2.2 Social Media Core Functions

Reading time social media core functions: approx. 11 minutes

Learning Goal: Identify, understand, and use social media core functions for strategy development.

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

Basics Social Media Core Functions

This section covers the core functions of social media offerings and applications from the perspective of their importance to strategy development. We do not deal with the design of core functions but focus on their strategic background.

The core functions

We know as social media core functions

  • Information: Content is provided by the sender for receivers.
  • Dialog / communication: communication takes place between social media users.
  • Networking: Social media users are networked with each other.
  • Cooperation: Social media users work together.

Core functions can be used independently or in combination. As a rule, both social media strategies and their applications and offerings consist of combinations of core functions.

Importance of core functions for social media and the development of social media strategies.

With the core functions, we shape the performance of social media offers and strategies such as the user benefits from the offers and their strategies. Thus, the use of the core functions and their concrete design is a basis for the success of social media strategies and their applications.

Information

Definition

The core function information stands for a sender-receiver communication in which content is transmitted in one direction. We define information as content(s) that are relevant to the parties involved – sender and receiver. We define content that is relevant only to the sender but not to the recipient as spam.

Performance potential Information

UserBenefit: Information creates a specific and individual user benefit. UserBenefit is the basis for the impact of our social media strategy and its offerings.

  • The UserBenefit we create with information is specific because it has a certain performance potential. We create value with content that is structurally different from other benefits in social media (such as networking, dialogue, and collaboration).
  • The real user benefit from information is individual, because it depends on the current needs of the user.
  • The user benefit from the information is controlled by the sender. I.e. the user has little influence on it.

Impact potential: With information, we aim to

  • Knowledge
  • Behavior
  • Attitudes and beliefs

influence.

Requirements for social media success:

  • The information must reach the user: i.e. the information must reach the user and be perceived by him. This is a very simple and self-evident requirement, but it is not automatically assured. For example, a piece of information may enter a user’s timeline/newsfeed without being noticed because it has already been displaced by other content.
  • The information must have an impact: The information must be relevant and useful for the user. From this premise comes the requirement that we can address users with content that is relevant and useful to them. Where individual addressing with individual content is not possible – i.e. in the vast majority of cases – we address user groups. Depending on how precisely we can select and address these user groups, our content can make an impact. Here we have an implementation problem when using external platforms, if the targeting does not allow the necessary selection. Which is the normal case rather than the exception.

prerequisites for corporate success:

The successful use of information in social media does not automatically lead to a contribution to corporate success. Information must “pay in” to the company’s success in a targeted manner and be designed and used accordingly.

  • UserBenefit contributes directly to business success: we have a UserBenefit in our information that can make direct contributions to business success. For example, if it is directly aimed at or leads to the generation of interested parties for a service.
  • UserBenefit contributes indirectly to the company’s success: the UserBenefit has an impact on the company’s success via intermediate steps. In this case, we should ensure that these intermediate steps are also in place and functioning accordingly, i.e. that they contribute to measurable business success. For example, by building reach across topics of the target group, which can then also be used for content that directly contributes to the company’s success.

Duration of effect Information

  • Information with a short duration of action: this content has a short duration of action. I.e. they only provide benefits for a very short period of time. If our focus is on this kind of information, we are forced to build and maintain a very high information flow to ensure an attractive social media offering. An example of this is messages that are noted, but have no lasting meaning to the user of which they return to this message.
  • Information with a long duration of effect: this content creates a permanent benefit that is correspondingly relevant and important for the user and which he or she uses on a regular or permanent basis. Such content is particularly effective. Accordingly, we should make sure that they are also permanently easy to find. For example, information of this type supports users in their daily work or in a frequently performed occupation. Advantage of this type of information is its long duration of action. In other words, we add up the user benefits via this information. The attractiveness of the social media offering grows with the content.

Application

Information dissemination is more than just a common function in social media. It is the most used function.

We know information not only in the form of text but also as images, sound or videos. What distinguishes information in social media from other media is that every user can or should be both sender and receiver. How far this “eye level” of sender and receiver actually goes depends on the social media offering in question. Basic principles are not always fully implemented in reality.

Information in social media is often used for self-promotion at the user level. When companies use social media, providing information as a marketing activity is common practice. In both cases, we should not completely lose sight of the user benefit (for the recipients of the information).

Application examples

Information is found in every social media usage format.

  • Audience: Information / content finds the largest application in Audiences because the Audience is primarily built on the core function of information. Audiences as a usage format can be found in blogs, in sharing platforms (such as Youtube or Instagram).
  • In social networks, we also find the core function of information. For example, in the pages of the companies or in the individual newsfeed or the profiles of the users, as known from Facebook, for example.
  • In communities, the core function of information can be found, for example, in user profiles as well as in forums or blogs of users.

Significance for social media strategy development

If the success of a social media strategy is based on the quality of its core functions, it is generally indispensable to pay appropriate attention to this quality.

If the success of a social media strategy is based on the quality of the core function of information, we must ensure that information delivers the required user benefits for the duration of the strategy. Information – i.e. content – can be useful in the long term and permanently, or lose its usefulness very quickly. Depending on how sustainable our information is, we need to ensure a permanent stream of content that meets the current needs of our users.

In practice, this is an enormous challenge – especially for news-related content – which can place demands on a “normal” company like those of a media company. Whether and how this can be realized in the long term is one of the questions that should be answered by the social media strategy.

Interactions

The content of the core function Information results in requirements and implications for other components of a social media strategy. The specific requirements inevitably depend on the concrete content of the core function and its design.

