Mikotaj Jan Piskorski & Harvard Business Review

If social media marketers needed any proof that their work is important, perhaps the fact that the Harvard Business Review has one or more articles on the subject in every issue these days. And of course, being HBR, those articles are being written by some of the brighter thinkers around.

One such article in the November 2011 issue is authored by an associate professor in the strategy unit at Harvard Business School, Mikotaj Jan Piskorski. The article titled Social Strategies That Work can be read online at:


What Businesses Need for Social Strategies to be Successful

Piskorski restates the essential message that just about every SoMe marketer has made, that businesses can’t simply import their non-social strategies into social and expect them to work.  People aren’t interested in being the subjects of promotion. Instead, the author provides a simple solution to what businesses need for their social strategies to be successful:

The strategy must:

  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 

Are These Social Strategies Too Simple?

Is this too simplistic? And if so, is that really a problem? After all, most well known marketing tools are simple. The SWOT and the Benefits/Risk tool are models of simplicity.  Even the Boston Consulting Group Matrix and the Ansoff Matrix are just four boxes – so why not?

Cost Reduction & Your Customer

The question of whether a strategy will reduce costs or increase customer’s willingness to pay starts a rich discussion.  Doesn’t the increase of awareness, in and of itself, increase a customer’s willingness to pay?  Doesn’t the increase of positive sentiment lead to a customer’s willingness to pay more? If so, then most non-promotional social marketing strategies have that covered.

If an organization develops or supports its own social platform, it is likely helping people establish or strengthen relationships – IF their platform truly is social.  No doubt, any such platform would benefit by encouraging relationships – which, is what social intrinsically is. Otherwise, it’s not social.

If a company does not support their own platform, but is using preexisting platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, then they are immediately in the space where compelling content will be spread – and thus they are fulfilling the third notion of customers doing free work on a company’s behalf.

Piskorski & the Future

I love that Piskorski has fleshed this out. I’m just not sure that the model provides any more value beyond a statement he makes early in the article, “What the poorly performing companies shared was that they merely imported their digital strategies into social environments by broadcasting commercial messages or seeking customer feedback.”

Everything else seems to sum up in the ideas that companies should provide truly social platforms of their own (where people make or improve relationships with others), or that companies should engage in social media in a non-promotional way.