4.7 Strategy Component Social Media Channels

The section on the strategy component Channels is divided into the areas of

  • Basics: here you will learn the basics of the strategy component and the definition of the content.
  • Application: here you will learn the definition by means of an exemplary procedure (method).
  • Exercises: here you practice the definition on your own example(s). In the coaching package of the online course you will receive feedback, suggestions and criticism on your exercises.

The learning objective of the topic is to

  • Provide channels as part of social media strategy.
  • be able to define the contents of the strategy component from the defined strategy and the contents of other strategy components.

Reading time: approx. 45 minutes

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

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Basics

Definition of the strategy component Channels

Channels in pbsm are social media channels. Most often, the term is used synonymously for the social media channels that the company uses as part of its social media strategy. These can be the company’s own social media channels as well as third-party / external social media channels. In the strategy component Channels, we describe the social media channels and their use based on the requirement for the channels from the social media strategy and the technical-functional implementation of these requirements.

Significance of the Channels strategy component

Strategic importance

The channels of our social media strategy represent our technical and communicative connection into the market and with our target groups. They are the technical basis on which we realize our social media strategy. As a result, they are subject to a wide range of technical and conceptual requirements that we are not solely responsible for when we use external social media channels.

The second strategic importance of the channels of a social media strategy lies in their design. The functions of the channels we use in social media determine our opportunities to act in social media – in that channel.

If we orient our social media strategy to the functions of a single channel, we reduce the performance potential of our strategy to the given functions and exclude other options. This makes our strategy significantly less powerful than a strategy without this limitation.

If we develop a social media strategy that uses multiple channels with different performance quality, we run the risk of developing a fragmented strategy according to these individual performance potentials.

One solution to this dilemma is to avoid using external social media channels in the core functions (user benefits, motivation, participation, corporate benefits) of the strategy. This does not mean a general abandonment of the use of external social media channels, but rather focusing the core functions on the company’s own channels and using external social media channels to disseminate information. Users are addressed via external social media channels and redirected to the company’s own social media channels. However, this approach requires a convincing and convincingly communicated user benefit from our social media strategy.

Example: The simple news about an event may not be sufficiently interesting to make the user click and visit another platform. An additional benefit / advantage from this visit is required. Even with an excellent implementation of this approach, do not expect all users who received the initial information to come to the target platform. This is very unlikely but equally unlikely to be a problem. For many users, specific information is enough. For example, if they do not intend to deepen this content or perceive an offer. The de facto barrier created by this approach separates a general interest from a specific interest or need.

If I hear about an event that might be of general interest to me, this does not mean that I will attend this event. I am possibly pleased that I was informed. If I actually intend to attend this event, I am willing to register for it or purchase a ticket.

The third strategic importance lies in the economic value of having your own social media channel. An active and attractive social media channel can represent an economic value. Economic in the sense of the possibility

  • to distribute content more cost-effectively via it.
  • to generate income with it.
  • to create a marketable value from it.
  • to develop an independent business model from this.

Depending on which economic value we prefer, we develop our social media strategy. What economic values are generally possible depends primarily on the social media affinity of the subject areas and topics and, of course, our ability to generate economic value from them.

If the channels do not meet the requirements of the strategy, problems in the implementation of our social media strategy and negative effects on success are difficult to avoid. However, adapting the social media strategy to the channels is not a valid approach, because it

  • significantly reduces the possibilities and effectiveness of the social media strategy and thus the use of the performance potential of social media.
  • is a source of potential strategic competitive disadvantage.
  • makes the company dependent on external platforms. Depending on the importance of social media for the company, this dependency becomes problematic.

The strategy component channels is therefore strategic in nature because it helps determine the possibilities of a social media strategy.

In order to keep the social media strategy as “open” as possible, it is highly recommended not to give the channels an early, formative role in the strategy development. It makes more sense to focus on the optimal use of social media and then implement it in the channels accordingly (combination / task mix of external channels and complementary own social media channels) than to accept the performance potential of external channels early on as a defining element of one’s own social media strategy. It rarely makes sense to make one’s own strategies and the use of potentials and markets dependent on the – variable – performance of external channels.

Practical significance of channels as a strategy component

For our social media strategy, we can use external social media channels and our own social media channels.

  • External channels offer the advantage that users are already active there – but they do not necessarily perceive or use our offer there. There exists only a basic potential in this platform. We’re a little closer to the market than we are to the Internet or social media as a whole.
  • External platforms offer the disadvantage of predefined and limited functions. We cannot design the offers, motivation and participation according to our requirements. The benefit for the user (user benefit) is thus extremely limited.
  • Our own social media channels offer the advantage that we can tailor them precisely to our needs – and those of our users. This means that we are not restricted by the performance limits of external social media channels in terms of corporate benefits, user benefits or the competitive performance of our strategy.
  • Our own social media channels are secure against changes by external operators, as we are in control of the direction of our channels.
  • Own channels are an investment in which represents its own value. We can design our own channels as independent revenue streams without being constrained by an operator’s interests and terms of use.
  • We can combine our own and external channels to take advantage of both and minimize their disadvantages.
  • We can use the weaknesses of the competition resulting from the channels used in our own social media strategy by designing our social media offering accordingly and offering social media users added value that is easy for them to use via an offering with combined channels.

