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Social Media and Strategy: How to Integrate

CMO Survey Results

In the social media integration report card, I offered a set of company behaviors that we can use to diagnose how well a firm integrates social media into its strategy. These behaviors range from integrating social media with customer management, brand management, and innovation management to monitoring information flows within the company.

Now let’s address the all-important question of HOW to manage for integration. Cohesive action around any aspect of company policy that involves customers tends to exhibit several characteristics. Let me highlight some of the key characteristics that I think apply to social media.

  1. Gain top management support. Get the biggest gun from management who supports social media.  You need a champion to get the people from across the organization to pay attention and act.
  2. Do not confine social media to its own separate department. I would put it in marketing or another key customer-facing group. Social media is a dynamic marketing function and not an IT function.
  3. Offer social media training to all employees so they can begin to “see” linkages.
  4. Assign social media personnel to key strategic teams doing cross-functional work, such as new product or new service development and new market development and customer acquisition.
  5. Do not outsource social media completely to a strategic partner. Outside agencies may have expertise, but you also need a dedicated social media liaison inside and some social media activities. This will enable relevant information to flow both in and out of the organization through your own social media personnel and ensure that managers working for the company are always weighing in on social media activities.
  6. Put in place a system of accountability that demonstrates the effect of social media on valued intermediate outcomes (e.g., buzz) and financial performance outcomes (e.g., revenues). The choice of metrics should be influenced by whether social media is doing a push or pull job for your company.
  7. Use social media tools to collect customer information that is important to different areas of the firm, such as innovation, customer service, etc.
  8. Utilize social media metaphors to challenge the thinking of the company. At GE, CMO Beth Comstock asked the company “What if my aircraft engine had a Facebook page?” to kickstart a new business.
  9. Develop formal (strategy steps) and informal (e.g., eat lunch together) routines that ensure social media personnel talk to and listen to the rest of the company.
  10. Have social media and marketing personnel report to the same person.