4 Approaches to Social Media Strategy Revealed

Companies around the globe are having the same exact discussion these days about what direction to take with social media. Hopefully your organization is among the many that realize that their bottom line can benefit from a strategic social media effort. Whether your current challenge is expanding your social media presence or merely getting C-suite buy-in for a Facebook page, identifying your current social media strategy is the best place to start.

A recent Harvard Business Review research study revealed that a company’s strategic approach to social media is generally oriented toward one of four distinct types based on a company’s organizational culture, its tolerance for uncertainty and its desired level of success. This far-reaching study includes input from 1,100 companies engaged in social media initiatives, located in different corners of the globe and across various industries.


1. The “predictive practitioner”
This relatively conservative approach to social media involves adopting limited use in only specific business areas, such as customer service. Companies that are averse to uncertainty and that require measurable results tend to be “predictive practitioners”.

Earlier this year Citibank launched the Twitter account @askciti to focus on resolving customer complaints. As can be expected of the banking sector, Citibank’s participation in social media is limited, providing the bank with more control over the initiative’s results.

2. The “creative experimenter”
A “creative experimenter” is a company that embraces uncertainty and uses social media platforms, such as Facebook, to “test” ideas and listen to customers and employees, in order to improve its practices. For example, IBM’s proprietary Facebook-like platform called “SocialBlue” is used to drive employee collaboration and innovation.

3. The “social media champion”
Companies embarking on large scale initiatives designed to produce predictable results are “social media champions”. Social Media efforts in this category include internal collaboration plus customer participation in the digital realm.

In late 2009, Burberry, luxury goods group, launched its “Art of the Trench” digital marketing campaign, which allows members connected via Facebook to share personal stories and images about Burberry trench coats. By leveraging social media, this genius social media campaign has been a runaway success boasting over five million fans and the title of the most liked luxury brand on Facebook.

4. The “social media transformer”
A “social media transformer” is a company that adopts a social media strategy that enables large-scale social participation from customers, in addition to internal company interaction, to improve the way they do business.

SouthWest Airlines, a true “social media transformer”, is widely recognized as a pioneer in the social media space. This company with one million fans on Facebook and just as many followers on Twitter has made interacting with customers thru social media central to its overall business strategy.

Identifying your company’s current social media strategy empowers you to make knowledgeable decisions about the best use of resources to meet your company’s unique goals. Before you take your next step, click here to identify which of HBR’s four types best describe your social media strategy.

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