Resources needed for a social business strategy

Social media helps shine a light exposing: hypocritical business policies, functions of a product/service, marketing, and sales; these issues must be solved relatively quickly, and that requires a social business strategy and resources (Wollan, Smith, and Zhou, 2010).  Thus, there are a significant amount of resources that are needed to achieve any new social business strategies.  These resources should be accessible, such as training resources, best practice guidelines, in-house subject matter experts, and direct managers by all employees (Li, 2010). Wollan et al. (2010), stated that a sponsor is needed to be devoted to the social business strategy because they can remove obstacles and provide the resources abovementioned. Having open leadership allows for a business to use all of their resources to help solve problems (Li, 2010). Thus, the sponsor should then gain additional sponsors or social media champion from the following departments: outside sales, customer service, marketing, product development, information technology, human resources, etc. (Wollan et al., 2010). Having all these teams as a champion or co-sponsor as key human resources adds more credibility and objectivity to the social business strategy.  Then, Li (2010) said that ideally a suggestion box for improving current strategies should be placed in plain sight so that everyone’s input for improving the current social business strategy is heard.

One consideration to make about using in-house resources, outsourced resources or a combination of the two is whether or not a social business strategy is vital to the operations or just contextual.  Li (2010), states that open leadership on social media strategies tends to add more work on employees, with little additional financial resources to be thrown their way. Craig (2013), states that some of the upsides of outsourcing are leveraging external expertise whiling building internal expertise, saving time and fiscal capital.  If a company thinks its core to their current business strategy, human capital strategy, and human resource strategy, then it should keep it in-house.  If they just think its core for just customer relations, but not core to the business strategy then it could consider to outsourcing it to a managed services company that is adept at implementing social business strategies.  However, caution should be thrown when outsourcing the social business strategy because any post becomes the voice of the company and the outsourced company won’t do the business’ voice justice (Craig, 2013). At the end of the day using in-house resources, outsourced resources, or a combination of the two is dependent on the social business strategy, current company resources, and finally the social strategist sponsor’s belief that this is either core or contextual to the business.


  • Craig, D. (2013). Pros and cons of outsourcing social media. Retrieved from
  • Li, C. (2010). Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, (1st). Vital book file.
  • Wollan, R., Smith, N., & Zhou, C. (2010). The Social Media Management Handbook: Everything You Need To Know To Get Social Media Working In Your Business. John Wiley & Sons P&T. VitalBook file.

Corporate governance of social business strategy

Dell, at the beginning had a very centralized governance and strategy over its operational social media resources at the beginning (Li, 2010).  Li (2010), goes on to say that they eventually loosened up their governance where there was still a centralized social media council, but other departments were allowed to meet up weekly to discuss the content and how the strategy should be implemented. This is a great example of a large Fortune 500 company slowly adopting open leadership governance of their social media strategy to help them keep it aligned with their business strategy. Trusting departments to act autonomously according to strategy is hard, but each function/department should have their governance group, which should allay these fears (Zhu, 2012). This is all about building a relationship and trusting in your competent employees to ensure organizational alignment with any strategy (Richards-Gustafson, n.d.).

Organizational alignment is when business strategy meets business culture, where visions are aligned, and business goals and objectives should be drafted towards this business strategy (Richards-Gustafson, n.d.). Organizational alignment and its governance should be part of the business and social media strategic planning from the beginning (Zhu, 2012).  For social media strategy creation efforts, best practices dictate to borrow heavily from their current IT strategies and governance processes (Wollan, Smith, & Zhou, 2010). This is especially the case when trying to derive data from social media platforms to facilitate future strategic data-driven decisions on their products/services.

However, to ensure that there is an organization alignment with either the business strategy or social media strategy the BusinessWeek Online (2010) outlined: that there should be measurable critical success factors and key performance indicators that are required to reach strategic goals; and by using simple daily action plans for their employees to clear up any confusion.  Richards-Gustafson (n.d.) stated her outline as developing a supportive culture through aligning all the business goals to the business strategy while training non-competent employees; work towards building trust, open communication, and transparency; and promote people and teams to be more autonomous in driving this alignment.  Both BusinessWeek Online (2010) and Richards-Gustafson (n.d.) stated that having all levels of management involved and embodying the strategy themselves is key to driving organizational alignment with strategy.  However, according to Zhu (2012), management helps in implementing strategy while governances monitor strategy compliance.



