3.8 Summary of options for action and evaluation

Learning objective summary of options: Knowledge of the role of options for action in the strategy process and their practical application.

Reading time: approx. 16 minutes

Basics and application are summarized this time in the individual sections of this section.

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

Overview processes

Summary of options for action in the respective areas

We summarize the options for action from the market, competition, business model and corporate goals. In this way, we create a common basis across these areas for strategy development that maps the performance potential of social media for the company, its markets and competitive situations. At the same time, this significantly reduces the number of elements in our strategy development.

Evaluation of the options for action – the big picture

With the evaluation of the options for action, we create the information basis for the strategy definition. With the options for action assessed, we have a clear picture of the opportunities to be successful in social media. We recognize in which markets / subject areas we can develop promising strategies via which content.

Evaluation: when evaluating the options for action, we estimate whether this option for action (alternative action) is

  • a leading position in the competition
  • an equalization with the existing competition
  • a less competitive position

enables.

The big picture: Through the summarized and evaluated options for action, we have an overview of the possibilities in and with social media for the company’s individual situation. This gives us an overall picture of the opportunities and risks for success in social media. Read the section at the end of this learning unit.

Topics

Summary and evaluation of the topics

Basics

Objective of the evaluation: The evaluation of the competitive situation of the subject areas serves to identify and set the focal points in the strategy development that ensure the benefit of the strategy for the company. We focus primarily on the topics themselves as well as on the impact we can achieve through usage formats, user benefits, motivation and participation in the respective topic area. The criterion for evaluating this impact is the effect on the market and competition. Of course, we can adjust the specific criteria to an individual situation. Basically, I distinguish in the evaluation whether a change in the market and competitive position is possible through the respective approach. The matching criteria are outlined above (leading position, equal position, less competitive position).

The result of the evaluation is an overview of the subject areas with

  • the corresponding priorities of the subject areas which tells us what importance each subject area has for our company.
  • the social media affinity of the topics – from which we can see how far we can influence these topics via social media.
  • the assessment that we can be sustainably successful with our intended content in the individual market and competition-relevant strategy components in the respective topic/topic area.

Use of the results: The results of the evaluation of the topic areas are an important basis for the definition of the strategy and also flow into the evaluation of usage formats, user benefits, motivation and participation. Above all, we recognize whether we can be successful with the best possible options for action in the individual subject areas from our point of view.

From this we can see whether

  • our options for action are promising or whether we need to make improvements.
  • we see an opportunity for leadership in social media in crucial topics and subject areas.

These findings have implications for our strategy definition, both in terms of the focus of topics and themes and the content of the strategy.

Application Evaluation: We evaluate the topics based on their importance / priority for the company, their social media affinity and their competitive situation. We evaluate the competitive situation on the basis of the possibility of achieving a sustainably successful competitive position in the respective subject area. To assess this opportunity, we use the competitive situation in the areas of usage formats, user benefits, motivation, and participation.

Usage formats

We examine which usage formats are possible in the respective subject area and to what extent they can contribute to our market and competitive situation. We evaluate the possible, meaningful as well as the already used usage formats. The criterion for evaluation is the competitive position enabled by the respective usage formats – i.e., a leading, an equal or a less competitive position in the competition.

In addition to the market and competitive impact, the resource requirements are also fundamentally relevant for evaluating the usage format.

Note Criterion Resource Requirements: Some social media usage formats appear simple. It’s not really complicated to launch a Facebook Page or create an account on Instagram. However, it is significantly more challenging with an audience in these platforms to become a leader in one or more topic areas. To date, many companies are not really geared up for media competition of a global nature. For many companies, it sounds much more challenging to create their own community than to install an audience. In practice, of course, it is more demanding both technically and conceptually. In addition, the requirements for managing a community differ significantly from those of an audience. If we take the resource requirements of a usage format as a decisive criterion for the choice of the usage format and decide for the “simpler variant”, we may decide to want to win the next Tour de France as a lone fighter with the simple usage format of an aged Dutch bicycle.

