Social media needs social strategies

“Successful social strategies (1) reduce costs or increase customers’ willingness to pay (2) by helping people establish or strengthen relationships (3) if they do free work on a company’s behalf.”

–Misiek Piskorski, Harvard Business       Review, November 2011

How would you feel if you were at a dinner party with friends and a stranger sat down next to you and asked, “Hey, can I sell you something?”

That’s how many companies use social media, says Harvard business professor Misiek Piskorski.

In his recent study of 60 for-profit businesses, Piskorski found that companies that performed poorly in online social realms “merely imported their digital strategies into  social environments by broadcasting commercial messages or seeking customer feedback.”

The problem, he says, is that people get involved with social media to connect with other people, not with organizations.

Piskorski’s study shows that companies that devised social strategies to help people build relationships are the ones that found significant returns from their investment in social media.  Returning to the dinner party analogy, these companies ask “May I introduce you to someone or help you develop better friendships?”

Nonprofits face similar social media challenges. We spend precious staff hours on building “friends” and “followers” but are we seeing a real return on the investment?

Nonprofits that use social media to create deeper engagement with their community can generate tremendous benefits. They recruit new allies, strengthen and mobilize support networks, spread information, and raise money.

The potential payoff from social media is the subject of our annual conference this year. We hope you’ll join us May 2 for Powerful Networks: Nonprofits, Social Media, & Community, an exciting day of expert information and practical training to help your organization further its mission with social media.

Piskorski’s work suggests there are four types of effective social strategies for companies:

*Reduce costs by helping people meet.
*Increase willingness to pay by helping people meet.
*Reduce costs by helping people strengthen relationships.
*Increase willingness to pay by helping people strengthen relationships.

Check out the HBR article to understand how companies like Zynga, Yelp, and American Express use these strategies to reap the benefits of social media. And join us at the annual conference to learn how nonprofits can choose social media goals that fit their missions, allocate resources to accomplish these goals, and define and understand their communities.

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