Which comes first; the social media strategy, or the social media tactics?

This is a no-brainer, right? Because we all know you create the strategy first, then find the tactics that help you best execute that strategy. Right?

But.

So many companies are jumping on Twitter and Facebook (for example) because they are the 'hot' sites of the moment, and/or because they think they need to be there. They use these sites for a couple of weeks, then realize they have absolutely no idea what's going on. That's when I get the 'we started using Twitter/Facebook but really have no idea what we are supposed to be doing with it' email.

I get that email because the business started using Twitter and Facebook without first having a social media strategy in place. They assumed they had to be on these sites, and once they were there, had to scramble to figure out how being there was going to help their business.

Get the strategy in place first, then decide on the tactics that help you execute that strategy.

Don't focus on social media tools, focus on the reasons why you are wanting to use social media. What are you wanting to accomplish? Some examples:

1 - Grow awareness of a particular product or service, or your entire company.

2 - Establish your expertise within your industry.

3 - Provide greater customer service.

4 - Share and communicate information more quickly with customers, especially during a crisis situation.


Once you know what your strategy is, then you can talk tactics. Because each tool works in a slightly different way, and as such, makes it more or less likely to work for your particular strategy. If you want to connect with your customers quickly, as in a crisis situation, or to provide customer service, a tool that facilitates more real-time communication, like Twitter, would probably work well. If you want to establish your expertise within your industry, maybe a blog would be your best bet.

But before you jump in and start using a particular tool, you have to make sure that it fits your strategy, and that it fits your existing human, skill, and time resources. I understand that many companies now feel the need to 'do something', but you still need to have a plan. And if you aren't sure how your company should craft your social media strategy, please email me and I'll be happy to help you!


posted by Mack Collier @ 11:07 AM,

19 Comments:

At 11:22 AM, Anonymous C.C. Chapman said...

AMEN! This is something that I'm always bringing up in every talk I give and with any potential client that comes in to talk with Campfire and yet so many brands of every size just jump at the shiny toy before figuring out how to actually use it.

Yes, it is always hard to actually stop, wait and plan, but in the long run it is the best thing you can do. In my mind it is the first thing you MUST do.

 
At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Seth Gray said...

yes but... I think there is something to be said for learning by doing. What Diego Rodriguez over at metacool calls "Startegy" http://metacool.typepad.com/metacool/2008/08/forget-strategy.html. I think the problems arise when people can't or don't want to adapt their startegy (yes, startegy) as they get more info.

 
At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Sue Spaight said...

Amen from me, also, Mack. Very well said in very simple terms - the reason so many people cannot figure out what they are supposed to be doing with the tools they are using is that they don't have a strategy that gives them a compass heading.

In my mind, though, building awareness is usually more of an objective than a strategy, the strategy being more of the "how" are you going to build the awareness, an example could be "we're going to build relationships with bloggers" or "through encouraging conversation and sharing", etc.

Great post. Sue

 
At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Sue Spaight said...

Totally disagree with the "Startegy" comment/post. How are you going to get quality learning if you don't even know what you are trying to accomplish and how? Yes, start. Do something. Now. That doesn't have to be mutually exclusive with having a plan.

 
At 12:45 PM, Anonymous David Teicher (Aerocles) said...

I actually wrote about this recently after TGI Friday's Fan Woody Facebook Campaign. It seems they had neither tactics nor strategy, simply a stunt.

I agree with your assessment of the situation. Building an audience on Social platforms is important - but who comprises that audience and how you plan on engaging with them are decisions you must make before jumping on the bandwagon. If you want to read my post on the topic, you can find it here: Social Media Marketing: What Comes After “The Stunt?” http://ow.ly/pQAS

Thanks,

David

 
At 12:45 PM, Blogger Jake Rosen said...

Well said. I completely agree. I run into issue all the time where a client asks my company to come in and fix their social media mistakes because they have obsessed about the tools/tactics. I find myself repeating the same thing over and over...

"take a step back and think about your strategy. Don't get caught up on the glitz and glamor of the tools and don't forget social media is about relationships"

Great post. I share the same sentiments on my blog as often as I can.

 
At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Kim Nielsen said...

I think having a strategy is absolutely essential for getting started. How can you possibly know what you should be doing without first knowing where you want to be going?

I think one of the greatest challenges to overcome in creating a social media strategy is the people who aren't personally active in social media, but think the organization needs to be there because "everyone else is doing it."

If you don't know the strategy for how you are going to reach your goals, you're going to have a really tough time. If you don't have a strategy and you're just making your decision to implement the tools based solely on the fact that "everyone is doing it," you're really doomed.

 
At 1:33 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Seth I would have agreed with you if you had said that companies don't/won't adapt their strategy. I do think that too many companies get 'married' to a particular strategy and don't want to change. Some flexibility is a good thing.

