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Social Media Strategy: 3 Things to Know Before Diving In

Posted on 16th February, by Bethany in Misc. 5 Comments

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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.

strategyBut 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.

Related posts:

  1. Social Media Marketing – how big is it and how to use it
  2. Starting a Social Media Campaign
  3. McKinsey Study: Companies embracing a Social Media Strategy are finding a positive ROI
  4. Favorite 2009 Blog – Social Media Today – Five Reasons Companies #Fail at Social Media
  5. Social Media in today’s society – Obama proves it works

5 Responses to “Social Media Strategy: 3 Things to Know Before Diving In”

  1. Thanks for the mention Bethany! Glad you liked the e-book.

  2. Carolyn says:

    I think you have summed it up quite well, Bethany. For me, step number 2 makes it sound more complicated than it is. It is entirely possible for an organization to start small with social media. As long as there is a clear objective and it’s tied to an organizational objective, you can be strategic and tackle social media in bite-sized pieces.

  3. Bethany,

    Great post! This is a really well done synopsis of how important it is to develop a SM strategy before jumping into the deep end. I especially liked your comment about how, 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. This statement very concisely illustrates what happen when a thorough strategy is not developed first.

    BTW, thanks for the shout-out!

  4. Hi Bethany,

    Thanks for this article. You have rightly pointed towards the tactics and the strategy. I am convinced with your approach towards 3 things before you dive in but in my humble opinion until you make the strategy a long run activity with a constant evaluation mechanism of your overall strategy, you are not going to reach anywhere. Because, the social media is not just one time activity, this has to be with you for as long as you stay in the business.

  5. [...] you would like an example of how I did this, check out the post I wrote called Social Media Strategy: 3 Things To Know Before Diving In. So, give it a try. We’d love to hear how this worked for you. If you have other ideas how to [...]

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