Thought of the Day, Jan 28, 2009
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your social media conquests will take longer too. But the place to start is with a clear plan, devised from a sound strategy. But strategy is a higher level process. Creating a strategy that works can be a lot more challenging than signing up for the latest social media app and hoping something will stick. Jumping into social media and playing with the tools and toys is one sure way to risk a social media wildfire. Better to build a firebreak, a smart firefighting approach and ways to control the brush before the blaze gets out of hand.
To get started with a strategic plan, you can build on an effective model already developed for businesses in the context of trying to understand your competition. A SWOT analysis is a good idea as well, while the method below will contextualize your strategy in terms of your competitive advantages and threats. To do this, you can use Porter’s Five Forces to structure and guide your approach to strategy, putting these in the context of social media.
According to Wikipedia, “Porter’s five forces analysis is a framework for the industry analysis and business strategy development developed by Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School in 1979.” Although this structure is applicable to a product-related scenario, it can be interpreted in terms of a service, or even a virtual activity (such as blogging).
1. Rivalry – Evaluate and analyze your advantage in the social media landscape, compared with competitors (e.g., your USPs, Web site benefits, online tools, user community)
2. Threat of substitutes – Evaluate and analyze the cost-benefit of your engagement in social communities as opposed to other channels (e.g., connectedness to your peers and other users, access to exclusive information, knowledge and experts)
3. Buyer Power – Build understanding of whether buyers are weak or powerful within social media, and asymmetry of your industry as it relates to buyers’ activity in social media (e.g., what kinds of social channels do your customers or blog readers participate in?)
4. Supplier Power – Build understanding of relationship of you as a supplier (or your resellers) to buyers within social media (e.g., what is your relationship as a supplier of product or information to your customers or blog readers?)
5. Barriers to Entry / Threat of Entry – What are the prospective barriers and problems that could be encountered by engaging in social media? How easy or difficult would it be for your competitors to engage in social media? (e.g., if you write a blog on a specific subject, how easy would it be for someone to set up a competing blog?)
Of course, there is so much more to these questions. Certainly there are other approaches. But having a solid theoretical framework to your social media strategy will help guide and formulate your planning.