The following are some examples of usage format evaluation:

  • Example Audience 1: If, for example, the Audience usage format is the only one that makes sense and all competitors use this usage format more or less competently, we will hardly achieve a leading position in the topic area – purely on the basis of the usage format. For this to happen, the other competitors would have to show significant weaknesses in the use of Audience.
  • Example Audience 2If both an audience and a community are equally suitable and the community usage format is not used by the competition, it is possible to achieve both a significant improvement in the market and competitive position and the leading position in the market and competition (if the community usage format was not used) due to the higher performance potential of the community usage format, always provided that the community can be implemented competently.
  • Example communityIf the community usage format is not only possible in one topic area but also successfully used by several providers, the number of successfully established communities makes it increasingly unlikely that we will be able to achieve a sustainable improvement in our own market and competitive position with another community in the same topic area solely on the basis of the usage format. For this to happen, the established communities would have to show sustained weaknesses.

Based on these examples, you can see a problem that is becoming more common as more companies use social media with the appropriate expertise: the good positions are filled sooner or later. This does not only apply to usage formats, but it has a particularly clear effect there – especially in the case of communities. In such situations it becomes even more important to solve this problem with one’s own strategy – as good as the concrete situation allows. For example, by adjusting the focus of our strategy accordingly.

User benefit

The UserBenefit defines what advantage or benefit our social media strategy offers to social media users, i.e., why they should choose to pay attention to us and, if possible, engage with us. In a figurative sense, the UserBenefit is roughly the benefit that decides which rod the fish will bite on.

We therefore check which user benefits are particularly attractive in a specific subject area. And always keep in mind that the user benefit must please the user, not us. The more a user benefit corresponds to the interests of the user, the higher the attractiveness for the user. This applies not only to the attractiveness of the user benefits, but ultimately also to the attractiveness of our social media strategy.

strategic deficit insufficient user knowledge
This realization occasionally leads us to another unpleasant realization when implementing them – we usually know our users less well than we think we do. This deficit has strategic importance because it has a negative impact on the quality and attractiveness of our strategy. Draw on the know-how of other departments – especially marketing and sales – to obtain the broadest possible information base. The use of personas can also be interesting in this context, as long as it reflects the breadth of the targeted user base and provides reliable content about their interests.

The social component of a user benefit is a real phenomenon in terms of its leverage. We know the effect as a network effect. Explanation: if a benefit grows with the number of those who use it, we speak of a network effect. If we have a user benefit with a network effect, this is more or less the turbo for our success. Therefore, it makes sense to pay attention to this effect when analyzing possible user benefits. If a competitor is already taking advantage of this opportunity, you would certainly know about it. In the search for a user benefit, it is occasionally helpful to think a step further – sometimes even around the corner. Below is some food for thought on this:

  • UserBenefit Status: imagine you have social media users with a high interest in status in a particular topic area. Then you could combine this status with the duration of use of their social media offering. The longer the user is active, the higher his status. Or they combine the status with certain services. The more users the user generates, the higher his status. Or the more users a user supports, the more his status grows. You can develop sophisticated algorithms that define this status. However, you should also make sure that the status is presented in a correspondingly attractive manner. In a community you have the possibility that users can award other users, which in turn contributes to the activity. But also in an audience there are basically attractive approaches to highlight users for their activity.
  • UserBenefits Self-actualization: Status is nice, self-actualization is even higher in Maslov’s pyramid. If you can support users in their self-actualization, you will generate particularly active and lasting supporters. Communities are per se communities that pursue a common purpose. Thus, we contribute to a possible self-realization per usage format. If we enable the user to do more than just participate, but also to help design, for example, the user benefit from our community rises sharply. It then becomes more attractive as a community that allows its users a narrow corridor of participation. You can see from this example how closely user benefit can be linked to usage format. And how you can set your own accents by combining several factors – in this case user benefit and usage format in a possibly difficult competitive situation (several communities). By the way, this is also possible in an audience, as long as the company is willing to allow users to participate and possibly also help shape the process. Unfortunately, this is rather not the normal case. Many companies prefer to participate in the race for attention with a tractor alone, when they have to consider passengers and passengers with a sports car.

As with all other strategy components, user benefits should be as sustainable as possible. Sustainable in several dimensions:

  • we must be able to secure the user benefit in the long term.
  • we need to be able to customize the UserBenefit.
  • Competitive advantages from user benefits should not be able to be offset by competitors in the short term.
  • dependence on third parties for user benefits is a disadvantage. This also relates to the dependence on external social media channels and their performance potential. Imagine a social media success that is important to the company is based on a user benefit that no longer works due to the customization of that platform. The problem arising from this would not be due to force majeure but rather to negligence in strategy development or evaluation.

