Back to Reality…

The last few blogs have been looking at the theory of social media in business, much has question-mark-1026526_960_720been covered and then applied to larger companies, often these companies have considerable budgets allocated to specialised departments who are dedicated to  the implementation and the continuation of the social business strategy. What I am interested to know is how do all these models effect the social business strategies of small companies? Do small businesses even have social business strategies? and, do any of these models apply to small businesses?


Selection time…

I was flicking randomly through my Facebook news feed and saw an interesting post on the local  community page of which I am member of.  An individual was sharing his business page with the local community ( and it was getting alot of interest I might add!) The business name is Harvest2Home , it is a family run business who buys fresh, pesticide free produce from local farmers and then delivers it free of charge. This business originated some time ago and relied solely on word of mouth marketing to ensure further orders, this continued up until about 12 months ago, when they decided to take the plunge and enter into the world of online communications, they had a website created and more recently have progressed to having social presence on Facebook.


Simply by choosing the most appropriate way for them to communicate with the online community is part of implementing a Social Media Strategy and now concentrating on achieving an effective Social Business Strategy,  determining how they will incorporate their Social media strategy with their overall business goals and values.  According to Li & Solis (2013) the Altimeters Group identified 6 stages which a business goes through when creating and implementing their Social Business Strategy, each business may take different amounts of time throughout the stages, but nevertheless, all of them will progressively go through every stage.


Altimeters 6 stages

graph-1019845_960_720Stage One: Planning: Although Harvest2Home launched their Facebook page it remained dormant for a number of months as they listened and took note of the conversations which were taking place online about healthy eating and the types of products they were to offer.

Stage Two: Presence: Harvest2Home owner posted on local pages as an individual sharing his business page….this created alot of attention and people started to like his page as well as place orders.

Stage Three: Engagement: From what I witnessed, the conversations grew, more people began talking about clean eating and were keen to learn more, this enabled interaction between Harvest2Home and the online community.

Following Altimeters model, Harvest2Home are still at stage three, however, as the online engagement grows this will take the business to the next stage : Fomalised.



friends-1027840__180The term Community of Practice (CoP) is one that very much applies to Harvest2Home. Defined by Wenger (2006)

Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”

I can not think of a better way to describe this family business, every day is different and they are actively learning, supporting and sharing information on how best to approach various situations.

The Community of Practice consists of 3 components:

Domain: The family members take on a variety of roles to make the business a success. From packers through to buyers.

Community:Every member gets involved and supports the others in the different roles.

Practice: Sharing the resources. An instance arose after a week of expanding their reach to another geographical location, Harvest2Home had such an overwhelming response that the logistics of the operation proved to be somewhat difficult!  Some of the other members of the team assisted in dispatch and after the event it was decided to extend their human resource pool and employ another driver.


Cisco’s S.O.C.I.A.L Model

Ciscos SOCIAL policy is based around a framework of 5 components;

Enablement is really about empowering the employees, at Harvest2Home, although it is mainly one person who is responsible for the interaction on social media the other members are encouraged to write interesting posts and engage where necessary.

Intelligence: Harvest2Home do not have the luxury of a dedicated team who listen carefully to the activity online, however, they are still able to respond quickly. They also use a selection method to determine whether to use the private message facility to respond to a consumer, taking the story offline, or replying on the page for all to see.

Engagement:As it is mainly the responsibility of one of the team to post regularly it is relatively well controlled. Generally with just one person posting to one main platform, the tone is consistent and ensuring unique, interesting posts are being regularly placed, is easy to track.

Measurement: The reach and volume are very easily recognisable with this business type as the geographical location of the individual is usually accessible on Facebook, this is also controlled to an extent as the owner can target new markets by posting in specific geographical locations to develop new interest.

Advocacy: Whatever comment is left on Facebook the owner will acknowledge it regardless of its content. These comments help the owner to identify advocates and engage with them accordingly.

In their social media playbook, Cisco’s claims to be great listeners as this assists in the identification of emerging trends, sales leads, competitive insights and so on, this is relatively simple for a company who is able to dedicate professional analysts to this. Harvest2Home are also still able to be great listeners and have proven to react person-ably to their consumers comments.


Final thoughts…

It would be interesting to revisit Harvest2Home in 12 months to review their Social Business Strategy, I suspect additions in human resources will be inevitable which may have some or maybe even great impact on the Community of Practice.

Overall I am actually quite amazed at how these models can be applied to such a variety of tomatoes-1002158_960_720companies.  If I had taken a guess at the start of my research, I may have decided the odd model or some of their components may apply, but we actually see there is a definite structure to successful social communications within every business regardless of size or nature. The most common theme which was highlighted in the models was the importance of listening carefully and over long periods, as it can provide invaluable assistance in growth and development of the business.



 Cisco social media playbook 

Li, C. & Solis, B. (2013). The evolution of social business: Six stages of social business transformation. Altimeter Group. 

Wenger, E. (2006). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. 








All Very Strategic!

For anything to be successful it is usual to formulate a plan and this is no different when a business is looking at implementing social media into their overall business strategy.

hands-1167618_960_720Social Media Strategy: deciding on what platforms to use, what tactics to use and how to engage with the online community.


Social Business Strategy: concentrates on how best to incorporate social media so it is in line with the overall company vision and business objectives.

I suppose the way of differentiating between these two terms is to understand that a Social Media Strategy is more about the logistics… so we use Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Blogs etc. Who will post and communicate with the community? The Social Business Strategy is related to integrating the social communications to the business strategy and ensuring the communications reflect the company goals and values. Achieving the right Social Business Strategy is extremely important. If it is done incorrectly the community may develop incorrect expectations or opinions about the company which can be damaging for the positioning of the company.


A Closer Look at Social Business Strategymagnifying-glass-29398__180

When looking at the difference in the two strategies, although both are important, I viewed the Social Business Strategy as the one that is potentially more damaging to a company, if they got this part wrong.  Its like pretending to be someone you are not. Guidance is needed!

Altimeter Group have published a report which identifies 6 stages which they suggest all businesses go through in order for the business to have a “fully formed, coherent and integrated social business strategy”.  Every business will progress through these steps at a different rate but each step will be applied.


Image from The evolution of Social Business. Altimer Group.


Step by Step…

Planning:This step is all about listening to what people are saying about your specific graph-1019845_960_720brand or product

Presence: Activate you Social Media Strategy and encourage the community to share

Engagement: Engage in dialogue and start to make relationships within the community

Formalised: Have set policies and procedures so any employee interacting on social media is aware of expectations and has company strategy and values at the  forefront at all times

Strategic:The interaction of the community on social media will cross all functional departments in the business so allow it!

Converged:The business is more of a social entity, where social media is integrated into day to day routine practice


Wanting Success?

Successful Social Business Strategies don’t just happen by accident!

Top Tips according to Altimeter:

  1. Always be clear about company goals
  2. Dont just plan for today, plan for the future and communicate these plans
  3. Get executives on board
  4. Decide on what social initiatives you want to do and what you dont want to do and allocate resources accordingly
  5. As social media encroaches on multiple departments make sure staff are trained and able to communicate effectively
  6. Ensure your team consists of the right people and the right number of people
  7. Think before you jump! Research the best and most appropriate technology selection

Lots of good ideas for those starting out on the Social Media journey!



Li, C. & Solis, B. (2013). The evolution of social business: Six stages of social business transformation. Altimeter Group.