25 / 09 / 2009From social media to social strategy

“To be successful, you need to shift your mindset from social media to social strategy. A good social strategy essentially uses the same principles that made online social networks attractive in the first place, by solving social failures in the offline world. Firms should begin to do the same and help people fulfill their social needs online.

Professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, is an associate professor and a Marvin Bower Fellow in the Strategy unit at Harvard Business School. I believe he provides us with his a fresh look into social network sites with his research work, and I would like to share it with you.

There is not a single day passing lately, without online media titles from SEW through ClickZ or Brandweek, suggesting “how-to’s” with SNS. Basically, they all end up encouraging tactical use of SNS to readers, knowing that approaching these tantalizing markets is very attractive to business leaders of all walks: ‘Let’s talk to people on Twitter or let’s have a Facebook page or let’s advertise.’

“And these are good first steps but they are nowhere close to a social strategy”, adds professor Piskorski. But it is as if, basic knowledge of consumers’ behavior is suddenly forgotten, meaning that consumers are often more interested by the social advantage a product can offer than by the mere functional benefit it is supposed to provide them…This is the basic principle used by advertising itself to address consumers!

Social media is powerful but bound to the potential of a technological mean. It is very useful to help and leverage group dynamics, not become a substitute for them.

In this perspective, I fully adhere to the following statement: “Firms will need to start making changes to the products themselves to make them more social“. The products are the mere pretexts for socializing. The tangible vehicles to express, build and maintain our social links.

This is food for thoughts, I encourage you to read the full article “Understanding Users of Social Networks” by Sean Silverthorne, from Harvard’s most recent issue of Working Knowledge. Sean actually interviews prof. Piskorski on his latest research projects on SNS users and interesting valuable results are also mentionned regarding what content woorks best (i.e.; photos!) and gender differencesin SNS uses which I do not cover in this post.

Working Knowledge is Harvard’s site section and newsletter destined to give a first look at faculty research, a concept I love and would like to see promoted within all universities! Something HEC Montréal puts forward in an interesting way in its Gestion magazine, where most of the articles presented are based on studies and research programs led by HEC Montréal professors. Such initiatives to share and transfer the knowledge is a very useful way to bridge with Quebec’s business community and the international business community at large.

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