Know and use social media usage formats

  • Reading tim: ca. 10 minutes
  • Benefit: Basic competence in social media management, basic competence in social media strategy

Knowledge of usage formats as part of social media competence

Social Media usage formats

Being able to differentiate between usage formats and knowing their strengths and weaknesses is a basic skill in social media. Without this knowledge, it is questionable whether social media can be properly and competently designed and used. It is highly doubtful that a well-founded social media strategy can be developed without this basic knowledge.

To determine whether this basic competence is available, it is sufficient to ask about the usage formats in the major social media platforms and their strengths and weaknesses in comparison. The answers to these questions can be used to assess the required knowledge of this key topic and social media competence.

Social media managers and those responsible for social media should definitely be able to name their characteristics and use them accordingly both in strategy development and in day-to-day business. Unfortunately, it is still often the case that audiences are confused with communities. This has a negative effect on the success and benefits of social media for the respective companies.

Deficits in this area should be corrected promptly.

What are usage formats in social media?

In order for social media to be of benefit to companies, it is essential to know the performance potential of social media for companies. Without this knowledge, it is unlikely that the use of social media will unlock the benefits that social media can offer the company.

We use social media in different forms, each with different performance potential. In the potential-based strategy model, we refer to these different forms of social media use as social media usage formats.

Depending on which benefits the company wants to derive from social media and which formats it uses for this purpose, this results in different requirements for the content and structures of a social media strategy. This decision therefore significantly determines the performance potential and competitive quality of the strategy.

Key learning: Social media usage formats are classified forms of social media usage that clearly show the performance potential and resource requirements for the respective form of usage.

Social media usage formats

The use of social media requires the company to participate in social media as part of social media and in accordance with the requirements of social media. This is done through the company’s social media presence – either on its own social media platforms or on external social media platforms (such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc.)

Social media usage formats are thus classified forms of social media usage that clearly show the performance and resource requirements for this form of usage and consist of

  • social network
  • audience
  • community

Usage formats can be used in pure form or in the form of combined approaches. An audience can therefore contain elements of communities, and a community can also contain elements of an audience. The individual type of social media usage and usage formats is determined by the goals that the company wants to achieve with social media and the performance potential required for this.

Importance of social media usage formats for strategy development

The strategic importance of social media usage formats

Classification makes it easier to develop social media strategies. The usage formats make it easier to develop social media strategies that are better aligned with market conditions and competition. The market impact of your own social media offerings and those of your competitors can be captured more quickly and accurately.

Social media usage formats are therefore a very practical tool that makes it easier to develop more powerful and competitive social media offerings and to generate competition advantages through social media. Working with this tool increases your own professional competence and the quality of your social media offerings.

If we work with unclear definitions, the content of our strategy is not based on a solid foundation.

Example of typical strategic mistakes

We would like to use the advantages of a community in our social media strategy, but we are working with topics that are not suitable for a community. We will therefore not realize the advantages of a community and are working with a strategy that cannot work.

We would like to use the advantages of a community, but are working with the infrastructure and methodology of an audience. Even if the topics are suitable for a community, a community will not be created in this way.

We use an audience, but have the expectations of a community. This means that we assess the effect of the audience from the perspective of a community and therefore do not do justice to the results of the audience.

The most important advantages of social media usage formats

The most important benefits of social media usage formats for strategy development

  • Usage formats are one of the foundations of strategy development in the potential-based strategy model because they give the social media performance potential clear, applicable structures and at the same time make it easier to recognize the performance potential of existing social media offerings and platforms.
  • We use the usage formats to recognize the potential market and competitive impact that we can achieve with the individual social media usage format.
  • The suitability of social media channels for the individual social media usage formats demonstrates the impact / market performance that can be achieved with the respective social media channel. This makes it easier to recognize whether a platform is suitable for achieving the desired effect through social media.
  • Usage formats make it easier for us to recognize the requirements of the selected social media usage and the associated performance in terms of company resources and expertise more quickly.
  • Usage formats enable us to recognize the effects of certain types of social media usage on individual strategy components more easily and quickly.
  • Usage formats help us to recognize and assess the impact of social media on business models and their components.

Performance potential of social media usage formats

We assess the performance potential, suitability and use of social media usage formats according to the following criteria

  • Market prerequisite
  • market impact
  • Company benefit
  • Competitive effect
  • Resource requirements

Market requirements: Not every usage format is suitable for every market situation. The market requirements of the individual usage formats are discussed under the respective usage formats.

Market impact: We define market impact by the ability to activate the market for one’s own benefit and differentiate between the following levels in order to have a better comparison between alternatives.

  • No structural market activation: –
  • low structural market activation: +
  • Market activation that influences the market but can be structurally surpassed: + +
  • Market activation that cannot be structurally surpassed by other usage formats: + + +

Company benefit: the benefit(s) from social media for the company that is/are made possible by this specific usage format.

  • In the case of an audience, for example, this is the reach and the associated opportunity to disseminate information/content and use it to influence attitudes and views or generate interested parties.
  • In the case of a community, for example, the benefit is the connection and exchange between users, which can strengthen customer loyalty and lead to user engagement. Or even generate interested parties.

Competitive impact: We measure competitive performance by the competitive advantages that can be achieved through the respective usage format.

  • no structural competition advantages: –
  • competitive advantages based on the inactivity of the competition: +
  • Structural competitive advantages, but which can be surpassed by other formats: + +
  • Structural competition advantages that cannot be surpassed by other formats: + + +

Resource requirements: The individual resource and customization requirements of a company for a usage format help in the evaluation and decision on the use of usage formats. The resources criterion should not be used before the market impact and competitive impact. The resources criterion should “only” be used to check feasibility or the requirements for implementation. If we prioritize resources higher, we risk our own competitiveness in social media.

