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The first venture into social media for many companies, whether a small start up or a big brand, is to create a Facebook page to 'experiment' with social media, which is seen as an add on to other marketing activities.

But just putting a page up onto Facebook, with no coherent social media strategy, is unlikely to do anything for a brand.

For many companies, their very first venture into social media is the decision to create a Facebook page; uploading the company logo, posting photos of the office, and writing status updates from time to time.

This is true of a massive number of companies, ranging from small entrepreneurial start-ups, to big corporate businesses.

The paradox is that most of these same companies would not undertake offline marketing activities on a whim, but carefully plan their campaigns to the smallest detail. They are scrupulous about targeting their direct response campaigns, and every word of a print advertisement is carefully chosen.

When using pay per click, they use all the tools available in order to get their adverts in front of the specific audiences they want to reach. But social media is viewed as an add on, something to be done “if we have time…”

Creating and managing a page in this ad-hoc way, in the hope of becoming a hit on Facebook, is likely to be as effective as being in a stadium at a world cup match, trying to shout about your products over the roar of the crowd and the deafening drone of vuvuzelas. Nobody wants to listen, and if they did, they wouldn’t be able to hear you anyway.

Social media can, and should, involve identifying your target audiences and the platforms they already use. If you are a B2B company, LinkedIn and Twitter are likely to be much more useful than Facebook. If your business is B2B and your target market is Poland, then using Goldenline (the Polish equivalent of LinkedIn) would give you access to the specific audience you want to reach. Demographic information is available for most of the major social networks, so there really is no reason not to target your social media activities.

And when I say social media activities, I mean a structured, organised set of activities, which bring your social media strategy to life. It’s not about being on Facebook, or having a Twitter account, or creating a YouTube channel. Social media isn’t a set of platforms; it’s an attitude towards engaging with prospects and customers in an open, honest way, and it has to be properly co-ordinated in order to avoid the social media disasters which have become so ubiquitous in the press recently.

Another reason why you need a coherent social media strategy is because becoming a “hit” on social media, or “going viral”, is a one in a million chance. Social media isn’t supposed to be a lottery, and I don’t think any company would want their marketing activities to be based on luck alone. In addition, the nature of some companies and their products means that their audience is niche, and they are never going to have 10,000 followers on Twitter.

It is more realistic, and likely to provide more predictable results if you plan how to grow your online following steadily by engaging with the right people, on the right platforms, with well-considered content which adds value to your audience.

Lastly, your social media strategy must detail your marketing aims and objectives. The old adage of “what gets measured gets managed” comes into play here. Besides, if you don’t have a social media strategy, how will you know when you’ve achieved your objectives?

To conclude; yes, Facebook does have over 400m members, and yes, there are charismatic businesses out there that have millions of followers interacting with them. But Facebook is not the world, and being “where everyone else is”, is not necessarily the most suitable place to find and talk to your audience persuasively.

Let your strategy guide your choice of platform, and not vice-versa, in order to get the most out of your time and effort.

Steve Richards

Published 10 August, 2010 by Steve Richards

Steve Richards is MD of social media agency Yomego and a contributor to Econsultancy.

31 more posts from this author

Comments (29)

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Duncan Robb

Couldn't agree more, marketing and PR have changed out of all recognition in the last two or three years and even some of the more enlightened multi-nationals are cutting right back on their 'traditional' advertising to develop a strategy around social media. The notion of honesty, putting information out there for free and becoming a resource that buyers find when they're looking is the way forward. When used correctly social media is brilliant at driving traffic to a website.

almost 6 years ago

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Graham Smith

But social media is viewed as an add on, something to be done “if we have time…”

I'm sure some brands do perceive social media, incorrectly in my opinion, to be like this.

However, what I think we are all witnessing are many brands testing social media: finding out more about it themselves and understanding the value of listening, talking and being social. This may make it appear that this activity looks like an add on. I actually think it is a pretty sensible approach.

While testing social media in a B2B context, I'm always mindful of something my first director once told me: "Its better to say nothing and let everyone think you are an idiot rather than say something and let everyone know that you are."

