Why I Worry About "Social Media Strategy"

I’m a little worried at how I’ve seen the term “social media strategy” thrown about recently.

I’m starting to overhear things like, “we’re also working on a social media strategy.”

I worry about this. A lot. I think I worried aloud about it four or five times during my 20-minute session at Talk Is Cheap recently.

Used this way, “social media strategy” could put a huge dent in the success of social media efforts within organizations.

Why?

Social Media Shouldn’t Stand On Its Own

‘Social media’ gives you a set of tools. You should add these to your existing toolkit and use them as appropriate.

365 - 51 - banging my head against the wallTreating social media as a separate program will lead to disconnected and poorly coordinated efforts destined to fail.

Would you put a news release out on the wire on its own and expect it to have a significant impact?

Ok, once in a blue moon it might. The vast majority, though, will disappear into the abyss.

If you have any sense, you support your news release with other tactics – events, letters to stakeholders, speeches, matte articles, advertising, etc.

Social media gives you more tactics to add to this list. The difference is, you can’t just put them up at the time then forget about them. These aren’t one-day wonders like some other tactics. They need continued work, up front and afterwards.

Why, then, do people think it’s ok to throw up a Facebook page on its own? Or to put a video up on YouTube without anything to back it up? Sure it’s neat, but will it succeed? No. Just like anything else, social media needs to be integrated with other outreach or it will fail.

What Should Social Media Strategies Do?

Social media is long-term. It’s ongoing. That’s the nature of conversation and relationships. They outlive any single PR initiative.

Your social media strategy should plan how to get involved in those communities, relationships and conversations… genuinely.

Who’s out there? What do they care about? How can you help them? How will you engage them over time?

That’s what your social media strategy should cover… not a cool video on a funky website that causes a small ripple then vanishes.

(Related link: Should social media specialists be separated from PR staff? hat tip: Susan Getgood for the reminder)

Technorati Tags: ,,,,,,,

  • I completely agree that social media needs to be treated as part of the existing mix. The thing that people often forget is that social media is plural… it’s not one mystical thing. It’s a collection of media that have a social element in common.

    That said, I do think strategy is important to consider before becoming active in social media, because they really do require a certain amount of disruption within most marketing organizations. Like you say, on their own, tactics like twitter or Facebook can make a small ripple, but even as part of an overall strategy, companies need to figure out what they’re trying to get out of the individual media, and how you’re going to do it.

  • Here’s a question: What do you do when strategy gets used as the latest excuse for not getting things done with social media? You pitch a viral video idea, but it gets shot down because “We don’t have a YouTube strategy.” You pitch a simple idea for a Facebook group and get told we can’t do it because “We don’t have a Facebook strategy.” Well, we don’t have a white paper strategy either but that’s never kept us from writing dozens and dozens of white papers per year …

  • Ryan – Absolutely. These new approaches do cause disruption and organizations shouldn’t rush to use them without thinking. My concern is that people are viewing the tactics as a strategy. While a wider plan for engaging in these conversations is necessary, the tactical thinking for each initiative can’t happen in isolation. For individual tactics their case-by-case use needs to be considered alongside all the other ‘traditional’ tactics.

    Alison – Great question! I think that’s part of the problem. People shouldn’t look for a ‘YouTube strategy’ – they should look for how YouTube fits into their plan for that initiative. Part of that is ongoing education but communicators can help by integrating these tactics into their communications plans.

    Ok, you hypothetically think a YouTube video is appropriate within this initiative – explain why. Explain that your news release will link to the video and that you will reach out to the thought leaders in the space (who you’re already engaging with, right?). Explain that this will drive traffic to your website. Explain that the video will direct people to a custom landing page that provides them with directly relevant content so that 75% of them don’t just leave your site immediately after arriving. Explain that you can track what these people do on your site and that you can measure how successful their visits are. Explain how these new tactics fit into the bigger picture.

    Does that make sense?

  • Thanks, Dave. Great answers. I keep thinking of blogs, video, podcasts, etc as more assets at our disposal – but it’s hard to explain that to people who are timid about social media in general.