Do you need a social media strategy?

I alway enjoy reading Bill Ives posts on the FASTforward blog and today is no different. He asks the simple question, Is Social Media Tactical or Strategic?, and points to a post from a month ago about Social Media Strategy usage. The poll asked a very simple question to the readers, Does your company have a formal, written social-media strategy? 320 people responded and the answers, while not shocking, are worth discussing:

  • No, but we’re getting around to it 32.73%
  • No, and we probably won’t write one anytime soon 27.64%
  • Yes, and it’s really useful 20.00%
  • Yes, but it’s not that relevant to our daily operations 12.36%
  • We’re not using social media 5.82%
  • We paid a consultant to come up with one for us, but we’re not sure what it really means 1.45%

80% of those 320 readers, 256 people, are not using social media in any formal, strategic way. 80% of the readers are in some way, shape, or form, simply “winging it”. The control room is empty, there is no strategic guidance for these efforts. How likely are these people to actually achieve meaningful results? How likely are the changes they are putting in place to remain?

Now, to be fair…. There is always the need to play, informally, with new technologies, new tactics, to understand how they work and to decide how they best fit into your strategic plans. During this time a formal strategy is not yet needed.

However, before your organization dives into social media, or more broadly into social business, you do need to step back and put together your business case, as I have written about before. This business case will answer key questions that allow your organization, whether public or private, to decide how these new tools and tactics fit into your overall strategy, into your goal achievement.

I often ask people this simple question, will the work you are doing today continue when you leave this organization? Too often, when we are discussing social business practices the answer is “probably not”. When we continue to work without a formal strategy, without agreement, we are often able to achieve short-term wins. I support that, of course, but you must recognize that strategic planning is critical to success. Without this organizational buy-in your short-term successes will not result in long-term organizational change, without which, everyone ultimately loses.


Not sure where to start? Call me at The Lab or read any of these really good books (affiliate links):

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Yes, every governmental entity that’s using social media should have one…but not as a stand alone doc! It should be one segment of an overall marketing or communications plan so it’s integrated with more traditional approaches to reaching citizens.

Christina Morrison

I agree, every agency and business needs a social media strategy. Even break it down to have an editorial calendar for my blog. It’s a live document that I adjust based off of current events, but it gives me guidance on what messages I want to communicate. It’s another marketing tactic on my utility belt