Compounding any bad practice are likely to be certain agencies, dare I say 'adding on' social media services and telling their clients that they need to "be more social, man".  

I'm a B2B marketer and I think that in the absence of many true social medai experts it is beneficial to listen to how people are being positive, negative or otherwise about your brand online, including social media.

And yes, a social media strategy can help this and should be constantly reveiwed to reflect the nature of social media platforms.

almost 6 years ago

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IllegalGoods

I think the just is that you need to get into social with a plan not just for the sake of it. The plan needs to have a future outlook and not be based on an immediate need/s. You need to decide on what channels are best suited or most relevant to your audiences, when they communicate and what motivates them in those spaces. 

Many/most agencies will promise the world to drum up business, but when it comes to delivery fall way short of the mark.You can read posts like this for example and educate yourself. Take what they say with a pinch of salt, carefully evaluate them and if possible, control it in-house (if resources are available).

Nice piece. Thanks!!

almost 6 years ago

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Russ Jefferys

Amen to that.  I touched on this the other day after learning of research claiming that 43% of brands on Twitter have never responded to a Tweet. 

http://bit.ly/aUOTTz

Facebook's much the same with a page created and quickly forgotten about once the realisation sets in that it needs careful management and nurturing.

One size definitely doesn't fit all.

Russ

@absorb_media

almost 6 years ago

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Lori T. Williams

Good insights Sarah.  I encounter many legal professionals in my industry who haven't fully grasped the value of the tools or the strategies, but once I give them some concrete examples of referrals, clients, testimonials, etc. I've received from the community I'm building, they start to come aroujnd.  I think having a social media strategist to guide you is critical or you won't find as much value and will likely give up.

almost 6 years ago

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Lori T. Williams

Good insights Sarah.  I encounter many legal professionals in my industry who haven't fully grasped the value of the tools or the strategies, but once I give them some concrete examples of referrals, clients, testimonials, etc. I've received from the community I'm building, they start to come aroujnd.  I think having a social media strategist to guide you is critical or you won't find as much value and will likely give up.

almost 6 years ago

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Plumbers Birmingham

Hey Lori, Fully agree with you that, "having a social media strategist to guide you is critical or you won't find as much value and will likely give up." Facebook is the first choice for the business owners today. They reach lots-n-lots of people simultaneously and promote their business in the internet market very fast and a short span of time.

almost 6 years ago

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Mike Phillips

Whilst it's great to finally see people realising that social media isn't something that should just be jumped in to on an ad hoc basis, but rather something that is planned in advance, we are still a far way from the ideal.

Social media strategies put up a partition with the rest of media. Saying you need a separate strategy almost invariably results in separate thinking, when in reality all comms should be joined up.

Social media should be part of an integrated comms strategy, not treated in isolation. The article should really say, why you needs a comms strategy, not a social media strategy.

almost 6 years ago

Robin Buxton

Robin Buxton, Online Program Manager at Esendex

Totally agree Steve. Currently in the process of writing the Social Media Strategy for the company that I work for. Would anyone be interested in critiquing it once I've finished? If so email me at robin.buxton@esendex.com

almost 6 years ago

Adrian Goodsell

Adrian Goodsell, Head of Social Media at Zone Ltd

Steve, although I agree in the most part with your article, I think Mike raises a great point.

Yes, too often marketers are focused on micro-tactics ie. Facebook Page/Apps/Twitterstream etc. This fascination is kind of understandable as these are often the 'tangibles' that get 'buzz' and exposure in industry media.

When these tactics fail - ie. produce little measurable results - or run out of steam it's often because there is no solid strategy underpinning them.

However, many marketers are still wary of social media. This is not surprising as the term is a vague definition of a new digital space, as well as being vague social media is also pretty scary - mainly because it's incredibly complex, evolving all the time and actually gives consumers a role to play in your marketing strategy. Finally, it's new and shiny and full of promise and (IMHO) people are right to be wary of such things.

Treating social media in a silo doesn't help the above issues. Talking about 'social media strategies' is not stepping far enough back to see the opportunity for what it really is; namely a marketing/communications opportunity.

