3.3 Social media action options Usage formats

Learning objective: to become familiar with the methodical derivation of options for action for utilization formats.

Reading time: approx. 6 minutes

The section on the strategy component usage formats is divided into the areas of

  • Basics: here you will learn the basics of the strategy component and the derivation of the content.
  • Application: here you will learn the methodical derivation of the options for action for the usage formats. The concrete derivation for markets, business models, competition and corporate goals is described in the respective sections. .
  • Exercises: the exercises are in the concrete applications for markets, business model, competition and company goals.

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


Derivation of the options for action

We derive options for action via the following areas and in this order:

  • Subject areas: with this we define in which markets / sub-areas of the markets we operate with social media.
  • UserBenefits: we decide on one or more UserBenefits that we generate through our social media strategy. UserBenefit creates the appeal of our social media strategy.
  • Usage formats: this defines the usage formats with which we want to operate in the selected markets. The usage formats used have a far-reaching influence on the competitiveness of a strategy because they define the performance of the social media offerings.
  • Participation: by involving social media users, we achieve significantly more impact – as long as the participation also pays off in terms of the desired effect. What we should secure through our strategy.
  • Motivation: Through motivation, we ensure the use of our social media offerings and, through this, the desired effect. Depending on suitability, we can motivate individually and situationally or use comprehensive motivational structures to turn this component of our strategy into a competitive advantage.

Definition of usage formats

Usage formats are the conceptual-organizational form in which social media is used. We know Audience, Community and Social Network as usage formats. Usage formats can be combined.

Social media usage formats stand for certain types of social media usage – each associated with specific characteristics, an individual performance potential, and an individual competitive quality.

Significance of the usage formats

Strategic importance of usage formats

The usage formats influence the possible outcome, the impact of our social media strategy and also the resources required. Thus, the decision on usage formats has a formative effect on the strategy and its success. In addition, the usage format impacts other components of our strategy in several ways – be it channels, content and topics, user benefits, motivation and participation.

These effects and interactions become clearer when we explicitly define the usage formats as a strategy component in the strategy. At the same time, this makes the deficits and problems of a strategy in its development clearer. We thus avoid problems that we might otherwise only identify later in the market.

Practical significance of the usage formats

Usage formats define how we use social media. This concerns both the conceptual and technical framework and the day-to-day work. Depending on the usage format, our daily business lies more in editorial work (Audience) in individual communication with users or in community management (Community). Usage formats define not only what we do on social media on a daily basis, but also the expertise we need for day-to-day work.

Derivation of the usage formats

The usage formats of our social media strategy depend on the suitability of the individual topics. Not every topic is suitable for a community, for example. The decisive factor for the suitability of a topic for a usage format is the user benefit that can be created for the user by the usage format. The performance potential of the individual usage formats has already been discussed. Here, therefore, are just a few memories and examples:

  • Audience: If the user is primarily interested in content on a topic, this speaks in favor of the Audience usage format.
  • Community: If the user is looking for answers to individual questions, this speaks – in addition to the audience, which can also provide this to a limited extent – for a community in which the answers are provided by the company or other users.
  • Network: if the user is looking exclusively for direct contact with other users – privately or professionally – a network is the obvious usage format.

In addition to the pure formats, the use of combined usage formats is interesting if they can be used to better – and more competitively – address the requirements and needs of users. Examples include:

  • Combination Audience-Community: we use a community to serve users who can get value from other users’ experiences in addition to pure content. This can be interesting, for example, as a supplement to the support provided by traditional customer service.
  • Combination Audience-Network: in addition to more general content, we offer users the opportunity to exchange and network on these topics.

For the derivation of the usage formats, the range of sensible possible usage formats is first of all relevant at the level of the options for action. We determine which usage formats are actually used in the strategy definition (for individual strategy options).

Summary of the usage formats of the subject areas

A social media strategy can operate with one usage format or with a combination of different usage formats.

The decision for certain usage formats for the entire strategy or for individual subject areas results from the combination

  • Suitability of the subject area (if several usage formats are possible in one subject area).
  • Competitive situation (whether we want / need to cover certain usage formats so that our strategy is competitive as well as fit for the future
  • Priority of the subject area (how important the subject area / market area is for the company)

Problems and decisions

If not all subject areas can be optimally covered with one usage format, for example because one does not want to leave any gaps for competition in a crucial part of an indispensable market, complexity and resource requirements can increase significantly or significantly changed requirements for the competence and structure of social media management can result. It is completely different to successfully manage an audience with an excellent content strategy or to build a community. All too often, skills, inclinations, and experience from one format of use stand in the way of success in a completely different format. Recognizing these problems in time is a prerequisite for a successfully implemented strategy.

Communicating this in good time – in the decision-making process – is the task of social media management.


Input for the derivation

We derive the usage format(s) of our social media strategy based on

  • Social media affinity market: from the analysis of the social media affinity of our topics / subject areas, we know the possible usage formats for our markets and their topics.
  • Requirements / preferences Business model: from the analysis of the business model, we know any requirements / preferences for usage formats.
  • UserBenefits: the first requirements for usage formats result from the intended UserBenefits.
  • Market situation: we consider which usage formats are present in the market in which quality in the individual topics.


Work steps

The subsequent steps are:

Step 1: We record the subject areas for which we are looking for suitable usage formats. Source: Topics and subject areas of our social media strategy

Step 2: we take into account which usage formats are suitable for our user benefit.

Step 3:we decide which usage formats offer us the most competitive opportunities in the market. The criterion for this is the performance potential of the respective usage format.

Note: in this work step, we are guided by the general performance potential of the usage formats and not by the current competitive situation within the topics. We take the competitive situation into account in the steps of strategy definition. In addition, it is advisable not to assume an unchangeable competitive situation in the usage formats and instead to orient oneself to the performance potential of the individual usage formats.


  • Selection of subject areas for which we examine usage formats. Usually all relevant subject areas.
  • Evaluation of the general suitability of the usage formats with the help of the social media affinity of the topic areas and the user benefits possible through the respective usage formats.
  • Opportunity assessment of the usage formats – based on the competitive situation in the subject area for the usage format.


Social media management (implementation) in coordination of the results with those responsible for the market and business model. Because of the impact of the usage format on the content of the overall strategy, broad agreement on the decision to use one or more usage formats is recommended.

Process result

Possible social media usage formats for each topic area and for all topic areas.

Use of the result

  • Basis for the derivation of strategies
  • Evaluation Strategy option / strategy alternative
  • Examination of interactions within the strategy
  • Requirements for social media channels


  • Social media affinity Topics and subject areas
  • Topic areas for our social media strategy
Example work template

The following is an example of an overview of the topics, the intended user benefits, the usage formats and their competitive quality.

Task Options for action Usage formats

  • Define the appropriate usage formats for your company's most important topics.
  • Describe the different competitive qualities of the individual usage formats.
  • Describe a combined usage format (i.e., the combination of two different usage formats) using one of your company's topics as an example.
  • Describe the requirements from the usage formats for the social media channels in which the usage formats are to be realized.