Should you have a CSO? Meaning a Chief Social Officer? Honestly, I don’t care. What I do care about is the underlying question: Should organizations beef up their ‘social’ competencies and make a social media strategy?

Let’s start off with the first: the social competencies.

Social media and social networks is BIG. Really big. If you have any doubts, check out this post. And it’s not just about the numbers. It’s primarily about what people do: they talk, lough, cry, date, trash, organize parties. In short: they do what do normally do, only now it’s more connected, more involved.

Another big trend is that people rather listen to their friends than the old ‘trusted’ brands. The importance of customer reviews in buying decisions is well documented. Your friends replace brands. Social media en networks is really word of mouth on steroids. One classic example from 2004 (!) is Kryptonite. This company went almost belly-up after a blogpost and a subsequent storm of posts and videos. Great story! Now, it’s 6 years later.

So, customers are ‘social’. They listen more to each other that to you. Should you care? YES. You should and build up your competencies accordingly. These competencies involve a deep understanding of the various social infrastructures, the interplay and – most important – what specifically your customers are doing there.

Next, should you develop a social media strategy?

Well, that’s a bit less obvious. Let’s first discuss – shortly, no worries – what I mean by ‘social media strategy’. A strategy is a plan of action to achieve a major business objective. A social media strategy is a strategy where social media and your customer’s behavior on those media are the inspiration in formulating the plan of action. So, a social media strategy is not limited to actions where social media play the dominant role. So, ‘social’ is the inspiration for the plan, not the plan itself! This s very different from what i.e. Peter Kim is doing on mashable.

Back to the question: should you develop a social media strategy?

It depends, but probably you should. Let me elaborate. You probably shouldn’t if what you’re doing has got nothing to do with people in general. Like when you run an oil platform in the gulf like BP. (oops – after the green rebranding of BP to Beyond Petroleum, it’s a new rebranding: Beyond Pollution). It’s almost like ten years ago, organizations were saying: ‘mmm, the internet. Interesting. For geeks.’. Another reason why social media deserves an inspirational role in your strategy is that it’s a blue ocean. Very little companies are active on social media while the opportunities are big.

To get going on social media strategy, a few tips:

tip #1: Get lots of examples. And maybe more. Not just your competitors, but also outside your industry. Focus not just on brand or image related examples, but also on service, sales and product development. It’s all about inspiration.

tip #2: Get qualitative information of your customers. Interview a good number customers and potential customers in front of a video cam. Ask them about their life. About their friends. How they play, party, chat etc. How they get inspired. How they buy. Etc. Etc. It is really amazing what an inspiration customers can be.

tip #3: Get a clear view of your assets. What can you bring on the table? Often, it is more than you think.

tip #4: Get info trends. Tech, social, fiscal, economic, fashion, music etc. All trends relevant for your business.

tip #5: Understand that strategy development is non-lineair and needs to deal with uncertainty. You need to find a way in a big forrest without roads, where your compass is a multitude  of unsure trends. As a starter, you might want to read up on strategy under uncertainty. This leads to the final tip.

tip #6: Get help. A strategy pro can provide you with a method, the tools and an information base that helps to creating your strategy. So call/mail me at any time ;-).