Yes marketers need expert advice and consultancy and yes the obsession with micro-tactics needs to disappear but what all of us ought to do is step back and look at the wider opportunity for integrating the social media opportunity into overall marketing and comms strategies.

Hey and @Robin - I'd love to have a look at the strategy you're writing...

almost 6 years ago

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Siim

Guys, when do we stop writing essays and start writing ALL econsultancy articles in "web 2010 style"? Having highlights, bullet points etc?

almost 6 years ago

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Dennis McDonald

While I agree that planning should come before tool selection, I have also seen instances where growing Facebook engagement, initiated by middle management, forced realization from upper management that a strategy was needed. These related items from my own blog might also be of interest: http://www.ddmcd.com/strategic-planning-documents/ Dennis McDonald Alexandria Virginia http://www.ddmcd.com

almost 6 years ago

Andy Wooles

Andy Wooles, Director at Great Northern Design Ltd

Really good post Steve, and very relevant comments from Adrian.

It is very easy for clients to get distracted by the latest trends, hype, huge numbers and innovative internet toys and apps. It is not something new - think dot.com era and will undoubtedly continue to happen in the future, just with a different label.

One part of our role as consultants must be to keep the client focused on achieving their business objectives. Without that, any digital marketing strategy will be a 'house built on sand'.

The 'what', 'how' and 'when' are useless without the 'why'.

almost 6 years ago

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Bob Reed

Bright, shiny object syndrome is an ever-present affliction among companies, either as the Holy Grail that attracts or a blinding light that propels.  Whenever I talk to a new business prospect, I lead off with this question: "So, what's really important around here?"  Slouching spines straighten up, eye focus, conversation pauses and real dialogue soon begins.  Even if a company is chomping at the bit to participate, you need to slow things down and ask the right questions to pinpoint the objective and/or the pain.  Social media is now part of the tool kit.  Don't show off the contents until you've got a plan in place.

almost 6 years ago

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Linda Chreno

The following quote from your article is something every association professional who is using social media should have taped on their forehead! This especially applies to members and volunteers of organizations. They are using social media in other parts of their life - associations needs to understand and utilize the appropriate platforms for their members and potential members. Thanks for a great article! @lindachreno "Social media isn’t a set of platforms; it’s an attitude towards engaging with prospects and customers in an open, honest way, and it has to be properly co-ordinated in order to avoid the social media disasters which have become so ubiquitous in the press recently. "

almost 6 years ago

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J. Brandon

Thanks for the article, Steve.

Fundamentally, we need to tell our story to our audience. If our story is compelling, they will respond, we'll have a meaningful conversation, and some of those people will become customers.

How we accomplish that is really not all that important. The end result is very important.

Social media is a very powerful toolbox. Facebook and any other vehicle or platform are just tools in the box. And having the tools does not automatically mean you can do the job. Telling a good story is a craft.

almost 6 years ago

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Courtney Nelson

Like everyone else here, I couldn't agree more.  Businesses need to know why and how to enter into a social media platform before they do it because you need to have engagement from the start, not experiment.

Personally, I think you need to do the research of your audience and then think about how you are going to manage it.  You can you products like HootSuite or just manage the account directly if you feel like you have the time.

For those who need a social media management platform to go along with their research I recommend looking at the White Horse Report, "Social Media Management Platform Review."  It covers a multitude of platforms so that you can see what works best for you and your business. 

Here is the link if you are interested:  http://bit.ly/bVPbmt

I should say I work for White Horse but I thought you might be interested in the related information. 

almost 6 years ago

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Karen Swim

Free tools and ease of entry tempt organizations to dive in while ignoring the basic principles of business and marketing. I love your assertion that social media is not supposed to be a lottery. Stories of "hits" received lots of attention precisely because it is not the common place experience. A well thought out strategy will align with your overall business objectives and wiill have realistic, attainable goals that can be measured. Part of why social media is dismissed by some orgs results from "tool jockeys" who do not know how to develop and implement strategies.

almost 6 years ago

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Joe Ray

Right on with this article! "Let your strategy guide your choice of platform, and not vice-versa, in order to get the most out of your time and effort." - perfectly worded. Most sensible business people and marketers wouldn't do this but those that have been seduced by "social media" will play the lottery, when they have time. And hey, all their buddies from high school thought their product was pretty neat and commented, therefore the rest of the world must want to as well, right? Right...

almost 6 years ago

Steve Richards

Steve Richards, MD at Yomego

Thanks for all your comments on this subject. 

