Is Your Social Media Strategy Sailing In Circles?

by | Aug 10, 2011

World mapAre you confused about what your social media mission, goals, objectives, strategies and tactics are?

If so, you’re not alone. For years, many marketers have gnashed their teeth over the definitions and priorities of the various pieces of the puzzle.

Personally, I have worked with companies and clients for whom strategy was paramount before any actual work would proceed—yet they lacked clear objectives. In other cases, I have seen people tout nitty-gritty tactics as goals or strategies (classic cart-before-the-horse blunders).

To make matters worse, for a long time I’ve practiced public relations—which is even more difficult for professionals to define. But I digress.

Let’s Get Specific

Regardless of which end of the marketing spectrum you are on, it is important to understand ALL the nuances between the above components. Why is this important? A few reasons:

  • Well defined plans set clear targets for everyone to achieve
  • Common definitions keep everyone on the same page
  • Thinking through everything helps avoid a “ready-fire-aim” mentality, with its heavy emphasis on tactics
  • Doing a full assessment upfront allows you to determine how different marketing components—ranging from advertising to PR to social media—will fit together
  • Planning ahead forces you to fully define what you’re trying to accomplish, and how you will measure results
  • When things start to get crazy or go off course, a good plan will help you stay focused

Preparing the Ship Before Setting Sail

Sailing ship

Now let’s talk about the definitions. I wish I could give you (and you and you and you) specific examples of each relative to your organization, but that would require my knowing about your specific situation and challenges. For now, let’s just imagine being the captain of a great sailing vessel—say, Christopher Columbus—on the verge of the voyage of a lifetime.

You have probably heard it said that no captain in his or her right mind would just fire up the engines and “see where this thing takes us.” That would be dumb, misguided and likely dangerous behavior. The same goes for people who just start “tweeting and Facebook-ing,” hoping something will happen.

Our good captain will probably spend months or years plotting his potential course and considering all the possible outcomes before hauling up the anchor and setting sail.

1. Mission Statement

To start with, the captain will probably frame a mission for the crew. This is a lofty, what-is-our-purpose-in-life statement, such as “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” (Sorry, wrong captain!) The mission is the WHY of your efforts on a long-term, broad scale. This is when you can go crazy with dream stirring superlatives like “be the best…the biggest…the richest…the most famous.”

Another commander-in-chief, President Kennedy, gave us the perfect mission statement with, “We will go to the moon.” (Amazing! Inspiring! But…just a tad short on specifics.)

Here are some great examples of Mission Statements.

2. Objectives

Next up are our captain’s objectives. They are the WHAT that we are trying to accomplish. This can also be called our goals.

“Our objective is to explore as many continents as possible and discover new worlds on behalf of Her Majesty’s kingdom by December 31, 1492.”

The key to objectives is—and this is trips most people up—they must be measurable! Think of objectives as requiring a PLOT:

P – Public, or whom you are trying to reach, influence, sell to, etc.

L – Level to be achieved (such as, “discover a minimum of three new continents” or “increase qualified new leads by 15%”)

O – Outcome, or what behavior/actions you are trying to influence (get someone to buy your product, sign up for your course, enter your sales funnel or knight you upon the successful completion of the mission)

T – Timeline, or a specific deadline by which you will reach your stated objectives

Saying, “We will increase our engagement with fans” is an utterly weak type of social media objective that, sadly, is all too common.

A better objective is, “We will demonstrate the Santa Maria’s new sailing efficiencies to a minimum of 300 marine engineers by August 15.”

Any social media practitioner worth their weight in salt will work hard to create the best objectives possible. Measurement provides the ability to determine ROI, which in turn demonstrates the success (or failure, i.e., “opportunities for improvement” of your efforts.

3. Strategies

Strategies come after determining your objectives. They are the HOW steps behind the grand vision. “Develop a series of live and taped webinars featuring Captain Columbus and his chief mate. Offer a chance for four lucky mates to join the maiden ‘New World Tour Cruise’.'”

4. Tactics

Tactics are also the what, but specifically as they relate to the execution of your strategies.

  1. First mate Guillermo and second mate Miranda will identify and personally contact the top 50 marine engineers bloggers by June.
  2. Guillermo will create two blog posts per week for six weeks leading up to the first webinar, providing “sneak preview” content of interest to the engineers and a webinar signup form.
  3. Miranda will use our Facebook page, Twitter account and email list to share the blog posts and directly engage with anyone who likes or shares the content.

Tactics are of course very important, yet as I’ve said many people jump straight to them before really thinking through the whys and hows.

Consider building a house. First, you need a blueprint or strategy—the how—before you run down to Lowe’s and load up on boards and nails. Likewise, military commanders don’t just hand out guns and ammo and say, “Go shoot some stuff up!” They plan, speculate, train and rehearse, long before firing commences.

Now We’re Sailing

To sum up our Christopher Columbus analogy, success in every endeavor depends on a lot of elements. Social media is no different.

Very few individuals or organizations do well just by “diving in” without carefully planning the journey ahead. You need to do your best to envision where you want to end up, what it is going to take and how you’ll get there, knowing that there just may be monsters in the water or a sharp drop at the edge of the horizon. Proper strategic planning will give you and your crew the confidence to overcome storm surges (i.e., angry customers, months of no one reading your blog and skeptical bosses) and stay the course to victory.

Does your business have a social media mission? Let us know in the comments.

Ship image source: Mike Baird
Map image source: Norman B. Leventhal Map Center

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