Business strategy and social business strategy

According to Wollan, Smith and Zhou (2010) a business strategy is “the direction, positioning, scope, objectives, and competitive differentiation” of the business.  However, having a social business strategy is important.  It is important and enables a business to learn from the business’ employees, customers, and partners (Li, 2010).  It is important and enables to drive a dialog (both internally and externally) and thus creates a relationship within and outside of the business (Li, 2010; Wollan et al., 2010). This relationship can lead to innovation, because of what is learned from having this relationship within and outside of the business (Li, 2010).

From an external view of a social media strategy, it is seen to engage with its customers and promote its business along with its business strategy.  Originally, marketing departments and public relations (PR) teams ran the early uses of social media, but eventually, it got too complex (Wollan et al., 2010). Today, many companies have multiple teams that use social media, and this is in line with open leadership (Li, 2010; Wollan et al., 2010).  All these departments have to deal with the following key issues related to the business strategy, and it should be contained in their social media strategy (Wollan et al., 2010):

  • “How is social media aligned to the business?”
  • “How should social media decisions are made [or prioritized]?”
  • “How do we manage social media investments?”
  • “What controls do we need in place?”
  • “How do we measure and reward?”

This social media strategy should be created not just by executives but through leaders encompassing all the departments, because of social media impacts all departments, not just marketing and PR departments (Wollan et al., 2010).

Placing an internal view of a social media strategy, it can help shape the human capital strategy, which enables the business strategy (Wollan et al., 2010).  Considering the human capital strategy helps define the needs of their employees, discovering and attracting talent, developing high-potential talent, and deploying the talent in the right place and at the right time through knowledge sharing plans (Wollan et al. 2010). Also, business employees know and even feel any changes made in the business strategy (BusinessWeek Online, 2012). Social media is one of many ways to help drive and understand employee responses to these changes.

However, engaging people/customers from a business perspective is not as simple as just starting a social media page/account and watching what happens.  Li (2010), described that there is an engagement pyramid, where watching what happens and the competitors/suppliers have the lowest level of social engagement and sharing, commenting, producing and curating content show increasing levels of engagement.  It’s in the higher levels of engagement that helps one develop a relationship via social media.  Businesses need to move past the watching what happens level of engagement and start curating content that helps customers and employees share their content (“word of mouth”), which can help drive up the sales of their products and services (Boysen, 2012).


Growing popularity of social media

Statement: “Emanating from the growing popularity of social media, consumers expect companies to be present on popular social media channels. As a consequence, companies can no longer maintain customer interactions solely by way of traditional channels.”

The overall statement is true. Traditional media is different from social media.  Traditional media is considered outbound via mailers, television, and cold calling, where social media is considered inbound, with SEO, social platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), and blogs (Boysen, 2012). Social media allows for relationship building through engagement and interaction, and can be easily measured compared to the expensive, short-term results and harder to measure traditional media (Boysen, 2012; Wollan, Smith, & Zhou, 2010). One great thing about a company’s adoption of social media is collecting, auditing and analyzing social, engagement, and influence data (Li, 2010).  This data analysis allows the company to see which products/services and which campaigns were the most effective in not only obtaining views across different social media platforms but conversion rates from views to purchasing of products/services (Boysen, 2012; Wollan et al., 2010).

Social media allows for consumers to have a more interactive way to get information from an existing company about a product/service (Boysen, 2012; Li, 2010; Wollan et al. 2010).  If consumers like or dislike the product/service enough, they would be willing for free to spread the word about the product/service through their social network. (Li, 2010). Essentially consumers are willing to call out the triumphs and disappointments of a company. Thus, social media potentially has a huge reaching or alienating of new consumers, through this concept of spreading content via word of mouth, which is a very effective way of marketing.  Word of mouth is so effective that 92% of recommendations are followed through on when they come from friends (Boysen, 2012). Social media is built on the connecting friends to each other, and companies should use that concept to their advantage, to enhance gains and mitigate losses.