In the channels we define

  • the social media channels used / to be used (third-party and own)
  • Type of use of social media channels
  • the technical and conceptual requirements for the respective channels
  • the processes of using the individual channels
  • Functions required for use / for processes

This gives us a specification for the architecture of our “channel landscape” and how they interact, and an “instruction manual” for how we can use social media channels for business processes. For day-to-day work, this provides the framework for the technical implementation of content strategies / activities and campaigns.

Suitability of social media channels

Social media channels are developed and operated according to their own business model. In other words, external social media channels must primarily meet the requirements of the company’s own business model and not necessarily reflect the full performance potential of social media. It is therefore unlikely that external social media channels will be able or willing to meet all the requirements of other companies’ social media strategies.

The suitability of a social media channel as part of a company’s own strategy (beyond the channel’s business model) depends not least on the requirements of the strategy for the corresponding external social media channel. The more reduced the requirements for the external social media channel, the more likely these requirements will be met. However, as we reduce the requirements for external social media channels, we also run the risk of using the performance potential of social media only to a very reduced extent.

The criteria for the suitability of social media channels in a strategy are in particular

  • Relevance to the subject areas of the planned social media strategy.
  • Basic suitability of the channel for desired usage formats.
  • Quality of the functions for the desired usage formats.
  • Suitability of the channel for the content of the strategy components UserBenefit, CompanyBenefit, Motivation, Participation, Communication, Reach.
  • Quality of the functions for the content of the strategy components UserBenefit, CorporateBenefit, Motivation, Participation, Communication, Reach.

Definition of the contents of the strategy component Channels

We define the requirements for the social media channels primarily from the requirements of

  • Social media usage formats
  • User benefit
  • CorporateBenefits
  • Motivation
  • Participation

from. From these sources come specific requirements for the performance of our social media channels / social media architecture.

Requirements for the content of the strategy component Channels

The requirements from a social media strategy for the performance of a social media channel are largely dependent on the content of the strategy.

Content requirements result, for example, from

  • Usage formats: the channel must be suitable for one or more desired usage formats. This means that the usage formats must be able to be realized in sufficient quality in the respective channel. The quality is defined by the content and the application of the usage formats.
  • UserBenefit: the user benefit(s) must be realizable in sufficient quality in the social media channels. This means that the content of the strategy component UserBenefit must be implementable without compromising the quality of the UserBenefit, i.e., without reducing the benefit for the user.
  • Motivation: We must be able to apply the desired motivational methods and motivational structures from our strategy.
  • Participation: Opportunities for participation must be feasible in the form envisaged.
  • Company benefits: the company benefits generated by the social media strategy must be transferred seamlessly and economically into the respective company processes.
  • Communication: the communication functions from our strategy, the type of communication and its scope, quality and intensity must be ensured.
  • Reach: We must be able to build reach in a structured way, keep it active, and address it selectively.
  • Target groups: we must be able to address our target groups in the channel. That is, they must use the channel and be addressable.

The strategy component Channels should describe at least the following contents in total:

  • the input / requirements from other strategy components
  • the social media channels used – own and third-party channels
  • the goals to be achieved with the social media channels – overall goal and goals for the individual channels
  • the performance of the social media channels for the company (for the social media strategy)
  • The functions and performance of own social media channels as well as the addition of external social media channels
  • the interaction of social media channels and corporate processes
  • The resources likely to be required for this social media architecture.

Resources

We need resources for the content of the strategy component channels, the scope of which is determined by the content of the strategy component. Resource requirements mostly include

  • Budgets for the development and operation of own social media channels and the development and operation of functions for external social media channels as well as the connection of social media channels and functions to corporate processes.
  • conceptual skills for the design of own social media channels and functions.

Resources for content development are part of the Themes and Content strategy component.

Requirements from the social media strategy for the social media channels

We address the suitability and use of social media channels after defining the requirements from the strategy for the social media channels.

The background to this approach: the social media channels serve to implement the social media strategy. If the strategy is based on the performance potential of social media channels, their performance is completely reduced. If we develop the strategy first, we must then select, combine and complement the channels accordingly in order to implement the – more powerful – strategy in the best possible way. Let’s just remember: channels to the end brings better strategies and requires more expertise in developing channel solutions. Channels to start with brings weaker strategies and easier channel usage. The choice is, as so often, performance or comfort.

Requirements from the subject areas

The social media channels must be suitable for the subject areas. This is an easy content test to clarify.

  • Do our topics receive sufficient attention in these channels?
  • Are our topics being actively worked on and used?
  • Are there enough people interested in these topics in the respective social media channel?

Problem solving: If this is not the case, we should be able to attract users to this channel for these topics or bring users with interest in these topics to this channel.

Requirements from the usage formats

We have a whole range of very different social media usage formats. The requirements of the individual usage format are fundamentally very different from the requirements of other formats. The service structure of the external platform, in turn, is primarily based on its business model. If we take the example of the social network platform Facebook, we find a social network platform for maintaining personal social network, combined with the possibility of maintaining audiences in the form of Pages and leading a kind of community through groups. The possibilities of the audience are severely limited in Facebook – for example, by the limited addressing of users, those of the community are no less limited – for example, in terms of communication functions and especially networking functions for the community.

Companies that use an external platform such as Facebook to operate an audience or community are therefore operating with limited power in an almost limitless competition for attention. The success of our social media strategy is limited – unless we design it differently – by the performance potential of the external platforms at an early stage.

