.


Practical use of social media affinity

The social media affinity has enormous practical benefits, which consist in particular in the

  • problems of active strategies are more easily recognizable in the market. You can review active strategies on social media affinity, identify and remedy problems, and increase your company’s success on social media.
  • Problems of future strategies can be avoided in advance or during development. Social media strategies thus potentially become more successful and contribute more to the company’s success. In addition, we reduce the risk of failing in the market with a new social media strategy or falling short of potential success.

Problems and solutions

Based on the social media affinity, we can thus identify and rectify problems of a possible strategy in advance – i.e. in the strategy development phase. How we deal with the problem of minimal social media affinity for core / indispensable topics of our active or future social media strategy is covered in the section Strategy Definition / Content Derivation.

Practical application

Task: we capture the social media affinity of topics.

Approach: we analyze the presence of one or more topics from our topic list in social media and define the social media affinity of each topic.

To do this, we measure the intensity and organization of communication within our topics using the criteria we have defined for the form of social media affinity. By means of our own research (search engines, monitoring) we check which topics are present and how strongly. The communication intensity of the individual topics shows us which topics are particularly relevant among social media users. We reach the most social media users via topics with high social media relevance.

Involved: Social Media Management

Result: Topics / list of topics with social media affinity. We then know which of our topics are particularly relevant to our social media users.

Use of the result: Consideration in strategy development.

  • The social media affinity of a topic or subject area expresses the extent to which social media can be used to influence social media users in this topic / subject area.
  • Topics that are particularly interesting for our users are better suited for attracting attention, for example, to build reach.

Example working template for the social media affinity of the topics of a markte

Explanation of the table:

  • Occasionally present: this is a rarely mentioned topic. The subject moves few or moves very little to communicate about it. In both cases, it is difficult to achieve impact via social media. In the second option, we can reach our few social media users through content distribution. Interaction and the effect of sharing is rather less to be expected with this degree of social media affinity of the subject(s). For a topic that is just not communicated about in a publicly visible way, but there is a strong interest in content and perhaps even sharing, we can operate through discrete social media offerings where privacy is highly secured. Here we should also remember that we usually only recognize publicly accessible conversations in social media. This means that it is possible to communicate about a topic in non-public formats.
  • Regularly present: communication may not be highly topical on a daily basis, but it never completely breaks down. There may be cycles or a more steady flow of communication.
  • permanently present: there is always something to communicate, talk and post. The topic is relevant every day.
  • fixed area in social media: The topic has its fixed area in a broader social media presence.
  • Own social media presence: The theme has its own social media presence.

Social media affinity is fundamental as a success factor in and for social media, but unfortunately not always easy to determine. This is less due to the criteria used for this than to the overview of communication in social media, which is not always easy to gain.

Practical hints:

  • the more frequently the respective topics are communicated about in social media, the sooner / more extensively we can achieve an impact about these topics via social media.
  • If topics can be found regularly or permanently in social communication, this indicates a higher social media affinity of this topic. This means that we must be as present as possible in this topic in order to achieve a positive effect for us.
  • if fixed areas or own presences have been established for topics, this means an even higher social media affinity of this topic and also a higher importance of the topic for influencing the market. At the same time, existing fixed areas or presences of this topic affect our chances of establishing a separate area for this topic or a separate presence on this topic. This does not mean that we should generally do without it, but that the competitive situation in this area is somewhat more intense. At the same time, however, this issue is likely to be all the more important for us – and our competitors.
  • Topics with a regular or permanent presence in social communications may have the potential for a permanent area or presence of their own. If this is recognizable, the opportunity arises for us to build up this area / presence and thus secure a structural communicative competitive advantage. We should make this opportunity – if given – clear in our options for action.

Analogous to this template, we create a summary of the topics for all markets or for the business model or specific company goals.

Exercise own company

Work out the social media affinity of 3 important topics / subject areas of your company.

  • Result for each topic: Social media affinity.

Based on the topic, check whether the communication about it has a rather public or rather non-public character.

  • Result for each topic: Communication rather public or rather non-public.

Based on the quality of the communication tools of the social media platforms in which the topics take place, check whether communication is restricted by inadequate communication tools.

  • Result for each topic: communication platform A, B, C restricted / not restricted.

Exercise external companies

Perform the same exercise for competitors (performance competitors and attention competitors).