Finally, a social media campaign strategy and execution is significantly more inexpensive and has a higher return on investment than traditional media (Boysen, 2012).  Companies should move forward to developing a social media strategy and should execute that strategy, to take advantage of the word of mouth phenomena that is relatively low cost compared to traditional media.  The strategy should be considered a living document because social media changes evolve with time and have dependencies to the evolution of popular social platforms (Cohen, 2011; Solis, 2010).  That is how the Red Cross of America is treating social media as they have updated their social media strategy in just a few years (Li, 2010; American Red Cross, 2012).  In 2015, TD Bank had amassed 550K Facebook likes, by having faster response time on their posts than their competitors (1.25 hours response time compared ~5 hours with their competitors), showcasing their financial education campaign (#financialeducation), and having a plan for responding to negative situations & comments (Crosman, 2015). TD Bank couldn’t accomplish this without having a strategic social media plan.


Leadership styles

Below will follow a quick discussion of some of these leadership styles:

  • Open Leadership: Has five rules, which allow for respect and empowerment of the customers and employees, to consistently build trust, nurtures curiosity and humility, holding openness accountable, and allows for forgiving failures (Li, 2010).  It is not easy to “let it go,” but to grow into new opportunities one must “let it go.”  This thought process is similar to knowledge sharing, if you share your knowledge, you will be able to “let it go” of your current tasks, such that you can focus on new and better opportunities. Open Leadership allows for one to build and nurture relationships with the customers and employees (Li, 2010).  It is customer and employee centered.
  • Situational Leadership: Is a style of leadership where the leader must continuously change their personal leadership style to meet the situation and needs of the employees/followers (Anthony, n.d.). The input of the employees/followers must come first regardless if the leader is a micro-manager, supervisor, coach, supportive, developer, or delegator. The leader would use: micro-manage if employees just need to do exactly what they are told; supervisor methods if employees are inexperienced; coaching if employees lack confidence/motivation; delegation if employees need little supervision; and developmental when the employees have high needs and little experience (Anthony, n.d.).
  • Autocratic Leadership: Is also known as authoritarian leadership, where the leader takes over everything and makes all decision with no input from the group (Cherry, 2016a). These leaders what to do it all themselves, and could maintain power through force, threats, punishment, and rewards (Community Tool Box, n.d.). This feeling is felt and creates the illusion of the classic “control freak,” “bossy,” etc. trope on the leader. But, this negative view on this style could be offset by a charismatic personality, leading to the leader being loved and respected (Community Tool Box, n.d.). This is great for when quick decisions are needed, but it comes at a cost to the followers. That is because of Cherry (2016a), stated that decisions made in this style of leadership are absolute and the followers/employees are not trusted. Autocrats create an organizational culture of fear and mistrust other people’s motives and aim to prioritize protecting themselves (Community Tool Box, n.d.).
  • Democratic Leadership: Is also known as participative leadership, where the employees/followers are a vital part of making the key decisions (Cherry, 2016b). This is the direct opposite of the Autocratic Leader.  These leaders recognize that it is the “we” that built and sustain the organization, not the “me” (Community Tool Box, n.d.). Here, participatory ideas and opinions are championed, even if the leader remains the final arbitrator (Cherry, 2016b; Community Tool Box, n.d.). Unfortunately, this style can be quite a time intensive and create a lack of “buy-in of ideas,” but this style could provide better results due to a diversity of thought. Though the diversity of thought provides a whole suite of possibilities to an organization and provides good relationships for all team members (Community Tool Box, n.d.).
  • Transactional Leadership: Is when a leader only views relationships with their team as a form or set of transactions (Community Tool Box, n.d.). Status quo is kept in this style (Raza, n.d.). Therefore, it is not uncommon to see a rewards and consequences stemming from this style (Community Tool Box, n.d.; Raza, n.d.).  This is more akin to the boss, that states “I pay your salary, you must do as I say.”
  • Transformational Leadership: Helps their team see the values and hopes that they have for them and for the organization, such as to empower them to pursue their goals (Community Tool Box, n.d.). Raza (n.d.) stated that this style leads to initiating a motivational change in an organization, team, oneself, or others. This style models the Mahatma Gandi’s overarching message of being the change you want to see in the world, even if it’s a small change in themselves or their team. This style tends to have the most engaged and empowered followers (Raza, n.d.).
  • Servant Leadership: The leader is considered a servant first to their employees/followers to allow them to grow, become healthier, wiser, freer, autonomous, and become servants themselves (Center for Servant Leadership, n.d.). The focus is on the growth of the employees/followers.  This is done by putting the needs of the team ahead of the Thus the team benefits the most from this style (Johannsen, 2014). One way to accomplish growth is a leader sharing their power to help people develop, synonymous to caring for each other (Center for Servant Leadership, n.d.). Servant leaders uplift their team (Johannsen, 2014).
  • Laissez-faire Leadership: leaders allow employees/followers make their decisions, also known as delegation leaderships (Cherry, 2016c; Raza, n.d.). There is low control over the team compared to the high control over the team in autocratic styles (Johannsen, 2014). Unfortunately, Cherry (2016c) points out that there is little guidance from leaders when it is most needed, or when there is a lack of knowledge. But, it does allow for the autonomy of the employees/followers and promotes problem-solving from them. Johannsen (2014), suggested this style for highly motived and trained team members.  However, this style is known to create low satisfaction (Raza, n.d.).