The following are a few key words on the respective requirements of the usage formats

  • the most important requirements from the audience usage format: interest profiles, individual or group-specific addressing of users, active communication in both directions, motivation and participation options.
  • the most important requirements from the community usage format: communication functions for all forms of communication, networking systems, motivation and participation structures.

Experience has shown that no external platform will provide us with all the services we need for our usage formats. Our alternatives are:

  • Reduced quality of the strategy with lower competitiveness, lower user and company benefit
  • supplemented social media channels when using external platforms: we use external platforms as a distribution channel, supplemented by our own channels to ensure user benefit.

The former alternative prevents success, but the latter method is also fraught with problems (users have to leave the platform). This requires a correspondingly attractive user benefit.

Requirements from the UserBenefit strategy component

The UserBenefit is the benefit the user receives from our social media strategy. The user benefit is also shaped by the usage format. This means that certain user benefits require certain usage formats.

This shows the close interaction between usage format and user benefit as well as social media channels. In this interdependence, we need to be clear about priorities.

Example: If our user benefit is based on networking and social interaction, we will choose the community usage format, which in turn places corresponding requirements on the social media channel. If the “social media channel of our heart” is only suitable for the operation of communities to a limited extent, our user benefit will also be effective and successful only to a limited extent at best. The engine of your strategy does not run on 6 cylinders as desired, but on 4 with dropouts. So think carefully about the remaining chances of success with this handicap.

  • If we forego the user benefit, we forego the potential success in social media.
  • If we forego a sufficient implementation of the usage format, we forego a part of the user benefit.

We take the UserBenefit of our strategy / strategy version from the corresponding draft of this strategy component. This again explains why we first define the user benefits – i.e., the benefits created by social media for the user – before we define the use of the social media channels. If we were to specify the social media channels first, this would lead to a limitation of the user benefit and thus to a profound reduction in the attractiveness of the strategy for the users.

Here, too, we are better advised to focus primarily on developing a high-performance and, above all, competitive strategy and then implementing it in the best possible way, rather than developing a strategy that is as easy to implement as possible but lacks performance and competitiveness.

Requirements from the strategy component CorporateBenefits

CorporateBenefit is the concrete benefit that a company can define from its social media strategy. For a corporate benefit to materialize, social media must not only achieve a desired effect, but this effect must – in many cases – also flow into corporate processes. This does not necessarily have to be the case.

  • If the goal of our social media strategy is to achieve a change in knowledge about services or the company, or a change in attitudes toward services, this effect does not necessarily have to result immediately in a corporate process. She can, of course.
  • If the goal of our social media strategy is to build contacts with prospects, these prospects should be directed into an appropriate company process – for example, by forwarding them to sales.

Depending on which corporate benefit a strategy is specifically aiming for, there may well be comprehensive requirements for the integration of the corporate benefit into corporate processes. For example, if we “manually” transition prospects from social media to sales, that may be perfectly practical and perhaps even necessary in a few cases. If we are dealing with hundreds or thousands of prospects every day, this approach would not be particularly economical.

Interfaces between social media platform and enterprise platforms are required for automated transition of users in enterprise processes. In the case of external social media platforms, there are definitely initial approaches for the acquisition of interested parties with their automatic connection, but here the problem usually lies in the details and the interface can be changed by the external platform at any time. Last but not least, we must always be able to meet the requirements of data protection according to European standards on external international platforms – which is not easy.

So we first define the business benefit that our social media strategy should realize, then the social media channels we use to achieve it.

If channels are not at all suitable for a technical connection to corporate processes, but have to be used anyway for other reasons, we are left with little more than a workaround around this problem. In the simplest case, we can try to solve this with linking. Alternatively, incorporating masks or forms into social media is one way.

Requirements from the strategy component Motivation

In most social media platforms, user motivation is based on other users’ likes. This is better than no effect at all. However, the impact on the user is limited unless we focus only on younger social media users. We motivate more comprehensively, for example, by awarding a status to users, through awards and permanently visible recognition. An even higher motivating effect results from participation opportunities. Overall, motivation is still a very underestimated and little systematically used success factor, which is precisely why we should not overlook it in competition.

Depending on the scope of motivation we want to use, this results in corresponding requirements for the performance of the social media channel. If these requirements are not feasible in external channels, we have to decide whether to remove this success factor from our social media strategy – with the corresponding impact on the success of the strategy – or to combine external channels and our own platforms – with the corresponding performance potential and access to the data – when using social media channels. The latter is a more demanding alternative, but one that is more future-proof and has a much higher potential for success.

We take the specific requirements for the strategy component social media channels from the strategy component motivation.

Requirements from the strategy component Participation

Participation opportunities ensure higher engagement among social media users. This allows valuable effects to be achieved for the company. Classic forms of user participation in social media can be found, for example, in customer support / customer loyalty: users make their experiences available to other users and thus supplement / relieve customer service, with high acceptance and authenticity.

The use of user participation is a possible success factor in social media that can not only increase the acceptance of one’s own offering but also strengthen the market impact through the users. The prerequisite here is also technical feasibility. Without sufficient functions, no participation.

This results – in the use of participation by the company – in concrete requirements for the performance potential of the social media channels used. As a rule, the performance potential of external social media platforms offers only extremely limited scope for user participation – especially beyond the classic methods of liking, commenting and sharing.

