It’s a debate that’s more common than you might think. Strategy or Tactics first when it comes to social media? Many companies approach their participation on the social web tentatively, picking a popular tool like Twitter, Facebook or for the more adventuresome, a blog. The exercise of setting up and populating a profile, friending others and seeing what happens is akin to the proverbial “throw spaghetti against wall to see if it sticks” school of marketing.
And so begins Lee Odden on one of the most important topics in social media. Should you develop a Strategy first of Tactics.
Look who’s talking. And what you see and read below is just a tiny sampling of the article.
This is what Rebecca Lieb says:
Say you want to build a house. You survey the site. You assess your needs: do you want a one-room cabin, or a sprawling mansion? How many rooms? Should any serve specialized functions? How many bathrooms are necessary? Pool? Garden? Once you’ve answered these (and more) questions, it’s time to go out and buy bricks, lumber, hammers, nails, windows and all the other stuff you need to get your house built. Not before.
Same thing in social media. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare, Digg, delico.us, blogs and all the rest are tools in your arsenal.
This isn’t chicken-or-egg. You need strategy before tactics. How else could you possibly know what tactics to implement?
This is what Jessica Smith says: Short and to the point
“What it comes down to is asking the question ‘How do you define success?’. Tactics don’t answer that question. Strategy does. Sure, you can measure tactics, but without a strategy, there’s no benchmark. You can’t confidently say your program has succeeded if you don’t have a clear snapshot of what success looks like.”
This is what Joseph Jaffe says:
The majority of the market still suffers from “bright and shiny object syndrome.” Is it any wonder that they’re still struggling to figure out a Return On the their social media Investment?
This is what Scott Monty says:
If you’re putting tactics in front of strategy, then you’re probably out there building profiles and pages on social networks that could just as easily succumb to the same fate. In other words, you’re busy chasing trends instead of focusing on what’s core to your brand and building a sound strategy that will outlast every technology upheaval.
This is what Amy Lamparske says:
Developing a social strategy is a complex process that stems from business goals and objectives; it involves embedding listening (both mining and monitoring) into the organizational culture. Tactics are the easy part that follow.
Mike Volpe from Hubspot:
There are so many different tactics you can use, and some of them even conflict with each other. If you ignore the big picture goals and strategy, then in the best case you wasted time and money, in the worst case you moved your company backwards.
You nailed it when you said companies need to “develop a strategic approach based on customer research and goals.” I don’t think you can keep your finger on the pulse of your customer and adjust your tactics successfully unless you’re working in the context of an overall strategy, one that is research-based and has goals and measurable objectives.
I think strategy should come first because your goals for social media usage are more important than the tools. You pick the strategy/goals, then that tells you which tools will help you best execute that strategy.The alternative is to pick the tactics first, then you have to pick your strategy based on the chosen tools. That’s obviously a recipe for disaster.
Of course I have saved the best comment for last. Ok one of the best ones.
The most succinct argument would be to quote Louis Carol’s Cheshire cat: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
You really need to know why you want to use social media and which tools are best suited to meeting that objective. A good start is to know where, on social media, your customers hang out and what you can give them by joining their activities. This depends on which objectives you have in mind. It can be sales, lead generation, support, feedback, new ideas. So many things can be achieved in social media. If you know what your goals are they will shape the tactic. Conversely, if all you want to do is get your feet wet, then I would advise you to get yourself a wading pool. So says Shel Israel.
Some guy name Guy Kawasaki said this: (with all the due respect in the world Guy)
“Social-media strategy” is over-rated if not a downright oxymoron. The goal is to do more business. Social-media is a means to that end. Maybe you’ll use it to establish warm and fuzzy communal feelings. Maybe you’ll sell excess inventory. Don’t focus on some kind of high-level strategy because no one really knows how to use social media yet. Focus on tactics: Get more followers, make them happy, promote your stuff to them every once in a while. That’s all you need to know about strategy right now. (one of the few who said that tactics comes first).
Laura Lippay says:
Most companies will put up a giant megaphone to the internet and “listen” to the conversations, spending time finding out where people are talking about the things they care about first – for 6 months and longer. This allows you to determine where people are talking about the things you care about (your brand assets and relevant topics), what they are saying, who’s saying it, and how they feel about it. With that type of insight, you can more effectively determine a social networking strategy, engaging targeted networks and people with a specific message or goal.
