(Note: this is the second in a series of posts developing the components of a useful social media business plan: the social media SWOT. The first was about the market-defining story.)
SWOT — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — is my favorite framework for getting into strategy. I’ve used it for years. In groups, it generates good discussion, brings people into the process. And it brings out all three of the main elements of strategy: identity, market, and focus.
To do it yourself, remember the basic rules of SWOT:
- Divide a piece of paper, whiteboard, or tablet computer drawing space into four parts as shown in the illustration here.
- Collect your thoughts in each of the four categories. Use bullet points. Jump around the categories because some thoughts will generate other thoughts. For example, our virtual locations in Oregon and the Silicon Valley are both strength, in our case, and weakness.
- Remember the classic rules of brainstorming: collect a lot of points. Don’t criticize and argue and refine and select only the best. First, get them all down. Filter and digest later.
- Consider the division down the horizontal middle: above the middle, strengths and weaknesses are internal. They are attributes of your business. They’re like your own personal strengths and weaknesses; they can be changed, but not easily. It takes time. And effort. Opportunities and threats, on the other hand, are external. They are out in the market. You can predict them, analyze them, work towards opportunities and away from threats; but they aren’t something you control.
Remember that in this case we’re talking about your business’ online presence. It’s not the business itself, or the entrepreneur; it’s just the online presence. Think of it as your website and your position in the social media big five (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+).
Examples of strengths: good site, good profiles, good content, lots of likes, followers, tweets, pictures, links retweets, friends, etc.
Examples of weaknesses: no presence in some of the big five, no content, poor content, inconsistent content, no focus, no strategy.
Examples of opportunities: something you can give away in exchange for likes and follows, easy freebies, readily available content, curation of content (my favorite is Rebelmouse), events, promotions.
Examples of threats: competitors’ pages, content, engagement, branding, presence, success.
The SWOT is a great entry into strategy. And a social media SWOT is a great first step to a social media business plan.