So for us, the question is once again whether we should forego a success factor because we cannot realize it within the external platforms, or whether we should secure the advantages of user participation as far as possible with an appropriate design.

Requirements from the communication strategy component

Our communication takes place via corresponding communication functions. The performance of the social media channels in our strategy must meet the requirements of the communication functions. If important communication functions are missing or if they can only be used to a limited extent, this is a handicap that has a lasting effect on the success of the communication and thus damages the success of the strategy.

Requirements from the Reach Strategy Component

No social media impact without reach. Building our own reach is hard to avoid if we want to participate in social media in real terms and build relationships with social media users. There are two fundamentally different levels for building reach:

  • The use of external social media platforms / channels: external platforms (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, but also external forums) offer a relatively easy entry point because they come with firmly defined performance potentials and functions. However, therein lies one of their disadvantages. What goes beyond these performance potentials and functions does not take place. Since these external platforms were developed for the business model of their operators, you should not assume that their requirements also match the requirements of your strategy. Another major disadvantage is that we do not have access to the data of “our” users. We have to live with the features and analytics that the platform provides us according to its gusto and goals. This is associated with significant disadvantages both in terms of the legal side (data protection), economic level (value and use of the data) and the success of the social media strategy. Not everything that presents itself as a quick and easy solution is also so in the long run. Another advantage of external social media platforms – the presence of users there – I would only accept to a very limited extent. Of course, there are an extremely large number of users on the important external social media platforms, but that does not mean that these users will also be on their dependency in these platforms. You also need to build your own reach in the large, active and much-used external social media platform. And that means competing for attention in these platforms with their gigantic range of alternatives and competitors.
  • the use of our own social media platforms / channels: In our own social media channels, which may have to be newly established, we must first build up the necessary reach. This may take time. Before we misunderstand this as a knockout criterion, we should remember that we also need to build up and maintain / keep active reach in external social media channels. The main difference could be – emphasis is on could – that it is easier for us to attract users in an active platform for a topic. This may or may not be the case. In return, it is possible for every competitor for the user’s attention to address “our” social media user directly – for example, via their newsfeed – and to direct their attention to themselves. In our own platform, we have access to the data, can meet the legal requirements of data protection as well as secure valuable data for the company. However, we need the technical basis and the competence to operate the channels. The effort for this can be limited – as for example with a simple WordPressblog, or become much more demanding, as for example with an individual community. Whereby there are also cost-effective solutions for the technology for communities of manageable size and activity.

Building reach has quantitative as well as qualitative aspects. We must be able to meet both requirements in the channels we choose and use. This means that we have to find enough users in the respective channel to build up a sufficient reach, and that we have to be able to find the right users – with the relevant interests – in this channel. Reach in itself is only really important if it is a relevant, active reach. Everything else is little more than a collection of more or less worthless deadbeats.

This brings us to the general requirement for the ability to maintain – that is, actively maintain – reach. This requirement is a matter of course, which unfortunately is not always easy to realize.

Requirements of active ranges

To ensure that a reach, once achieved, remains active, the following conditions are crucial.

  • User interest and user benefit of this reach must fit. This means that the user permanently receives the benefit that he has desired. For this to be the case, we also need to build our reach with the user benefits we want to deliver on an ongoing basis. And we should be careful not to limit, soften or fundamentally change this user benefit later. If the user no longer receives the desired benefit, he is gone or will not return. This sounds very understandable and self-evident, but in practice it is not always so easy to follow through. Example: if we have gained users through a very specific topic and this topic is only occasionally performed, the UserBenefit only accrues occasionally. And that is quickly fatal to the appeal of this benefit.
  • Addressability of users: if our user benefit has a certain bandwidth or is even surrounded by several other benefits that we also have to perform in the same range, individual addressability is a necessity to be able to actively maintain a range. If it is not possible to address every user with their UserBenefit, the clock is ticking against reach activity. Here again, the dilemma of external platforms becomes apparent. We can build ranges quite quickly, but maintaining them is much more difficult and requires significantly more effort. Last but not least, the “cheap” external reach is more expensive for us in the long run than the reach on our own platform, where we do not have to deal with permanent restrictions.

That user benefits must be provided with sufficient frequency and to a sufficient extent is also a matter of course, the consequences of which, however, are still occasionally underestimated. Companies are finding themselves more quickly in a media environment and in unfamiliar competition with media-savvy companies, which requires some effort, creativity and sustained effort to survive.

Active reach is – depending on the usage format – of different nature with very different requirements.

  • Active reach in an audience: we must provide user value via content. Depending on the topic, we find ourselves competing with media companies, other industries, and even users as content providers. This competition also poses a very clear challenge to media companies. The extent to which a company with no previous affinity for the media succeeds in surviving this competition in the long term depends not least on how quickly the company succeeds in building up the relevant competencies. Audience and UserBenefit through content are subject to very strong competition for attention, which is not only limited by the content boundaries of the topic or subject area. The user’s time is limited. The first level of competition is that between subject areas. The next is that of topics, and only then comes the competition between content providers for that topic. In this competitive situation, we should also bear in mind that we are not only competing on a quantitative basis with our content, but also on a qualitative basis. Quantities of content alone, are not always sufficient, especially if the quality and relevance weakens. The less we are able to address users individually with the corresponding benefit via content, the more we often tend to want to compensate for this deficit through quantity.
  • Active reach in a community: active users create active users. Our task is to ensure the benefit of a community – as the user benefit of our social media offering – via functions and community management. We need the necessary functions – which must be kept up to date – but also an active community management that ensures that users are networked and actively participate in the community. Keywords: participation opportunities, networking, motivational structures. Deficits in active networking , communication, motivational structures and user participation opportunities lead to inactivity. Competent community management ensures and monitors the performance quality of the community. Unfortunately, this competence is not automatically part of social media competence. As a rule, our community managers are only trained in audience management, which is fundamentally different from community management.

