Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sorry, Virginia, There's No Such Thing as a Social Media Strategy

|> Point One: Asking your marketing director to create a Social Media (SM) strategy is like asking your architect to develop a fastener strategy. No doubt the chosen building contractor will need to use nails, screws, and staples to build your house, but it's a misguided question. <|
Agreed you can ask the architect if she plans to specify stainless nails for the deck (so they don't rust), but that is very different than asking her for a fastener strategy.

First, let's take a high level look at planning and for the purposes of this discussion, we'll keep it to Strategy, Tactics, and Tools.*

Marketing Strategy – aligning marketing to business goals. In other words: What, specifically, can marketing do to help reach the business goals?

Marketing Tactics – creating the steps/processes we need to take/create to execute these strategies. In other words: How are we going to meet our strategic marketing goals?

Marketing Tools – developing the materials and physical requirements for tactic execution. In other words: What assets do we or the business development and sales folks need?

Using the above, we see that Social Media is a collection of tools, sort of like the hardware store or a toolbox would be to our analagous architect. She would not even be the one using the tools, let alone consider developing a "tool-upwards" process to strategy development.
|> The answer to the question: "Do you have a Social Media strategy?" is "That's impossible."<|
You should have a Social Media policy, of course. If you don't, then stop reading and get one.

But whenever I am asked if we have a Social Media strategy (or suggested that we should have one, or have an iPhone app, get on Twitter, create a Facebook page, do some crowd sourcing, etc.), I feel like a architect being asked to get a power drill and go do some architecting. Or like when I happen to have a screwdriver (the tool kind) in my hand and I am looking around my house for screws that have come loose. Sure, it's efficient to see what else I can tighten while I have the screwdriver in my hand and I'm on my way to the tool room, but it's not a strategy. And it's not efficient to grab a random tool from my toolroom and then wander around for things to hammer, route, drill, sand, etc.

|> Point Two: Creating a Social Media (SM) budget is like asking your architect to develop a fastener budget. Again, she will need to spend a percentage of your budget on fasteners, but picking a number to spend on fasteners before you even have a blueprint is a ridiculous exercise. <|
And yet, we are often asked – and advised by so-called Social Media experts – to portion off a certain amount of our marketing budget for social media.

If you got this far and don't agree that this is a pointless "tool-upwards" approach, then there is really no reason to read farther, since I am not going to try to convince you any more that this is laughable.

So the question is: Why are social media experts telling you to do this?

Answer: For the same reason the sales person from the storm door manufacturing company would ask you to budget a certain amount of money for the aluminum frame, insulated versions of his products. (Hint: So you can buy them.)

An associate of recently mine said, "There is no such thing as a social media expert."

I believe this is untrue. I know a number of social media experts and believe any one of them would be very helpful in showing you how to best select and use specific social media tools to execute your tactics and, in result, fulfill your overall strategies.

Yes, I know that specifying storm doors you cannot afford is a bad way to execute your tactics or meet your strategy. And that a qualified architect needs to know about storm door functionality and costs (or consult with someone who knows) before finalizing a blueprint. But the point is that the strategy comes first. You do not start by planning to spend 5% of your budget on storm doors, though you might end up there.

In shorter words, listen to any relevant and credible expert who can show you social media tools, tips and techniques, but do not listen to them when they start pre-allocating your budget.
|> The answer to the question: "How much should we budget for Social Media?" is "Nothing." <|
You should budget for tactics. If that means you will need to spend money on social media tools (and you very likely will), then you will need to allocate budget towards those tools … as you have budget and as it makes sense to realize your goals.

To end, let's say it all together: There is no such thing as a Social Media strategy.

If you don't agree, then I'd like to show you a few aluminum frame, insulated storm doors.

*Yes, this is a very simplistic approach and no doubt many people have a more sophisticated planning regimen. The question, however, is: Does your approach and terminology allow you to call Social Media a "strategy"? If so, comment below. I'd love to be proven wrong here.

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