Multiple UserBenefits: happy who has the one UserBenefit that is of resounding success in all relevant subject areas. However, if we are dealing with heterogeneous topics and users, we may be forced to use more than one UserBenefit. This not only adds to the complexity of our strategy, but in this case also significantly increases the chance of success. However, we must be able to realize two or more user benefits permanently. This places demands not only on the channels used but also on social media management. Some user benefits arise when corresponding functions are available. Others need attention and care in their daily work. Remember that even the best features lose their uniqueness and attractiveness over time. By the way, an important user benefit is also appreciation. Of course, users also want to experience this on a permanent basis, which means that social media management has to live up to it.

Motivation

Basics

We check which types and methods of motivation are basically useful for our subject areas. Motivation can be spontaneous, one-time, individual or permanent, automatic or system-based. Motivation encompasses an enormous range, from spontaneous and individual recognition to complex, data-based systems on autopilot, with equally diverse effects. We’re looking at those options first without considering the social media channels that we’re likely to use.

Does it make sense to think about motivation if we have assumed so far that we will rather use only the classic external social media platforms that allow motivation only to a micromale extent? Absolutely, because only then do we know what benefits would be possible for the company in a different constellation. Decisions about which platforms to use and how to use them should only ever be made with an understanding of the implications of those decisions. Due to its importance, this is also a decision that affects the entire social media strategy of the company and is therefore a decision of the company’s management. Understand the recommendation for various strategy alternatives from this perspective as well.

Realization

Procedure: We record the basic meaningful motivation options and systems, as well as the motivation options that are already used in the respective subject areas.

  • In the motivation possibilities, which are established in the market, a standard is shown, which we must fulfill, in order to be able to be on the height of the competition.
  • In the motivation possibilities, which are meaningful and not established in the market, the chances are found to be able to pull past the competition.

So we use the existing competitive situation and the generally reasonable possibilities of motivation to assess whether this element of our social media strategy can help to improve our market and competitive situation or to achieve the leading market and competitive position in this topic area. The criteria for evaluation are therefore generally the same as for the evaluation of the usage formats, for example.

Participation

We examine which participation offerings make sense in principle for our subject areas. We’re looking at those options first without considering the social media channels that we’re likely to use.

The working steps:

  • We define which participation offerings are meaningful and useful for the respective topic areas.
  • We then record which participation opportunities are offered in the individual subject areas in the competition.
  • In the next step, we will examine whether changes can be realized for our market and competitive position via the participation element. The criterion for this is the competitive position that can be achieved with it (leading, equal, less competitive)

The criteria for this are the same – assessing whether an improvement in the market and competitive situation can be brought about from this element in the given situation, whether a leading market and competitive situation can be achieved with the help of this element, or whether the participation element remains without a changing effect on our market and competitive situation.

Example Work Template Overview of competitive quality of action options for different topics.

We present the envisaged options for the individual topics / subject areas individually or in an overview and highlight the competitive quality of the individual options for action in color.

Overview Competitive quality of options for action for several topics / subject areas.

Warning notice

With the overview of the most promising options for action and their competitive quality as well as the corporate benefit that can be realized with them, the impression could arise that the success of the strategy is assured if we implement the respective options for action. That would be nice, but unfortunately it is not. At the very least, we should never disregard the following factors.

  • The courses of action are based on assumptions about their effect in the market – i.e., among social media users – as well as among the competition. If these assumptions are not entirely accurate, it will also affect success.
  • The implementation of the options for action has a clear influence on their success. An ingenious strategy can easily be torpedoed by weak implementation.
  • Competitive behavior does not necessarily follow our wishes and assumptions. Therefore, if a competitor develops a more creative solution / strategy, it will impact the success of our strategy.

Big Pictures – Benefits, Application and Potential

Big Pictures are overviews that give us another, more comprehensive view of the situation. They are thus something like maps with the help of which we can develop social media strategies. Let’s first look at the structure and content of the Big Pictures.

What content do we use for the big picture?