Requirements for social media channels from the strategy component target groups

Of course, the target groups we want to address should also be reachable in the social media channels of our strategy. This requirement is easily met if the topics are present in the selected social media channels. If this is not the case, the topics should at least be relevant for these channels.

Conflicts of the strategy component social media channels with requirements from other strategy components.

When we talk here about conflicts between the strategy component of social media channels and the requirements of the core strategy components (user benefits, usage formats, motivation, participation) as well as the strategy component of corporate benefits, we are mainly talking about conflicts resulting from the performance potential of external social media channels.

We can shape the performance potential of our own social media channels, but we have no comparable influence on the performance potential of external social media channels. If we could completely dispense with external social media channels, this conflict would be largely resolved or avoided. Unfortunately, this is not to be expected.

Examples of conflict situations

The following are examples of conflicts that can arise from the requirements of the core strategy components and the range of services offered by external social media channels.

Requirements from the usage format

Here, the usage format places demands on the performance capacity of the strategy’s social media channels that are not met by the external social media channels. These can be, for example:

  • Audience: building interest profiles for the users of the audience (audience reach)
  • Audience: Selection and targeting of users in the reach according to their interests and preferences.
  • Audience: findability of content by users (high-value search function)
  • Audience: Functions to ensure that the audience’s content is perceived by users (e.g., priorities for audiences so that content is not lost in the general communication).
  • Audience: functions to ensure that the content is perceived by the company
  • Audience: functions to motivate users (status for activities and engagement)
  • Community: Creation of interest profiles for users as a basis for networking, activation and distribution of content.
  • Community: Functions for automatic networking of users by operators.
  • Community: Functions for individual networking among users
  • Community: functions for addressing inactive users or users who become inactive
  • Community: functions for motivation / motivational structures
Requirements from the UserBenefit

Here, the user benefits place demands on the performance of the strategy’s social media channels that are not met by the external social media channels. These can be, for example, specific functions for the creation of user benefits.

The user benefit has an intensive correlation with the usage format. That is, certain user benefits often require certain usage formats. For the sake of simplicity and easier distinction, we understand the UserBenefit as an individual benefit for which the usage format provides the appropriate framework that fundamentally enables the UserBenefit.

Requirements from the strategy component Motivation

Requirements from the strategy component motivation can, for example, include not only the type of motivation but also the selection of motivation methods (e.g., based on user profiles) as well as the use of motivation structures, such as status systems or other incentives as well as functions of automatic or individual motivation and recognition both by the operator and by other users.

Requirements from the strategy component Participation

The participation component of the strategy can result in more extensive requirements for user participation options that go well beyond the “classics” of liking, commenting and sharing.

Especially for communities or usage formats with an integrated community, functional requirements for user participation quickly arise that can be inadequately or not at all covered in external social media channels.

In Audiences, requirements for more extensive user participation options result, for example, from participation in the form of creating or curating content.

Use of external social media channels

Companies have various reasons or arguments why they use or want to continue using external social media channels. Here are some examples

  • We have already built up a high reach in external social media channels, which we do not want to do without.
  • We have to use certain external social media channels because that’s where the target audiences are that we want to address.
  • We have to be active in these external channels, otherwise we would leave these users / markets to the competition.
  • We don’t have the know how or resources to run our own social media channels.

Evaluation of conflicts between the strategy component social media channels and core strategy components / corporate benefits**.

The evaluation and resolution of conflicts from requirements and performance capabilities of social media channels should be based on the priority of the respective strategy component. That is, we should be clear about which position is higher value (for strategy and success in social media).

Here are a few reminders for classification

  • the social media channels convey the strategy and must reflect its performance via the corresponding functions.
  • the UserBenefit is the prerequisite for the attention and participation of the users – i.e. for the fact that we can build up and maintain a reach at all.
  • The usage formats are the conceptual-organizational framework of our social media strategy in which the function required by the usage format must be given.
  • motivation contributes to user activity and retention. It is therefore a lever with which we can influence the success of the strategy.
  • participation taps into social media resources and has a decisive influence on the scope / degree of success of the strategy. No success without user participation. The higher the user participation, the higher the success. The more sophisticated the user participation, the stronger the competitive performance of the strategy.

The core argument for prioritizing social media channels for conflict is their necessity to get the social media strategy to the user. This core argument is irrefutable but also relative. We need social media channels as an indispensable means of transport, but transporting strategies with low competitiveness and minimal business value quickly becomes a “hot air number” in a digital environment and especially in social media. In other words – we transport strategies that can be less successful.