Sergio Balergno gave me a little chuckle…social zombies Sergio:
Any marketing needs strategy before tactics not just social media. You use marketing tactics to drive a business outcome. If you’re expected to measure—
Greg Swan says:
Why should social strategy come before tactics? Because you don’t ask a girl to marry you before you ask her on a date. Because Chevy doesn’t manufacture hoods before they design a car. Because you fill sandbags before a flood.
Strategy before tactics on Social Media is equivalent to diving into a pool before looking to see if there is water let alone the depth to handle such. If you don’t spend the time, you knock out your two front teeth and be reticent to ever get in the pool again. And as we all know, this is a pool worth swimming in.
Jay Baer! Any relation to Max Baer of the Beverly Hillbillies? Anyway look at what he says.
The only thing true about online marketing – and by extension, social media – is that the tools always change. Three years ago, MySpace was king. 10 years ago, Yahoo! had 67% of the search market. A “strategy” that is based on tactical execution isn’t a strategy at all, it’s a recipe for playing a constant game of catch up. The trick is to focus on how you’re going to be social, not where you’re going to do social media.
With new ‘tools/tactics’ launching every 2.7 seconds, or so it seems, the social media world over flows with options. It can be overwhelming to both novice and experienced social media marketer. Strategy First helps you identify which are the best opportunities to put into play to achieve your goals. You do have goals? Oh, that’s another conversation.
Brett Tabke says:
There are so many outlets for social media that it is imperative to have a solid strategy before acting unilaterally in the space. If you make a mistake on a simple project, you only affect your company and the client. However, if you make a mistake in some social media space, it is potentially in front of thousands.
If there was an upside to last year’s down economy, it was the fact that it encouraged many big brands to dip their toes in the likes of Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. While experimentation in these social outposts was initially a good thing, doing so without an overarching strategy ultimately risked works against the brand in the long run.
Social media without strategy is like cooking without a recipe. Sometimes it works but sometimes its disaster. With a recipe, at least you know what ingredients to have before you get started. Along the way it’s great to improvise to make it your own but without at least a plan, you end up wandering aimlessly.
Katie Delahaye Paine has a different spin: How about research before strategy before tactics???
You don’t need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to social strategy – borrow one if you need to. How could you go wrong with a strategy like: make listening to the voice of our community/customers central to how we make decisions as an organization.
says David Alston.
If this is not enough then let’s add the likes of Marc Meyer, Debbie Weil, Jennifer Cisney, Greg Swan, Laura Fitton, Jason Falls, David Beerman Scott, Sarah Evans, Julia Zapata, Michael Brito, Shell Israel, Shannon Paul, Peter Kim, Mel Carson, Josh Hallett, Valaria Maltoni, Deidre Breckenridge. Do you need more?
Chris Brogan says:
Strategy is the path one intends to take to reach a certain goal. Using only tactics in social media is like picking up the phone and dialing random people before you’ve even decided if the call is for a sale or customer service. The tools are there to serve the goal, and certain tools improve certain strategies. Starting the other way around is just asking for pain.
Has anyone here ever heard of Facebook? Then you have heard of Mari Smith haven’t you?
But, for what purpose? What are you trying to achieve? By starting with the technology tactics piece first, you could be completely missing the mark and, in fact, might not even be building a presence where your target audience lives! Carving out time to architect a solid social strategy is vital for success in today’s uber noisy online world.
Now is that enough to convince you that this is one of the most important articles you’re going to read on the topic of social media. And there’s much more with the likes of Liz Strauss, Des Walsh, Jacob Morgan, Serena Ehrlich. I hope I didn’t forget anyone because I’m getting crossed eyed.
All these comments are great but let me add one more person.
Robert Spiller says: Create your strategy first, don’t worry about the latest bright shiny object. Connect with your customers and give them excellent customer service, give them as many freebies as you can afford, create the highest value for them, solve their problems…let this be a part of your tactics.
Now Mr. Kawasaki do you have a problem with that?