Why it’s time to rethink social media strategy.

This post from 2021 has been adjusted and revised over time. The online course mentioned therein is now available.

Social media strategy is still often understood as a pure communication strategy or as a supplement to the marketing strategy. This does not do justice to social media or the associated opportunities and risks for companies. Not only is social media a format that is based on participation, unlike other media and traditional marketing, but social media has a clearer and more direct impact on the business model of companies or industries than we are used to in the media. The examples of this should be familiar.

Social media strategies that follow this view inevitably fall short of what would be achievable for businesses through social media.

Yet strategy in social media is definitely an issue. Comparing the content on the topic of social media strategy from different editions of “Social Media Manager” by Vivian Pein, which is suitable as a reference book as a manual for training and profession social media manager, this topic has increased in scope from edition to edition.

Fundamental criticism of existing methods and models

All methods and models of strategy development known to me – and thus also the most frequently cited POST model – have at least these weaknesses:

The performance potential of social media for companies is not sufficiently taken into account.

If the foundation is not right, the building on it will not be more stable. If we consider only a part of the performance potential of social media, only a part of the benefits of social media for our company can be tapped. One problem with many strategy developments is that they are not built on the basis of what social media as a whole can do for the company in question, i.e. they do not place the actual performance potential of social media at the beginning of the strategy development. Instead, all too often and not least as a consequence of the widely propagated POST model, target groups and goals – the latter usually reduced to communication goals – are placed at the beginning of strategy development.

A social media strategy is to be derived from the elements People, Objectives, Strategy and Technology as a framework concept.

The POST model – even if one takes into account the supplements to it – is not very concrete in the central component and leaves the actual point – the content of strategy development, its processes and components and not least the aspects according to which we develop and assess a strategy – completely open in terms of content. The relationship of the social media strategy to the company benefit or the support of a business model is also largely excluded. The interactions of the components of a social media strategy are also not an issue. The consequence of this: under social media strategy according to the POST model, only more or less adapted communication concepts take place.

  • If we don’t consider what social media can do for businesses in our social media strategy, the benefits of that strategy will always fall short of the performance potential of social media.

Social media strategy and business model are separate worlds.

Social media is not a traditional medium in its effect on companies, and it is also more than a social medium. Social media – beyond its importance as a social medium – has a direct impact on companies’ existing business models. Not only does this distinguish social media from traditional media, this quality of social media is also largely underestimated by companies – at least where the impact of this quality has not yet been experienced. If we take a look at classic media companies or companies in the travel industry, we will find experiences and applications of social media that already take more account of this quality. However, this does not necessarily mean that social media will be used more successfully, especially in the case of traditional media.

However, as long as we understand and practice the use of social media without considering the impact of social media on companies’ business models, we are working well past the reality and potential of social media.

  • If social media is to serve the company’s success, social media must actively support the success of the business model.
  • A social media strategy that ignores the company’s business model and the opportunities social media presents for that business model is not responsible.

Strategy development as a black box

On the economic level, strategy is still a nebulous black box in many areas. If one looks at the definitions that can be found in Wikipedia on the subject, one encounters more quantity than convincing quality. There is no lack of approaches. There is merely a lack of convincing approaches.

The known methods are silent about the design of the contents and structures of a strategy and their interactions in terms of content and about the strategic aspects that we should take into account, for example, when designing the competition or possible options of action competitors.

Likewise, the issue of potential is neglected as a basis or criterion of strategies. The best strategies are of little use, the most well thought-out goals are meaningless if the necessary potential (in the market) is not there.

Developing strategies even when it is not clear what structures and components must be in place in a strategy for those strategies to work is more common.

  • If we do not know what should be present in a social media strategy, it is unlikely that we will develop a complete social media strategy.

Strategy development with blinders on

Another problem is the widespread failure to take the competition into account in the company’s own strategy development. The idea that you can work markets without considering competition speaks qualitatively for itself. We focus and on our own company and maybe even on our own potential. Looking to the right and left and considering the competitive world is not included in most strategy models. Strategies developed with such blinders on are problematic per se.

  • Strategies that do not take competition into account are not only quickly uncompetitive but qualitatively as advisable as military strategies that ignore adversary performance and behavior. Neither pays off.

In fact, with social media we have a very powerful tool that inevitably falls short of its potential due to the unclear view of strategy itself and the rudimentary training of social media managers in this area.