When there is a conflict between the requirements of social media channels and the performance of indispensable external social media channels, we are faced with the following alternatives

  • we neuter our strategy to the extent that external social media channels allow and forego the performance potential of social media that goes beyond this and the associated benefits for the company (corporate benefits). In doing so, we devalue the strategy and the corporate benefit from social media.
  • we divide the requirements for the social media channels into tasks that can be performed satisfactorily by the external social media channels and tasks that must be performed outside the external social media channels – i.e. in our own channels. This requires appropriate skills and resources, but ensures both the built-up reach and the quality and benefits of the strategy, such as access to users.
  • we focus on our own social media channels and use external social media channels only as feeders – via indicative posts and advertising. Everything essential takes place in the company’s own channels. This ensures market access and competitive quality, but requires the ability to build reach outside of external social media channels. Whereby we also have to build up reach in external social media channels and keep them active, i.e. we have to have the corresponding resources and competencies.

The impact of reducing the core strategy components on the success of the strategy can not only be formulated in general terms, they can also be presented more concretely in terms of their impact on competitiveness and the success of the strategy in line with the presentation of the social media options for action (see section Application Conflict Assessment).

Usage of the strategy component Channels

Content of the strategy component Channels

In the strategy component Channels, we define

  • which social media channels we use.
  • how these social media channels should be used.

The strategy component Channels must cover at least the following contents:

  • Description of the social media channels used and their performance profile for the strategy.
  • Measures to build the channels and use them.
  • Goals for the social media channels used and the KPIs to measure them.
  • Identifiable resource requirements for setting up and operating the channels
  • critical interactions with other strategy components and problem solutions
  • Assumptions and assumptions underlying the use of these social media channels.

The strategy component Channels describes the channels that connect us and our strategy with social media users. The importance of the channels for the success of the strategy is thus high. It is, in effect, the bridge into the market, which can quickly become a bottleneck or a danger point if it does not meet the requirements (of the strategy). Therefore, when defining the content of the strategy component and the social media channels used, it is advisable to be aware of the requirements from the strategy for the social media channels. Therefore, we still pay some attention to this point.

Goals of the strategy component

The strategy component describes the structure and use of the strategy’s social media channels. The objectives of the strategy component thus concern structures and use of social media channels. We thus have structural goals (for the structure and design of the strategy’s social media channels) and goals for the use of the channels.

The strategy component describes the structure and use of the strategy’s social media channels. The objectives of the strategy component thus concern structures and use of social media channels. We have with it

  • structural goal (for the structure and design of the strategy’s social media channels): Goals that describe the structures and performance potential – especially of the channels’ functions. So here we describe the individual social media channels according to their performance potential, structures, usage formats and functions.
  • Goals for the use of the channels: Goals that describe the outcome that should result from the use of the respective channels. Here we describe the results we want to achieve in the individual social media channels with the respective measures.

Work steps for defining the contents

The social media channels in our strategy are determined – in addition to the topics and target groups – in particular by the usage formats we want to apply within these channels. For your own channels, the consequence is simple: a social media channel for an audience looks structurally different from a social media channel for a community. If we use our own social media channels, we can design these channels according to the requirements of the usage format. If we use external social media channels, the usage format we want to use results in a slightly different perspective. The question in this case is:

“Is the channel sufficiently suitable for this usage format, or can we just use this channel as a feeder for a more appropriate social media channel?”

If we use a social media channel for a usage format for which this channel is only suitable to a very limited extent, we should not expect more than a very limited effect.  

The solution – to use a less suitable social media channel “only” as a feeder for a suitable channel is not perfect. The alternative, besides disfunctional use, is to do without this channel altogether, which companies and social media management are not always willing to do. However, the alternative of foregoing a usage format because a desired social media channel cannot provide that usage format is even less satisfying.

Performance potential and structures

When we define the performance potential and structures of the social media channels, we use this to draw up a specification or at least a requirements catalog for the development of the respective social media channel or the criteria for the suitability of external social media channels. We define thereby

  • the performance of the channel for the desired usage format(s)
  • The functions required for the usage formats
  • the communication and relationship structures between companies and users as well as between users,
  • the realization of the requirements of user benefit, company benefit, motivation and participation
  • the requirements from the management of the channel and the usage format including the measurement of the goals / KPIs

Measures and results

Parallel to the definition of the social media channels, we define the measures that we want to implement in the respective social media channels and the goals that are to be realized with them. Of course, we are not talking about every single measure, we are describing the types of measures and the most important measures we want to use to realize desired goals.

So, in practical terms, we first note the type of goals we want to achieve and, in addition to the type of actions we want to take to achieve those goals, we note their most important individual actions.

Example Audience: If we use an audience to generate leads for certain services of the company, we note the goal (leads for service XY) and the measure (content on the topic AB) that we use to address the need that underlies our service.

Example Community: If we use a community to generate leads for certain services of the company via recommendations, we note the goal (leads from recommendations) and the measures with which we want to generate and use the recommendations that should lead to leads.

Requirements and sources

We don’t just have requirements of other strategy components for social media channel performance. These strategy components are – by their requirements – also sources that we have to take into account in our channels. This means that along with the requirements, we also receive information on the measures / content required for this or the content that we must implement in the social media channels.

We use this not only to make our work easier but also as a test. If the strategy components with requirements for the channels do not contain any concrete measures from which we can infer the requirements for the performance of the channels, we have developed this strategy component somewhat too superficially.

In addition, we recognize why we first develop the content of the other strategy components before we determine the content of the channels strategy component. It is not very convincing to first define a channel before we have determined what is to be achieved with this channel and how.