In general, at least these requirements and impacts should be considered:

  • Social media channels: Quality of social media channels for presenting information and addressing it.
  • Resources of the strategy: ensuring the quality and quantity of information.
  • UserBenefit: the content of the information creates the user benefit. Therefore, the user benefit and the core function must be aligned.

Dialog / Communication

Definition

We can recognize dialog and communication in social media by the fact that the participants are equally active and exchange with each other “at eye level”. It is therefore not a one-way street of information transport (with the possibility to react to it communicatively) but an equal exchange of content.

Performance potential

Dialogue creates higher awareness and engagement, enables deeper insights and broader influence than information. The user benefit is highly individual. The user has influence on the content of the user benefit through dialog.

Application

Dialog is well suited for integration with other core functions. We use dialog from a company perspective to create individual benefits (problem solutions, support, experience) and to generate individual company-relevant benefits (for example, about needs, problems with services and new market potential).

Application examples

  • Audience: Integration of a chat to facilitate the dialog with the users of a reach.
  • Community: Communication functions for communication between users in the community.
  • Social Network: Communication functions between users of personal social networks or users of the platform as a whole.

Significance for social media strategy development

The integration of dialog and communication as part of a social media strategy has structural implications for the social media channels used and the resources for this strategy. The integration of the dialog (and its results) into corporate processes should also be ensured.

Interactions

In general, at least these requirements and impacts should be considered:

  • Social media channels: Quality of the social media channels for the representation of the dialogue.
  • Resources of the strategy: ensuring the quality and quantity of the dialogue.

Networking

Definition

We define networking as the enabled and encouraged connection of social media users.

Performance potential

Networking connects users, creating both reach, value and activity, as well as usable social media resources where appropriate. This provides a foundation for the impact of social media and leverage for its impact.

Application

We create the technical-conceptual possibility to connect users with each other by providing perception, communication and connection via information flows. In addition, we actively bring users together through commonalities. In practice, this is more often implemented via the friend-of-a-friend method and less often via commonalities between users.

An essential prerequisite for the success of networking is a user benefit from this networking and, if necessary, support for the activation and stimulation of this networking.

Application examples

  • In social networks (such as Facebook), networking is practiced in particular via the FOF method, because it is assumed that users from real circles of friends and acquaintances are most likely to be networked via shared connections.
  • In communities, networking through interests and commonalities beyond that (geography, etc.) is a more recommended method.
  • In Audiences, networking of users is not common. This is more likely due to the business model of the social media service or the lack of compelling user benefits for most audiences.

Significance for social media strategy development

Success in connecting social media users is a key success factor for communities. Building up networking and securing the activity of the community (which is based on networking) are central tasks for community management, which must be secured accordingly in terms of quality and quantity. When developing the strategy, we make sure that a clear user benefit is generated from the networking, which creates network effects as far as possible.

General interactions

In general, at least these requirements and impacts should be considered:

  • Social media channels: Quality of social media channels for networking. These include networking functions, finding users according to relevant criteria, and supporting activity within the network.
  • Resources of the strategy: ensuring the quality and quantity of networking and its activity.

Cooperation

Definition

By cooperation we mean working together for a common purpose.

Performance potential

Cooperation can significantly increase the individual user benefit and create considerable social media resources. This can change the weighting of market development and affect business models.

Application

Collaboration to bring knowledge together or to achieve other common goals such as attention, awareness, or support. Collaboration on social media can happen on a purely digital level or in a digital space with implications on a non-digital level as well.

Cooperation can take place between companies and social media users as well as between social media users.

Application examples

  • Audience: Wikipedia is a particularly clear example of the potential of collaborations in social media, not least because of its high profile and impact on the business model of classic encyclopedias. Comparable results can also be achieved in other industries and certainly on other scales, given the right conditions. Another example is the – rudimentary – use of social media for fundraising. Another example is companies working with individual social media users to leverage their reach.
  • Community: Collaboration for the operation of user-based services (such as support forums), for virtual or real projects within the framework and for topics of the community, or for joint campaigns or virtual or real events.
  • Social Network: Collaboration for running user-based services, for virtual or real projects within the community, or for joint campaigns or virtual or real events.

Significance for social media strategy development

Collaboration creates resources and scales the impact of social media strategy. The creation of a common goal and the necessary technical-conceptual foundations, motivational structures and systems for user engagement, as well as appropriate network management are pillars of the success of the collaboration.

General interactions

In general, at least these requirements and impacts should be considered:

  • Social media channels: The feasibility of cooperation and participation offerings and, if applicable, their connection to corporate processes.
  • Resources of the strategy: Ensuring the quality and quantity of cooperation and participation offerings.

Importance for the success of the company in and through social media

Through cooperation, the company increases its impact in social media without having to have the corresponding prerequisites itself (for example, reach). Cooperation can thus quickly and dynamically scale the success of the company in social media.

Exercises

Define 5 important topics for your company.

Performance potential information

For each of the 5 topics, define the most attractive individual UserBenefit from your point of view.
Define a common UserBenefit for these 5 topics.
Estimate the impact duration of content in the 5 defined topics.
Define the possible contribution of the UserBenefit to the company's success and how this contribution must be practically realized and organized.

 

Performance potential dialog

Define a specific UserBenefit for each of the 5 topics that can only be created through the Dialog usage format.

Define the business benefit for the selected 5 topics that can only be generated by the dialog usage format.

Community/networking benefit potential

Define a specific user benefit for each of the selected 5 topics.
Define the corporate benefit that can be achieved via this user benefit.