Article | Harvard Business Review | November 2011

Social Strategies That Work

by Mikolaj Jan Piskorski

Abstract

Although most companies have collected lots of friends and followers on social platforms such as Facebook, few have succeeded in generating profits there. That's because they merely port their digital strategies into social environments by broadcasting their commercial messages or seeking customer feedback. To succeed on social platforms, says Harvard Business School's Piskorski, businesses need to devise social strategies that are consistent with users' expectations and behavior in these venues-namely, people want to connect with other people, not with companies. The author defines successful social strategies as those that reduce costs or increase customers' willingness to pay by helping people establish or strengthen relationships through doing free work on a company's behalf. Citing successes at Zynga, eBay, American Express, and Yelp, Piskorski shows that social strategies can generate profits by helping people connect in exchange for tasks that benefit the company such as customer acquisition, marketing, and content creation. He lays out a systematic way to build a social strategy and shows how a major credit card company he advised used the method to roll out its own strategy.

Keywords: social platforms; social strategies; Social and Collaborative Networks; Customers; Relationships; Business Strategy; Profit;

Citation:

Piskorski, Mikolaj Jan. "Social Strategies That Work." Harvard Business Review 89, no. 11 (November 2011): 116–122.