Social Media Strategy: 3 Things to Know Before Diving In
Having spent some time in the military, I’m all for differentiating between social media tactics and social media strategy. When it comes to social media, however, many companies overlook, or are not aware of the power and the implications that exist with engaging the company in social media. Consequently, companies will rush in to get a Facebook page, a blog or some other social media profile because “everyone is doing it,” and they fail to set up a strategy, a plan for their activities. The resulting abandoned blog, and Facebook fanpage with little activity is proof to them that this “whole social media thing” doesn’t really work.
But this is not true. A company wouldn’t be successful without a business strategy. In the same way, social media engagement can only be successful if and when the company is willing to invest the time and effort necessary for any business activity. So, if you are thinking about moving forward into the social media realm, make sure the people that you hire to lead you know the difference between social media strategy and implementation.
Strategy vs. Tactics
Wikipedia states that “in military usage strategy is distinct from tactics,” in that “how a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: the terms and conditions that it is fought on and whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy.” Most people know what strategy means and what tactics are, but how are these two definitions applied within social media?
1. Ask “Can We Support Social Media Activities?”
Marge Kornow Brown, writer and social media advocate for WordsFYI reinforced Wikipedia’s latter concept about strategy when she stated in a LinkedIn discussion on the topic that you must first ask, “does social media makes sense for your company at this time?” A company must first attempt to discover if they have the personnel to support the implementation, the content creation, the management and the time commitment for continued engagement and follow-through before deciding to join into the social media realm. Carolyn Berghoeff, Online Producer at Professionally Speaking TV, agreed with Brown’s statement and added, “if the company hasn’t the resources to maintain or monitor these new channels it can be damaging.”
2. The Social Media “Discovery” Mode
Nick Robinson, Inbound Marketer at Social Media HQ, recently submitted an article to one of my LinkedIn groups, excerpted from their new e-book “6 Social Media Strategy Tips for Market Leadership.” In it, they state that the first step to a social media strategy is discovery. They write that “before you can write a plan, you need to gather the appropriate information from all the parties that will have a stake in your social media program.” I questioned Nick a little further on discovery, and he provided me with some example questions that you should be asking. He differentiated between questions that you would ask the C-suite, managers and front line staff—sales, customer service, etc. This latter group of people is most notable because not only are these people stakeholders, but they are the people who are most intimately involved with your customers.
As this information gathering takes place, the direction for the social media strategy starts to take shape, and it becomes clear that social media can help in more ways than just with marketing and PR.
3. A Social Media Strategy Considers the Whole Company
“If you believe in social media and understand it’s potential, then you will bring it to the centre of your company and have it affect HR, PR, product, marketing and more,” writes Philip Macartney. This statement speaks to the power that can be inherent in using social media if a strategy is created to take advantage of this power.
Many companies don’t know that social media can be used for more than marketing, and if they hire a consultant or firm that doesn’t show them the possibility there, they are hiring implementers who are likely out for the money gained, and not truly concerned for their client’s best interests. It is imperative that the strategist should at least educate their client about this potential not only because it could be powerful for their client, but also because it is possible that their social media activity will take on a life of its own. The company may well be set to use social media for marketing, but when suddenly they find that their customers are using it to ask questions, make a complaint, inquire about a job, or give suggestions, the company will be unprepared for how to handle this. If the company decides they don’t have the time or personnel to handle this much social media activity, they at least need to know what to do and how to redirect that traffic should it occur.
If you are new to doing social media for your company, I hope that this gives you some things to think about before getting started. If you’ve been doing social media for a while now, leave a comment and let us know what else those new to social media should consider.
Chess photo by pepperazi on Flickr via creative commons license.
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