And flexibility with tactics can be a good thing as well. But I think you have to have the plan in place first. There needs to be something guiding the tactics you use. I mean without a plan, why not just launch a podcast, and if that doesn't work after 2 weeks, buy an island in Second Life!

See where I am going with this? You can't just throw stuff against a wall to see what will stick. Agree completely about experimenting and trying new things, but you can do that and first have the strategy.

 
At 2:05 PM, Blogger Steven said...

Dead on... If a company doesn't even know what their UPS unique selling proposition is and to whom..Social Business related tools and tactics will not a miracle happen.
But if they are talking with us about the social media it gives us the chance to walk them back a little to core principles and if you can do this in and with the context of some of the tools they are interested in..the engagement will go better.. Being social makes most everyone act for the better- what they say with whom and when. Great Post.

 
At 4:26 PM, Anonymous David Reich said...

Excellent, Mack. With all the hype about Twitter and SM (and blogging, before that), it's easy to get caught up and just jump in. Agencies are being pushed by clients and often don't have the cojones to tell the client, "Wait. Not yet, until we figure out how it fits in with our marketing or communications strategy."

Experimentation is good, but maybe try experimenting with your personal account rather than a client's reputation.

 
At 6:39 PM, Anonymous Daniel K Wentzel said...

Clarity! Clarity! Clarity! Without which will result in a lack of focus! What I am saying about the importance of strategy is the following: Our choices about what to do as are as important as the choices about what not to do (Michael Porter, Harvard Business School). If your strategy is not making this sort of discrimination then no SM tool will get you to where you are going or alternatively, any SM tool will get get you to where you aren't going.

If leaders are not clear about what will be done and what will not be done, then there is no clarity. Having no clarity generally results in a communication breakdown and the plethora of woes that generally pursues this. This is particularly true in organizations that adopt
strategies to copy their competitors, which is what I believe that many are simply guilty of.

Avoiding difficult choices and refusing to discriminate can lead to a kitchen-sink strategy—one that includes a little bit of everything, which is the opposite of focus.

In conclusion many times the difficult task of discriminatory thinking feels fruitless because of the following pressures:

1. Translating strategic objectives to the lower ranks of the organization, that is, tactics are inevitably misaligned because people throughout the organization don’t really understand what the strategy means for them on a day-to-day basis.

2. Balancing the current operational needs of the organization versus looking at the long-term perspective of growth and development of HR and business practice as well as the pressure to make the short-term results expected by shareholders and the like.

Ref: Becoming a Strategic Leader: Richard L. Hughes and Katherine Colarelli Beatty

 
At 8:09 AM, Blogger C. B. Whittemore said...

Mack, funny how focusing on tactics over strategy comes up across the board. It's that much more obvious with social media because it's just so easy to do something - set up a Twitter account or start blog. But making those actions deliver value is where strategy becomes so critical.

Great discussion.

CB

 
At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Jamie Favreau said...

I think you have to know where you are going to get something accomplished. I created a campaign but I only had a week to do it in and I feel when I break it down for the client they will be better off. You need a strategy and the tools will work for themselves if used properly.

Since Social Media is a marathon and not a sprint a one week test was not a good catalyst but I am learning and felt this was a great experience.

 
At 12:20 PM, Anonymous Michael E. Rubin said...

Spot on as always, Mack. "Strategy" before "tactics" is something we continually preach to clients and prospects. The good news is that I think the message is often welcomed and embraced.

Now the question is what forms the strategy? That's too big to go into for a simple blog comment, but here's the quick and dirty I start with:

Answer these two questions first:
1> Who are your talkers?
2> What are they talking about?

*Then* we can start talking about tactics. In fact, by starting with talkers and topics, it makes coming up with the specific tactics a heckuva lot easier.

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger RichN said...

Mack, I think the challenge most companies run into is that they think a lot will happen when they jump into social media, but it seldom does. Unless people are dying to talk about your brand or product (and you have to be pretty big to get that volume)it's like showing up to the party and all the booze and good looking people are gone.


When companies go online and can't see conversations happening spontaneously, they need help in figuring out the "why." And that's a good opportunity for those of us who advise clients.

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger Richard said...

If you start a presence online it isn't always easy to disengage. You need to consider what you want to achieve and how before you start - and this must tie in with your wider communications strategy. Once you're there then tweak the tactics, but always start with the wider reputation in mind.

 
At 5:44 PM, Blogger cj lambert said...

hahah I get this EVERY time..the car with no driver problem. Do the training then get a 'what do I write?' email..great discussion :-)

 
At 6:02 AM, Blogger Byrdie said...

There should always be strategy, that's a good start for your vision, but it is innate without tactics of how to implement it; as you say - a no brainer and obvious to most seasoned marketeers..isn't it?
But social media has to be part of the strategy mix

 
At 10:26 PM, Anonymous Promotional Products said...

These are some great points that you make. Many times small business owners rush into a popular medium that they have no idea how to manage. What are some of the best strategies to use when you find yourself in this situation?

 

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