The majority seem to agree that the strategy should drive the platform. Other points to underline here are that:-

i) ROI / KPIs for social need to be aligned with the clients' wider measures of marketing effectiveness or they're largely meaningless

ii) social media marketing campaigns very rarely work in isolation. Social tools are great for fanning flames, but they're rarely adequate for getting the fire going in the first place     

almost 6 years ago

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Phil Prior

Interesting discussion. Got to say that I would rather see SM playing a key part in a communications strategy, rather than being a strategy of its own. Especially as traditional advertising and publishing offers more social networking opportunities. It can be quite difficult to separate SM from what has previously been seen as traditional communication.

almost 6 years ago

Steve Richards

Steve Richards, MD at Yomego

Totally agree, Phil. Social media activity is still sometimes the realm of the intern but it deserves its seat at marketing's top table.

Refreshingly, more and more clients are building their whole proposition around customer engagement in social spaces. As we all know, integration is the key. If a client is prepared to listen to its consumers, and make a solid commitment to acting on what it hears, then social media channels can provide unparalleled opportunities.  

almost 6 years ago

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Umut Koyuncu

Facebook is good for 68% of al the Social Network Referrers, it cannot be underestimated i think: http://b2l.me/afwtb8

almost 6 years ago

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Herb Lawrence

Great article! let me add my voice to the choir.  I and the Center Director for the Arkansas State University Small Business and Technology Development Center located in rural northeast Arkansas.  In our training and consulting work with small businesses we do a lot with social media marketing and one of the biggest problems we have is convincing them that sticking a Facebook page up and calling it a day just isn't the answer.  They seem to think by putting the page in suddenly the flood gates will open up and dollars roll in.

One of the challenges we have when we do get one who wants to look at integrating all the aspects of social media is a good template or guide at the beginner level on how to develop a Social media marketing plan...anyone developed one or know where a good basic guide is would appreciate the help.  Thanks again will share this with our small business friends and hope somebody out there gets the message.

almost 6 years ago

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r

great article! I have the same problems with my possible clients. I try to explain them that is not just a marketing channel, its more than that! Its more than just making money and u cant just jump in. I heard someone said it " What would u feel if your girlfriend was flirting with everyone" :) U need a strategy, clear focus, goals and more in mind than just making money.

almost 6 years ago

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Sarah Barbee

What a great post! This is a battle I often face with clients.  Love the analogy to the World Cup game. Thanks for sharing this.

almost 6 years ago

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Mickey Lonchar

It is important that we educate clients to the difference between having a Social Media component to an integrated campaign, and "adding on" a Social Media layer. Case in point would be the by-now-famous Old Spice "Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign. While this campaign began as a mass media (television) campaign, the creative team thought ahead and planned how the campaign could be extended and leveraged using the tools of Social Media. As a result of this integration, awareness, interest and sales have gone through the roof (reportedly, 1.4 BILLION views and +100% sales increase). To those who would say 'since the Social Media portion came later, it was an add on,' we must educate them as to how an integrated campaign is developed and implemented. http://www.quisenblog.com

almost 6 years ago

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Bangalow Accommodation

Agree that planning is key. And as equally important, is to engage your customers, not blast them.

almost 6 years ago

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Andrea Bona

Fish were the fishes are, sometimes they are engaging in social media, sometimes they are not. I loved the article, without a strategy how do you know how to gage success. I think social media with its many channels is a great addition to a marketing/comms tool box. Thank you for eloquently stating what should be obvious, but many have been blinded by the social media light.

almost 6 years ago

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