  • Low demands on company resources. No structural changes (personnel / expertise): –
  • Additional structural requirements for company resources: +
  • The company is facing major adjustments (personnel, organization, competence: + +
  • The company is entering new territory with as a whole impact on competence and resource requirements and structures: + + +

Competitive quality of social media usage formats

Which usage formats are suitable depends not least on the market, so it is not entirely up to us to decide. However, we should make sure that we use the most efficient possible usage format if we do not want to operate in competition with a fundamentally less competitive social media offering.

Social media usage formats differ in terms of their competitive quality. There are usage formats that activate users, thereby achieving a greater impact, supporting the distribution of content and ensuring a higher level of information about users and demand, and there are usage formats that do not achieve this.

Depending on the usage format, different usage formats can therefore create structural competition advantages or disadvantages. The usage formats are dealt with as a whole in the social media performance potential module. Once you have worked through the individual modules of the social media usage formats, you will be familiar with their competitive quality and can use them accordingly in your strategy development.

Knowing which social media usage formats are possible in our markets is important for the practical design of competition. With a more powerful social media usage format, we may already be able to establish an initial temporary or permanent competition advantage. This results from the social media affinity of the market – you have acquired the know-how for this in the social media affinity module – and the competitive situation, an essential preliminary decision for the success of the social media strategy and social media use.

Findings for strategy development

Under no circumstances should we operate with a less competitive usage format than the competition in social media.

If a more powerful usage format is possible than that of the competition, we can use the usage format to gain a competitive advantage over these competitors.

The choice of usage formats

The choice of usage formats is not only a very important infrastructure decision for a company. A company also decides on its structural performance and competitiveness in social media. Which usage formats the company should use depends on

  • the objectives of the social media strategy and the desired corporate benefit.
  • the usage formats available in the specific case, i.e. the usage formats suitable for the topics and subject areas.
  • the competitive situation, i.e. the usage formats used by the competition.

The question of resources: The question of resources is only relevant here if the company is not in a position to provide the necessary resources for proper social media use. If we develop social media strategies below what is possible, the competitiveness in social media and the company benefits from social media will suffer.


With the help of defined usage formats, it is easier for us to assess the possibilities of social media in a market and the effect of the alternatives and options available in a specific case, and thus ultimately to use social media more successfully. Here is a practical approach for this decision:

  • Get to know the respective usage formats, their prerequisites in the market and their performance capabilities.
  • Check which usage formats are feasible in your specific market(s).
  • Check the competitive situation in the respective usage formats
  • Check to what extent which usable format best corresponds to your objectives (corporate objectives) and your strategic orientation (offensive, defensive).

Based on these findings, you decide on your usage format(s).

Advertising as a social media usage format?

Social media is often used for advertising. Does this mean that advertising is also a social media usage format? Opinions are divided on this.

I don’t see advertising as a social media usage format because companies don’t become part of social media and therefore can’t tap into the special performance potential of social media – in particular market activation and the development of structural competition advantages – that makes social media so special for companies. With advertising, the company – and this type of use of social media – remains a foreign body.

Further justification: Advertising is used as an external element in social media and is also understood as such by the social media user. In terms of content, it is therefore comparable to an advertisement in a magazine or a commercial that interrupts an entertainment program. These forms of marketing communication are also not seen as part of the editorial content. Advertising is therefore not part of social media, even if this advertising is oriented towards social media in terms of content and appearance and uses the reach and information quality/targeting of social media.

Usage formats in the potential-based strategy model pbsm

In the potential-based strategy model pbsm, social media usage formats are a fixed parameter on which strategy development is based. This is one of the unique selling points of the pbsm. In the strategy course itself, they are part of the social media performance potential module.

The pbsm.strategy model is based on the modules

1social media performance potentialThe performance potential of social media for companies is structured according to the most important elements with which impact is achieved.
2social media performance potential for businessThe performance potential of social media for a specific business model.
3action optionsA company’s options for action to realize a specific benefit for its business model through social media in a specific competitive situation.
4Strategy modulesThe elements with which a strategy achieves impact in social media and the resulting elements for day-to-day business and strategy management.
5Strategy definitionThe definition of a strategy to achieve defined benefits for the business model in line with the company’s priorities and resources.
6Strategy evaluationThe evaluation of defined strategy drafts / strategy versions based on their benefits, requirements and risks.
Modules of the pbsm.strategy model

Proportion of usage formats in the Social media performance potential learning module

They are a focal point within the Social Media Performance Potential module.

The Social Media Performance Potential module comprises 20 learning units with a reading time of 290 minutes.

Of this, 115 minutes are spent reading about social media usage formats.

If you want to stabilize your strategic competence in this area, I recommend that you take at least this module. Just ask me about it.

Other strategy models do not take into account the characteristics and performance potential of the individual formats and therefore completely or partially ignore a decisive factor for the success of a social media strategy.

Further information on the topic of strategy and social media

can be found in the social media strategy blog on this website. I particularly recommend these articles

External resources on strategy

For your questions

Strategy is an extensive and complex field. This also applies to social media.

If you have any questions about social media strategy, I will try to answer them as best I can. Ask your questions via the strategy question form, by email or via LinkedIn.

If you want to delve into the topic as a whole and take your social media strategy skills to a new level, I recommend my course on social media strategy development with the pbsm.

To the strategy course

Here you can find more information about the pbsm.strategy course.


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