Thursday, January 28, 2010

Social Media, Strategy and Moon Shots

How do these ideas relate?

In a recent tweet I made the statement: 
The question isn't "What is our social media strategy?" but "How does social media help implement our strategy?"

It seems to have touched a nerve with an "amen" and a couple of RTs; so now I have to explain myself.  

The above questions apply to any media since the word social is simply a qualifier for a type of media.   Do we get worked up about 'what's our billboard strategy?' just because everybody is out driving around?   Nope.  And, since social media are tools for facilitating sharing (more on my thoughts defining social media here) having a strategy for a tool is viewing everything from the hammer or drill's point of view.   

As a business we need to achieve an objective defined in clear, measurable terms.   The best objective I can think of is: 
"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth."  President Kennedy - May, 1961
Clear. Unambiguous. Measurable.

Strategy is not how we will achieve an objective; it is why will achieve one.  

Business strategy is often framed in two questions:  Where will we play? and Why will we win? Neither of which focus on the how; that comes later.   Positioning, differentiation, and alignment all help to frame the answers to those questions into a cohesive reason why the objective will be met.   In fact, strategy could often be replaced with the phrase 'reason for success.'   The moon shot was successful because people, industries, the military, and the government all came together for this mission.   That was the strategy: cooperation and collaboration on a humongous scale. 

In a more down-to-earth and contemporary problem, consider the marketing of Master's degrees - a very competitive market (have clients in this world.)   If the objective is to be a ranked program then there needs to be a reason for the outcome.  "Quality", "reputation", and "scores" are assessments or metrics that back up the reason.   An example of strategy for a well-funded research university might be 'commercialize our research into a series of successful start-ups.'  Now that's a differentiated strategy. 

Just how you pull off a strategy is all about tactics.  

Only when we know why we may be successful should we look at the portfolio of tools and figure out which ones to use.   Given expansive goals and strategies sometimes we have to make up the tools to do the job.  In 1961 we didn't have the rockets (or even the knowledge) to achieve the objective.  We created the tools.   It was not 'what is our Redstone strategy' it was 'how will the Redstone rocket help implement the strategy?'      The Redstone rocket provided a platform for man's entry into space - it was a first step. 

Like all media, social media has its strengths and weaknesses; it is appropriate for some objectives and strategies but not others.   If the strategy will benefit from collaboration and sharing then social media would be appropriate.   If the strategy requires stealth and big bang then it would not be appropriate.   Since these elements were so much a part of the success of the moon race it probably would have been considered by the program director.

So, if social media where around in 1961 - how would it help create a sense of community and purpose in order to put a man on the moon? 

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