Social media strategy development according to the potential-based strategy model pbsm

Occasion and motivation

I have been involved in the training of social media managers for a number of years and very much regretted that this training largely takes place without a well-founded method of strategy development because clear deficits are obvious in the existing specialist literature and the methods practiced. At best, the POST method is mentioned and the derivation of communication concepts as a strategy is practiced.

To train social media managers within a given framework, knowing that within that framework a crucial component of the training for success is deficient, is not satisfactory.

Out of this dissatisfaction, I have formulated my method of strategy development based on performance potentials and competitive potentials with a clearly structured strategy model – the potential-based strategy model – as generally understandable as possible and put it into a compact online course that guides through the necessary basics and their application in an application-focused and structured way. An online course that makes the topic of strategy development in social media applicable, especially for beginners.

Due to the complexity of the topic, the course is not really short and I am afraid that some aspects of strategy should be presented more extensively. On the other hand, the pbsm is a quantum leap for all those who want to develop a methodologically sound, practically applicable social media strategy that is adapted to the individual needs of a company and its business model.

Performance of the pbsm

The pbsm fills the gaps of other models and methods and is based on the derivation of concrete social media options of action based on the individual performance potential of social media for a specific business model.

Methodology of strategy development in the pbsm

Below is a brief description of each module of the potential-based strategy model and its benefits. In this representation, strategy development takes place from the bottom up, as symbolized by the arrow.

The potential-based strategy model in social media by Wilfried Schock
The potential-based strategy model pbsm

Social media strategy development and business model

Strategy development in the potential-based strategy model is based on the company’s business model in addition to the performance potential of social media. Among other things, this enables us to ensure a social media strategy tailored to the company that takes into account the requirements of the business model and the opportunities and risks of social media for the business model.

The topic of the business model is – as I know from my own experience – a surprising challenge for many budding social media managers, but one that must be overcome if social media is to be used to its full potential for a company.

From the feedback of participants who have addressed this approach in the company, I know that social media with this perspective has reached an upgrade in perception, which is also positive for social media management. If the social media performance potential is seen from the perspective of the business model, social media takes on a new meaning.

For the analysis of the business model, my method uses the business model and the business canvas of Osterwalder and Pigneur.

Business Canvas and Social Media Strategy
Business Canvas according to Osterwalder & Pigneur

This approach to a business model is not only widespread, it also makes it clear at what level social media affects the company and where it would therefore also be located.

Strategy development explained practically and compactly

As a practical method, the potential-based strategy model leads step by step through the individual processes and supports the application with a variety of work templates in which the individual processes and their work steps are illustrated.

The application orientation is also reflected in the relationship between content and exercises. 62 learning units with a pure reading time of about 20 hours are contrasted with more than 250 practical exercises for application.

Measured against the need to address the issues

  • Social media performance potential
  • Corporate business models
  • options of action from performance potential, business model and competition
  • Strategy components of a social media strategy
  • Strategy definition
  • Strategy evaluation

and explain their application in work steps, the online course is not really short with a pure reading time and a planned course duration of 3 months, but it is quite compact.

The course duration results from the realization that material of this kind can hardly be worked on, practiced and applied for more than 2 hours per day and that the course should be completed quickly and in one piece, but that the person must still be able to cope with everyday life parallel to such challenges.

Benefits from the pbsm for social media managers

There is no substitute for competence. A competence that has a recognizably positive effect on the company’s business model ensures that social media managers are perceived on a “different eye level”. With the pbsm, you can make the impact of social media on the existing business model clear and shape it constructively. With the presentation of the social media options of action according to the pbsm, a well-founded strategy development is much easier.

Degrees in pbsm

Depending on what the pbsm is to be used for and what time can be invested, degrees as pbsm.user and pbsm.strategist are possible. The acquired competence is documented with a certificate and is also documented in the pbsm.userdirectory with the respective degree.

About the functioning, the course contents, the degrees and the costs for the courses of the pbsm you inform this page (course contents, degrees and prices) and this page (functioning).

Self test exercise

As an exercise for the little grey cells, why not try using Osterwalder & Pigneur’s Business Canvas to think through the potential impact of social media on the components of a business model, i.e. how social media can impact the business model’s value propositions, customer relationships, business model channels and customer segmentation.

Individual posts about social media strategy

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