Resource requirements

Resource requirements for social media channels depend primarily on whether we need to build and maintain our own channels, whether we use external social media channels exclusively, or whether we work with a combination of both alternatives.

Within the resource requirements we distinguish the

  • technical-conceptual need for resources to build and operate a channel. This is primarily the development of software, development of the offer of the usage format and its range of functions, the design of processes and the design and usability of the channel.
  • Need for resources to manage the channel and the usage formats within it.
  • Need for resources to build outreach and maintain it. We need to build reach in both external and our own channels. It is assumed that building reach and maintaining it is easier on external social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram because users are already active there, but this assumption assumes, among other things, that these users are also interested in another channel on another topic. At the same time, competition for attention is particularly high where the offer is especially large and diverse.

When considering the need for resources, be sure to consider the competency for each usage format. Both in the development and design of channels and offerings for specific usage formats, competence for one usage format does not automatically make one competent for other usage formats. Acting here with insufficient competence leads to unsuccessful solutions.

Resources should be available in a timely manner and be permanently deployable. This is a truism that is unfortunately nevertheless ignored time and again. This aspect – the timely availability of resources – also includes competence for the usage formats in the strategy development phase.

A social media strategy is very likely to turn out differently if the person responsible for the social media competency only has experience with one usage format. By this I do not mean that this person tends to use only the usage format in which he is saddle-fast, although this cannot be ruled out. Above all, the competence for the usage format is important to be able to design the practical application.

Assumptions

As usual, we also record the assumptions on which the content of the social media channels strategy component is based so that we can verify these assumptions as early as possible.

One of the sources of assumptions is the application of usage formats. We can’t really be sure that our set of features will meet the needs of our users if we don’t test this set intensively. This requires a market testing effort in terms of time and resources that cannot always be realized although it is highly recommended.

Another source of assumptions lies in the behavior of the external platforms we use. We launch our social media activities in external platforms based on a status quo that is not guaranteed to us. Social media platform operators operate on the basis and according to the objectives of their own business models. Changes in the scope of services they offer to businesses are more likely than not. So consider maintaining the status quo of external social media platforms’ scope of services for your company as an unsecured assumption.

Requirements

In addition to the resources and their permanent availability for setting up, operating and managing social media channels, maintaining the performance potential of external platforms in particular is a prerequisite for the implementation and success of their strategy. Note the functions that must be given in order for the social media offer / usage format built in an external channel to be successful. This includes functions that create user benefits as well as functions that are needed for motivation or participation and, last but not least, for the implementation of corporate benefits. Even if the maintenance of functions in external platforms cannot be ensured by the companies using them, it is helpful, especially in the event of changes in the platforms, to know which functions are required so that a usage format or a social media channel can continue to be operated in a meaningful way.

Risks from the strategy component social media channels

The core risk of this strategy component lies in the performance profile of the social media channels.

  • If we use channels whose performance profile does not meet the requirements of the strategy, our strategy will suffer from this deficit in the long term.
  • If we base our strategy on the performance profile of external social media channels, we will hardly be able to use the full performance potential that is otherwise available to us and will hardly be able to stand out from the competition.

Our challenge is to harness the performance potential of social media as fully as possible for our strategy and our company, and to compensate for the shortcomings of indispensable external channels elsewhere.

The second risk is lack of competence for the usage formats used in the channels. Social media managers with a successful background from Audiences are no guarantee for the successful management of communities. The same applies to the design and development of functions and offerings within the usage formats. And, of course, in both directions.

The risk from a lack of experience and competence for certain usage formats is clearly underestimated. Make sure that the competence for the usage formats of your strategy is available and does not need to be developed. The latter would be a risk that must be avoided and is also avoidable.

Social media channels and requirements – conflict assessment

From the Options for Action module, we know the Big Picture that represents the options for action and their estimated competitive performance.

For the evaluation of the conflict from the requirements of the core strategy components, we use a similar approach for the presentation of the consequences and to present this conflict in its evaluation holistically and to facilitate a decision that enables a competitive strategy that can significantly contribute to the company’s success. The following is an example of a subject area. You can create an overall overview for the entire strategy from the overviews of the individual topics / subject areas.

Explanations: We contrast the individual requirements of each core strategy component with the maximum content that can be delivered by the external social media channel. This highlights the deviation from the content of the strategy.

What else we can see from this picture:

  • We do not see a leading position for a topic area in which we cannot achieve a leading position with the external social media channel, although this would be possible due to the content of the strategy components. The price for sticking to the external social media channel (as the decisive channel) would thus be the risk of failing with the strategy in this topic area. This failure would mean foregoing the corporate benefits that we could achieve in this area for the modules of the business model.
  • we see – still for one topic area – how high the risk of failure of the strategy is in this topic area.
  • if we transfer this representation to all subject areas, we can define which corporate benefit from social media for the business model is at risk or eliminated because the performance of the external social media channel prevents a more competitive strategy.
Notes on risk assessment

User benefit

  • inferior UserBenefits we cannot compensate with content from other strategy components.
  • equivalent competitive positions in user benefits lead to more intense competition in all strategy components and competition via the masses.
  • leading competitive positions allow – depending on sustainability – a short- or medium-term or even permanent competitive advantage through the strategy in social media that makes it likely that we will secure the possible corporate benefit through social media via success in this topic area.