Open leadership differs because it is not fully a democratic leadership nor laissez-faire leadership, but has qualities of it, due to its centering itself against other customers and employers. It is similar to the situational leadership because open leadership must be met based on the situation the organization is faced with at that time.  If the organization cannot be transparency and authenticity, then it must meet its situation and shouldn’t practice open leadership.  Open leadership doesn’t try to grow the customers and employers and the “Let it go” nature of open leadership is the worst nightmare of an autocratic leaders.


Leadership and Social Media

The frequency, use, and depth of engagement on social media will increase the popularity of social media increases. Thus it is important to be able to define what it is (Wollan, Smith, & Zhou, 2010).  However, the definition of social media would change with time because social media is dependent on the technology and platforms that enable and facilitates a social connection (Cohen, 2011; Solis, 2010). The social connection from social media shifts content creation and delivery from a “one-to-many” model to a “many-to-many” model (Solis, 2010; Wollan et al., 2010). This social connection exists between content hosted online versus the consumers of the content (Cohen, 2011). Wollan et al. (2010) defined that social media is highly assessable and scalable.  Thus, social media allows for democratizing content/information and influence (Solis, 2010; Wollan et al., 2010). In the end, social media allows for swift content creation and dissemination by the content creators, whether it is from organization or a single/group people (Wollan et al., 2010).

From a business perspective, social media has become a customer relationship management tool between the business and its customers (Wollan et al., 2010). There is a different type of leadership style needed for companies that use social media to deliver products and services. Li (2010), explains a case study where the Red Cross wanted to control social media right after it saw the negative impacts from the Hurricane Katrina response.  However, over time (not over-night) the Red Cross realized it was better to engage in an open dialog with its participants over social media, which paid off because they were able to raise $10M for Haiti earthquake relief in three days in 2010.  This could only be done when the social media strategy handbook was published online to allow for not only the corporate but the local Red Cross chapters to begin their usage of social media (Li, 2010; American Red Cross, 2012). They had to let go of controlling their image, word for word, but allow their chapters to do so.

This “Let it go” style is the main type of leadership style that Li (2010) proposes in Open Leadership for businesses to succeed in their use of Social Media for its future success. Social media is driving a leadership style that is more democratic (Stupid stuff for dummies, 2011), due to social media’s democratizing properties.  This is because in this world, people vote with how they spend their dollars, social media allows for a company to engage with its customers through exhibiting (not all but) greater transparency and authenticity (Li, 2010). Open Leadership is not about controlling technology but establishing a plan or relationship that is wanted with the social media platform, to maintain a democratic leadership style that grows a corporation successfully.