A business aligned strategy is a strategy that draws a clear connection between the organization’s business goals and the processes that are needed to achieve those goals. A business-aligned social media strategy is a strategy that explicitly addresses how social media and social networking processes and technologies can be applied to an organization’s operations in order to help it achieve its goals.
Social Media are collections of data and information that are developed collaboratively and/or shared interactively among individuals and groups. Examples of social media are blogs, wikis, shared bookmarks, and group rating systems. Social Networking is the use of special processes and technologies to support the discovery, formation, and maintenance of personal and professional relationships.

The strategy development process described here has two interrelated steps:
1. Describe Organizational Goals
2. Describe Social Media Initiatives

Step 1: Describe Organizational Goals

Social media strategy development begins with identifying the goals of the organization. These goals drive the organization’s planning and operational efforts. Goal identification requires working with top management to identify the 3 to 5 major corporate goals along with the associated metrics the organization uses to tell whether or not the organization is meeting those goals. The “3 to 5” number is suggested to make it easier to organize and present information to management for group discussion. The actual number will depend upon the organization. These are examples of high level corporate goals: Maintain or increase profitability or levels of cost recovery. Improve communication among employees, customers, members, and/or stockholders. Help customers or members in their jobs or private lives. Increase the number of new and/or returning customers or members. Obtaining agreement from management on these goals at the outset of a strategy project is important. These goals will drive prioritization of potential actions to put social media and social networking to use. Some organizations will have already identified and documented such corporate goals and will have incorporated them into ongoing planning and budgeting processes. Others may require assistance in defining a unified set of goals if, say, the planning or administrative processes of different divisions are highly decentralized or are impacted by historically separate organizational divisions. Either way, a key requirement of this step is an understanding and a sharing of what the organization is attempting to accomplish. If an external consultant is assisting in the strategy development process, this may require that the consultant have access to private or sensitive corporate financial data given that financial measures will be associated with many corporate goals.

Step 2: Describe Social Media Initiatives

In addition to defining the unique sets of goals that describe the organization, the project must list and describe the potential programs, initiatives, and projects that rely on social media and social networking. The following are examples of initiatives; note that some are planning exercises while others involve delivery of operating systems:

-Create and maintain a corporate Facebook page to serve as a corporate marketing and recruiting tool.
-Establish and operate blogs for all customer- or member-facing divisions or committees.
-Offer free web-enabled telephone conferencing services to customers.
-Create and maintain a CEO blog.
-Establish and operate wikis to create and share “best practices” information.
-Partner with a professional accreditation organization to develop a podcast based lesson series offering continuing education credit.
-Develop and implement training processes on how to employ dedicated blogs in support of project management.
-Create and publicize a network of experts within the organization who can be consulted on business specific topics.
-Establish a secure company wide social bookmarking system to support the tagging and sharing of internal and external information sources.
-Develop a corporate policy and training program on information security and privacy.
-Develop and implement a corporate security policy to monitor and control inadvertent leaks of sensitive or private information. -Create and test a plan to employ social media and social networking in crisis situations.
-Create and implement a competitor monitoring system to track competitor activities on blogs, social networks, public wikis , feed subscription services, and social bookmarking systems.

Initially, an organization creates an inventory of all potential applications that can be related back to functions and ultimately to goals. It does this by reviewing how each function is performed within the company and asking questions such as the following:
– How can we use social media and social networking to improve how this function is performed?
– Can we improve conversations, information sharing, and collaboration among people who perform this function?
– Can we improve how feedback is obtained from people who benefit from the output or products of this function?
– Are there functions that are in need of innovation or creativity?
– Are there functions where the people involved currently have difficulty in communication or collaboration?

The inventory should include descriptions of these initiatives in terms of:
– Cost (e.g., fixed vs. variable; one-time vs. ongoing)
– Quantitative and qualitative benefits (e.g., revenue enhancement, cost reduction, improved public image, improved staff morale,
improved innovation, etc.)
– Impacted function(s)
– Impacted goal(s) Priority level Impacted groups (e.g., internal vs. external users)
– Schedule
– Relationship to existing systems and processes (e.g., impacts, is impacted by, is dependent on, etc.)
– Likelihood of Acceptance (e.g., by management, by staff, by vendors, by customers, etc.)
The list of initiatives should be in a form that simplifies review, updating and revision by team members. Information on initiatives can be presented in summary or table form so that management can compare, contrast, and — most importantly — provide feedback on the different opportunities in relation to the organization’s goals and functions. One approach to presenting findings as they evolve is to create a secure project blog for use by project team members to support project functions such as the following:
– Report progress against schedule.
– Discuss intermediate findings.
– Store and share documents and multimedia.
– Obtain feedback on key topics to supplement — or replace — face to face meetings.
It is not unusual to find that the total costs of doing everything in the list of initiatives will be greater than the available budget. This is where mapping the different opportunities to functions and goals aids in prioritization. Once this initial prioritization takes place by the project team and results are communicated to management, more detailed review and planning and socialization (including staff assignments, content selection, detailed schedules, program governance, and technology infrastructure development) can continue.