Conclusion: Weaknesses in user benefits cannot be compensated. If it is no longer possible to achieve a leading competitive position on the basis of user benefits, i.e., if we can only achieve an equivalent position, we must be correspondingly more competitive on the basis of the other strategy components in order to be successful with our strategy as a whole.

Usage formats

  • We cannot compensate for less powerful usage formats with content from other strategy components. This puts us at a structural competitive disadvantage that cannot be offset by other strategy components. In order to become more competitive in social media, we would have to change the usage format. This can correspond to a reboot, because we cannot assume that “our” users will migrate to the new usage format.
  • equivalent usage formats are a prerequisite for us to be able to compete with performance or attention competitors. We have to ensure the success of our strategy with equivalent usage formats via the other core strategy components.
  • leading competitive positions based on the usage format secure us at least temporary competitive advantages – until competitors can use the same usage formats correspondingly successfully. Then the competition is increasingly decided by the quality of the implementation of the usage formats and the content of the other core strategy components.

Motivation

  • inferior positions prevent the possible effect of motivation on the success of the strategy (for individual topics and the whole strategy).

Participation

  • Participation: inferior positions reduce or limit the impact of participation and, via the lack of success in social media, correspondingly the corporate benefit for the business model and corporate goals.

Summary: Actually, when it comes to the content of our social media strategy, we should not have a core strategy component in which we cannot achieve a leading competitive position. Each core strategy component with which we deviate from this line reduces the probability of success and the possible scope of success. By using external social media channels, we are foregoing the success of our social media strategy when performance is inadequate for our strategy.

Final trade-off: Ultimately, we must weigh the risk from using one or more underperforming external social media channels against the risk from building our own high-performing social media channels.

If we can act with a user benefit that is so highly attractive to users that we can generate the corresponding attention and reach and keep this high and scale it through motivation and participation, the risk from building our own high-performance social media channels is more justifiable than a strategy that is reduced in its effect.

Effects of representation – “risks and side effects”: If we present in this or a similar form what effects on corporate benefits can be expected from insufficiently powerful external social media channels, the question may naturally arise as to why these external social media channels are then used so intensively by companies. Or the question of why one then used these channels in the first place and built up reach there. Both questions can be answered with the level of knowledge in the development of strategies and the respective social media competence and last but not least also the adherence to more or less effective or useful ranges. For many companies, the purely communicative benefits from their presence have so far been sufficient, not least because they have not addressed the broader use of social media performance potential for the entire business model. As long as social media is understood and used in these companies as a supplement to marketing communication, the companies that can use social media more comprehensively for themselves will have an advantage.

Interactions of the strategy component social media channels

Interactions in a social media strategy are not limited to interactions between two strategy components. A content of a strategy component can affect several strategy components. Here we consider the interactions between two strategy components. To identify the impact of a content on multiple strategy components, we examine all individual strategy components.

In this section, we basically describe possible interactions between two strategy components. In practice, further interactions may be added in individual cases. They use the basically possible interactions for their orientation and check the interactions of a concrete content on it

  • to what extent these general interactions apply to this specific case.
  • whether further interactions with other strategy components are discernible.
  • how many other strategy components as a whole are influenced by the content of this strategy component.
General interactions between the strategy component channels and other strategy components
  • Usage formats and channels: The individual usage formats have specific technical and conceptual requirements for social media channels. This interaction has a direct impact on the possibility of using certain usage formats or the way certain social media channels are used.
  • Reach and channels: The relevant reach possible in the individual channels and the possibilities of achieving a certain reach in a particular social media channel and keeping it up-to-date are typical interactions of channels and reaches.
  • Target groups and channels: The presence of specific target groups in specific channels are the basis of this typical interaction.
  • Communication and channels: The ability to use certain forms of communication in certain channels is a typical interaction between communication and channels.
  • Content and topics must be transported to their recipients. The channels used for this purpose can have an impact on the content itself and its success via their suitability. Suitability includes the technical-conceptual suitability – for example, the use of different media formats – and the suitability from the target group use of the channels. If a technically desired channel has only low usage by the target groups to be addressed, this significantly reduces the suitability of the channel.
  • UserBenefit and channels: UserBenefit also requires a technical and conceptual basis and therefore social media channels that meet the requirements of this basis. Thus, the suitability of a specific social media channel affects the possibility of a specific user benefit.
  • Motivation and channels: Here we find the frequent interaction between the requirements from the use of motivation – structures and content – with the performance potential of social media channels that lead to the question of which strategy component we give the defining priority. Do we adapt our use of social media channels to the requirements of the strategy or do we limit the performance of our strategy according to the capabilities of individual social media channels.
  • Participation and channels: In short, the same interaction applies here as with motivation, with the additional effect that with participation we can also tap and use social media resources and thus create a particularly valuable competitive advantage.
  • Competition and channels: With their performance potential, the social media channels we use for our strategy have a direct impact on the competitiveness of our strategy. If all competitors use identical social media channels, this level of competitiveness evens out; if individual competitors are able to use more powerful channels, this creates competitive advantages. So we have an interaction between channel performance and strategy competitiveness and our competitive situation/position.
  • Resources and channels: The interaction between resources and channels includes both the classic resources for using a specific existing social media channel or providing a new one, as well as the ability to use specific social media resources via a social media channel.