Social Media Strategy: Kamales Lardi discusses her new book

By Magda David Hercheui

1 – Much has been discussed on social media strategies. Why is it important to have a social media strategy?

Over the last few years, social media has crept into the business environment, steadily impacting several key areas of business such as marketing and customer service. However, social media is much more than a marketing tool. Used effectively, it will accelerate an organisation’s external and internal communication, interaction and collaboration, adding value along the entire business value chain. It has also triggered or enabled a new kind of customer – the social customer – that is technology savvy and proactively looking for ways to interact with companies / brands. Companies have started to realise that in order to continuously communicate and interact with the social customer, they need to adopt social media.

The best way to successfully apply social media for business is to have a clear understanding of why it is needed, what it will be used for and who the target audience are. Many companies bypass this step and go straight to setting up presence on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. This is a tactical approach that is less effective over time and produces little business impact. A social media strategy is not only crucial to clarify the reasons for applying social media, how it could potentially benefit the business and create sustainable benefits, but also assesses the readiness of the company to use (for example does the company have the right capabilities, processes, policies etc. in place to manage risks).

2 – Your most recent book proposes a new framework for elaborating social media strategies. What is new about your approach to the topic?

Although many companies have been exploring social media for business use and even developed creative ways to utilise these channels, the focus is typically on channels, engagement and content. Measures also focus on these areas (e.g., number of followers, likes, content reach etc.). The result of this is that companies hit a roadblock after a certain point, and are not able to derive sustainable benefits from their social media initiatives.

Initially, I developed the Social Media Strategy Framework to help explain to companies that social media is more than just a hype or marketing tool. It provided a structured approach that elevated social media to a more strategic level. I also wanted to avoid perceptions that social media revolved around channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Many people still think having a page on Facebook equals to being active on social media. In my opinion, the impact of social media goes beyond these channels, it has impacted the fundamental way people communicate and interact with each other and companies.

The framework provides a structured approach that will help executives think through their social media and enterprise collaboration needs based on the company’s business goals or challenges. The step-by-step approach is designed to help executives in identifying specific areas within the company that could benefit most from social media and collaboration. It takes into account a company’s specific market, industry, culture and ability to support new technology. The framework has several unique aspects to it, including:

• It has a strong focus on building a sustainable use for social media along the business value chain

• It aligns with the company strategic objectives and business context

• It identifies key elements to create a strong foundation for social media use in the company to manage risks but also maximise potential

• It takes into consideration both internal (enterprise collaboration) and external (business 2.0) social media uses

• It does not focus on technology implementation or channels such as Facebook and Twitter

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3 – Considering the speed of change in the social media environment, should companies incorporate a high degree of flexibility in their social media strategies to respond to new challenges from their context? How to do that?

Companies that are looking to develop a social media strategy should focus on determining what the business goals are and explore how social media and collaboration technologies could contribute to those. Once the objectives are clear and target audience for interaction have been identified, it will provide guidance in determining which channels to use. Using this approach, the strategy is tied to business objectives and target audiences, rather than any specific channel or technology. This will ensure that the social media strategy is more flexible and create sustainable benefits.

4 – From your experience, why do many companies do not have a social media strategy?

In an annual study by University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 77% of Fortune 500 companies have a corporate Twitter account and 70% have Facebook Company pages*. Although many companies have started to explore and use social media for business, there is still a strong perception that social media is applicable to limited business functions, such as marketing, customer service or recruiting. This was a natural starting point for social media use, also as companies needed to build capabilities and learn about what works in terms of user engagement. But now that social media has become an accepted part of the business environment, companies need to take a strategic approach to social media use. In my experience, I have heard several reasons from companies that do not have a social media strategy, including:

• Not sure what to do with social media (or how it applies to the company)

• There are so many channels, which to use?

• Customers are not really on social media

• Social media is just a marketing tool

• The risks of using social media are too high (e.g., reputational risks, loss of control)

• Social media is too dynamic, a 50-page strategy document is not applicable

The Social Media Strategy Framework was designed to help companies navigate through the key decisions for business use of social media. It helps companies to establish the right foundation to manage risks, as well as helps develop pragmatic solutions that are implementable.

5 – In a few words, which could be your main advice to companies which aim to prepare their social media strategy?

I would advise companies to ensure that the following key elements are addressed:

• Understand what the business objectives for social media use are and make sure all initiatives are aligned with business goals.

• Define the target audience and understand how they currently use social media.

• Integrate social media with wider organisational strategies.

• Establish internal foundation structure to manage social media use (e.g., integrated processes, policies & procedures, roles & responsibilities etc.).

• Determine measures that truly evaluate how social media is helping the company meet business objectives (e.g., share of voice, stakeholder engagement, lead generated and converted etc.).

Notes

Links for downloading a chapter for free: http://build-your-social-business.eu/  

* August 2013, http://www.umassd.edu/cmr/socialmediaresearch/2013fortune500/  

About the author

Dr. Magda David Hercheui is senior lecturer at Westminster Business School, social media consultant, and editor of New Media Knowledge.

http://w
ww.linkedin.com/in/magdadavidhercheui
 

About Kamales Lardi

Kamales Lardi is Managing Partner at Lardi & Partner Consulting and a lecturer at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW). She has more than 11 years of experience in management consulting, advising global organisations in Europe and Asia. She developed the Social Media Strategy Framework, which helps companies define a clear link between social media initiatives and business goals. The framework is presented in her new book “Social Media Strategy – A Step-By-Step Guide To Building Your Social Business” authored in collaboration with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW). In 2000, Kamales started working at Accenture, specialising in business process optimisation and organisational design. She later developed expertise in corporate strategy and competitive intelligence as a Strategy Consultant with Zurich Insurance Company (Switzerland). In 2005, she joined Deloitte Consulting Switzerland as a Technology Manager. Her passion for social media, collaboration technologies and synthetic worlds led her to become the Head of Social Media and Collaboration at Deloitte Consulting Switzerland. Kamales has a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Computing and Information Systems and completed her Master in Business Administration (MBA) in 2004. In 2007, she also specialised in Strategy and Competitive Advantage at Harvard Business School (HBS).

About the company

Lardi & Partner Consulting GmbH helps companies get clarity on their strategic goals and find ways to reach them. Combining professional expertise with proven methodologies, Lardi & Partner develops strategies, defines pragmatic and measurable solutions and supports clients in implementing them.

Blog (information about social media & collaboration strategy) http://lardistrategy.com/  

LPC website (information about all company services) http://www.lardipartner.com/  

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