A Book in 5 Minutes: The Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy

Don’t have time to read? Here’s a quick but comprehensive summary of “The Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy” by Brian Solis and Charlene Li, released on July 17.

Who should read this: While intended for social media teams at large companies, this book is also relevant to startups who are starting to think about a social media strategy.

Elevator pitch: The Altimeter Group does extensive research and consulting for companies on social strategy. This short ebook explains the seven things that successful businesses do well in social media.

Authors: Charlene Li is the founder and managing partner of Altimeter Group, a research and advisory company that helps companies with disruption; coauthor of the book Groundswell; and a leading expert on social media. Brian Solis is a principal analyst at Altimeter Group, author of The End of Business as Usual and What’s the Future of Business?, and a frequent speaker on social media, disruptive technology, and the consumer landscape.


Instead of having a cursory social media strategy, your company should strive to be a social business through and through. Here’s how to do it.

1. Define your business goals

Social strategy shouldn’t be based on generic best practices, but rather the specific goals your business is trying to accomplish – like making more revenue or increasing customer satisfaction. Tie your strategy to overall or team goals, and figure out how you can measure its effects (for example, through sales or conversions). If your business’s strategy is unclear, it might be best to hold off on developing a social strategy.

2. Establish the long-term vision

Your vision is your “why.” It talks about what value you hope to create, and exactly what the future will look like – how customers will feel when they interact with your business. Keep it short and timeless, go with your gut instinct, and trying setting a three-year vision.

3. Ensure executive support

In an Altimeter Group survey, only half of top executives were “informed, engaged, and aligned” with their company’s social strategy. To get your leaders on board, explain how social strategy impacts business goals and vision; put it in context with your other marketing strategies; and (if necessary) create a sense of urgency.

4. Define the strategy roadmap

A strategy roadmap is a timeline of what you will do and when. To begin, brainstorm all the initiatives you might do – they often fall into categories like learning about your customers, creating dialogue with them, turning them into advocates, offering customer support, and involving them in the brainstorming process.

Next, map your initiatives on a two-by-two grid according to whether they create high value and your company has a high capability to accomplish them, or they create lower value and your company has a lower capability.

To create the three-year roadmap, prioritize the high-value, high-capability initiatives in year 1 and fill in the next two years until you’ve included the low-value, low-capability initiatives.

5. Establish governance and guidelines

In other words, figure out who has the power to do what. Otherwise, everyone will want to use social media in their own way and for their own purposes.

Create a social media strategy that includes general policies, a playbook with best practices and a description of your brand personality, a system for managing messages from followers, a plan for handling crises, and an agreement on who has decision making power.

6. Secure staff, resources, funding

You can start off with a part-time employee or an agency working on your social media, but you’ll eventually want someone in-house. The first position to hire for is a social strategist, skilled in both social media and business.

But everyone can help with social media; if you implement training programs, employees can start collaborating on best practices and contribute content to be shared.

Test strategies with pilot programs to see what results they bring, but don’t linger on them for too long.

7. Invest in technology platforms that fit your strategy

You’ll need a platform or tool for monitoring – not just likes and retweets, but metrics that are tied to your business goals (like better SEO or idea generation). There are many tools out there that can help.

You’ll also need a social media management system like HootSuite or Sprinklr.

Remember, your social media strategy always stems from your business goals, and it should be constantly evolving, a continual journey.

Grade: A

While this book is clearly intended for large companies, many of the lessons do apply to startups. Having a clear goal, vision, and timeline is a must for any company’s social media strategy. (I would perhaps recommend skipping Chapter 4, “Establish governance and guidelines,” as it’s mostly about working groups that large corporations create.)

Overall, the book is digestible and practical, including exercises to do and questions to answer for each stage. Even if you’re just a startup employee who works part-time on social media, it provides a good framework for getting the wheels turning.

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Written by:
Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.
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