AreaThe area on which we create the Big Picture stands for a business model and indirectly also for its markets.
TowerIn tower form we represent themes / topics. We also understand these topics / subject areas as competitive positions. That is, topics and subject areas are positions in and around which competition takes place. The goal of a strategy is to secure competitive positions.
Topics / Subject areasIn the potential-based strategy model, we use themes and topics to represent both individual segments of markets and business models.
PriorityWe express the priority that the respective topics / subject areas have for the company (and its business model). With this, we weight the topics / subject areas. This is important for the definition of strategies and for their evaluation.
Social media affinityWe express the social media affinity of the respective topics / subject areas. In this way, we express the extent to which a topic can be influenced by social media in terms of content.
Fields of activity / sourcesThese are the fields of the business model on which the topics have an impact, which we can support directly with these topics.
CorporateBenefitsThis is/are the concrete benefit(s) from social media for the company that we can achieve in this topic/topic area.
User benefitThis is the benefit for users from the social media strategy – in this topic area or overall – to be successful in competition.
Usage formatsThis is /are the usage formats of the social media strategy – in this topic area or overall – that we can use to be successful in the competition.
MotivationThese are the motivation methods and structures – in this subject area or overall – that we use to be successful in competition.
ParticipationThese are the bparticipation offers for users from the social media strategy – in this topic area or overall – that we use to be successful in competition.
Contents Big Pictures

Representation of the qualities in Big Pictures of the pbsm

As mentioned, the aim is to show what we have to achieve in social media in the individual segments in order to be successful in competition.

The basis are the topics / themes with which we express parts of the business model and, for example, the markets and customer relationships and value propositions contained therein. I.e. we express in the representation of a Big Picture via colors which competitive position seems possible in these topics / this topic area by which contents.

With a red marking we express that we do not believe to be able to achieve a leading competitive position with this content or in this topic / subject area.
With an orange marking we express that we believe to be able to reach a medium competitive position with this content or in this topic / subject area, i.e. together with other competitors we represent an important leading source.
With a green marking we express that we believe to be able to achieve the leading competitive position with this content or in this topic / subject area.

We apply the color codes to both the topic/theme area and the content of the core strategy components UserBenefit, Usage Formats, Motivation, and Participation.

Big Picture and Strategy Definition

With the help of Big Pictures, we can define approaches to social media strategies and assess the impact of strategy approaches.

Use for definition: we derive what content will give us the best desired impact. In this context, impact stands for the corporate benefit that we can achieve in the respective topics / subject areas as a whole or selectively – according to priority.

Big Pictures for individual criteria

The Big Picture contains a comprehensive overview. This, in turn, can complicate the meaning of the situation for individual criteria, or at least make it uncomfortable. Especially when we are dealing with a very large number of topics / subject areas, it can be helpful to use an image reduced to one or two elements / criteria. Below are a few examples of the wide range of possibilities of focused / reduced Big Pictures.

The advantage of a reduced Big Picture reduces with the number of focused Big Pictures used. Too many reduced Big Pictures could be confusing.

The effect of Big Pictures is interesting for explaining the impact of strategy decisions for management.

CriteriaStatementAdvantage/Benefit
Priority and SMAwe show in this image which topics with a certain priority also have a high social media affinity.
This makes it easier to identify or highlight the topics / subject areas that are of particular importance to the company and where social media is particularly effective.
High priority topics with high social media affinity are the basis of strategies focused on maximum impact, where we focus on the topics where we can make the most impact with social media.
Priority and field of actionWe highlight the parts of the business model that are supported by the highest priority themes. We can tell if a strategy that focuses on the highest priority issues supports the entire business model or just a small slice of it.
Competitive opportunities and issuesWe highlight the topics in which we have the best chances of achieving a leading competitive position. This illustration shows the issues on which a purely competitive strategy would have to focus. In other words, a strategy with which we target the competitive positions that can be achieved in the competitive environment, irrespective of corporate priorities.
UserBenefit and competitionWe show in which topics / subject areas a specific UserBenefit enables leading competitive positions. In this illustration, we can see the extent to which a strategy is supported by specific user benefits. I.e. which competitive positions we can achieve with it and which topics (with high priority) we cannot secure via this UserBenefit.
Examples of focused Big Pictures to illustrate the impact of strategy decisions and to support the derivation of strategy versions.