Brands Need to Use Social Media Strategically, Not Get Advice from Gurus

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Guest Post by: Richard Dalke

2011 is the year of the social media backlash. Well, apparently. Whether or not you believe this, there’s one thing that’s certainly true: this is the year when things will change for social media agencies and for brands.

A  quote in a recent article by Tim Sanders really got me thinking about social media strategy. Some of the language used in the article is intended to provoke a response, but the content of the blog post, in essence, is excellent.

The article was based on a quote by Chris Kirubi, Chairman of Coca Cola Nairobi:

“You don’t need a social media strategy – You need a brand strategy that leverages social media. Don’t get off the brand strategy just because there’s a new communication channel; that’s how you lose the plot as a brand. Technology is the tail, not the dog.”

As you can probably imagine, this led to a lot of “social media consultants” backing into a corner or pulling together overly verbose, nonsensical reasoning to justify their existence. Instead, what they should have focused on is that everything, including social media,  comes back to the company aims, brand strategy and more importantly business value.

As part of the social media strategy team at FreshNetworks (and I say that without worrying about that definition) our job is to look at how social media can be used to contribute to how the business operates. Yes, we do know alot about social media. But what sets us apart is that most of us come from a variety of business backgrounds with different skill sets and experiences. This really helps us get to the crux of how and why  social media can be used for different business functions. By applying this knowledge, and providing pragmatic, expert advice, legitimate social media consultants have nothing to fear.

One way that we think about a strategic approach to social media is based on a model used by Prof. Gerry Johnson, Prof.Kevan Scholes and  Prof Richard Whittington in Exploring Corporate Strategy (2006), which shows all the different aspects we consider when thinking about how social media could be used to meet business objectives. Key to this process are the following three areas:

  1. Analysis: understanding why you want to use social media, what is already out there, what your consumers want and the resources that are available within your organisation.
  2. Strategic choice: given all the information available from your analysis, the next step is to consider which tools and concepts will produce the best results for your company.
  3. Strategic implementation: social media is not just about a good idea or a campaign; it is as much of a cultural change as it is a technical one. It requires proper planning to ensure that what you have chosen is executed in a way that makes sense to the rest of your business.

I think by now most companies will have either tried social media themselves, or might have  reached out to agencies for help, and will be wiser about the value of social media; they will know when they are being fed rubbish.

As  a result, will the  “blood-sucking social media gurus”, as Milo Yiannopoulos describes them, simply disappear? Lets hope so. And will there be a market for people who actually understand social media? Definitely. 2011 will just be a year of distinguishing between the two.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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