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Social Media: It’s All Part of a Master Plan…or Is It?

Twitter presence…CHECK

Facebook Brand Page…CHECK

YouTube Channel…CHECK

Socialized Business Strategy…TBD

While showing up to the party represents a noteworthy effort, a bona fide social media strategy this checklist does not make. Creating presences, listening to conversations tied to keywords and superfluously responding to updates and questions creates a facade of engagement that is at best trivial. And, quite frankly, without a true investment of intention, attention and conviction (I.I.A.C.), we minimize the opportunity before us as well as the thoughts, emotions, and overall potential of our communities rich with would be advocates and influencers.

Much of my time these days is spent working with businesses to first deepen their understanding of social media and subsequently broaden their outlook for what’s possible. As a result, we flip the switch to a more sophisticated level of creativity, vision, and execution. So, when I stumbled across recent research that reported most businesses claim that they are operating with a genuine social media strategy, I was surprised and also unsurprised. Many executives and brand managers believe that once social media shifts from pilot programs to a dedicated function, regardless of goals, objectives, purpose, or capacity, it becomes strategic.

In June 2010, King Fish Media, HubSpot and Junta42 published an interesting report, “2010 Social Media Usage Attitudes and Measurability: What do Marketers Think?”

According to the results, 72% of businesses claim to operate under a banner of social media strategy. 27% stated that they did not possess an official strategy. The trio surveyed 457 US marketers and managers, with 52% of the respondents representing the publishing, media, advertising, and marketing industries.

Companies with a Social Media Strategy, June 2010

While these numbers indicate maturation and comprehension, I question the definition of “social media strategy.”

To the contrary, a May 2010 study by Digital Brand Expressions found that 52% of social marketers are running social media programs without a defined “game plan.” This finding was in line with an April report by R2Integrated that documented one-half of marketers were reacting to social rather than leading it.

The study also found that a majority of the businesses polled planned to increase their social media investment over the next 12 months.

Companies that Plan to Increase their Social Media Investment in the Next 12 Months

Defining Social Media Strategy

Social media are measured by the sum of its parts. In general, many strategies I’ve reviewed are designed to generate visibility. Social services such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, et al., represent syndication channels to push content. Listening tools are then used to measure activity, responses, reach, and sentiment. In addition, the activity that fills the columns of a brand, community or social media manager’s “brand dashboard” triggers responses, conversations and engagement that do not contribute to overall business performance metrics or missions. I believe, there are differences between visibility and presence. In social media, presence is felt. Presence is driven by a strategy and architecture designed to inspire impressions, evoke guided responses and drive desired outcomes. This affects brand and go to market strategies as well as brand promises.

Consumers, or let’s just say people, are learning how to navigate social networks more than we may think or credit. They are defining and personalizing their experiences based on who they connect with, what they consume, share, and discover, and in turn, what they publish. Simply earning a response, “like,” RT, comment, or the coveted follow, does not equate to anything more than a moment in time. Friends, Fans, Followers (The 3Fs) are neither KPIs or metrics worthy of establishing or measuring a social media strategy.

Social media is bigger than any one departmen. A true 360 approach will eventually socialize and transform organizations, processes, and platforms from inside-out to now also include outside-in perspectives and all that it inspires.

Product Development (R&D)
HR/Employee Relations

We have much work ahead of us and together we will lead social media from the confiinments of corporate silos and weave it into the very fabric of the brand and organization.

The socialization of business is a sophisticated framework of reimagined philosophies, business processes, supporting technologies, each enlivened by the cast of characters who faithfully portray the brand and its personal characteristics.

Social Media programs are not rewarded with participation ribbons simply for their existence. Recognition, response, and trust are the rewards for the investment of ongoing, thoughtful, and personalized listening (really listening, not monitoring) and engagement.  Programs and actions rooted in empowerment galvanize advocacy and loyalty. And, strategies built with processes that feed into decision making cycles that lead companies to innovate and adapt through outside-in learning ensure relevance and contribute to legacy.

A true social media strategy socializes the entire business as well as the individual pieces that perform dedicated functions – both inbound and outbound. Again, when integrated, social media is measured by the sum of its parts and the interconnection of strategies and processes and as a result, starts to construct the hallmarks of sCRM.

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167 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Social Media: It’s All Part of a Master Plan…or Is It?”

  1. geir stene says:

    Couldn't agree more. As I've been talking about on my blog, social media, Internet business is no different from any other business, or activity in life elsewhere. It's the holistic approach that define us, as individuals, and as corporations. I believe that the essence, and the most important, is not to just “do the right thing” – implement “best practice, but to realize that everyone of us, will be rewarded, not by what we want to achieve, but by what we have to provide/ give to our surroundings. The access to the “global society” gives us all this feedback. That's why I think that the growing mega trend is to share, involve in something “bigger” than your (company's) benefit. I'll prefer to join someones PURPOSE if it's larger than providing profit only for themselves, don't you?

  2. Excellent points Brian.

    Survey stats need to be read in context of the audience used and the questions asked. So yeah, I think we can all see a heap of activity around us… but hang on, where are we taking this beast? What's the strategy? What's the point?
    I believe Integration is the vital step towards hitting true KPIs.


  3. Totally 'Engaged' ~ All systems go ! Thanks for keeping us on track, Brian.

  4. I feel like the key to seeing whether a company has an effective social media plan is not by counting the number of platforms it uses, but whether there's a strategic document for engagement, and who is responsible for actually creating content, and listening. If those three pieces aren't clearly defined, chances are the Twitter feed, YouTube channel and everything else is little more than a sham.

  5. I feel like the key to seeing whether a company has an effective social media plan is not by counting the number of platforms it uses, but whether there's a strategic document for engagement, and who is responsible for actually creating content, and listening. If those three pieces aren't clearly defined, chances are the Twitter feed, YouTube channel and everything else is little more than a sham.

  6. Ed Thralls says:


    Totally makes sense. As a business manager in various industries, this is the concept I understand and tend to focus on first. However, it's the toughest part to explain to a prospective business looking to utilize social media.

  7. BrettGreene says:

    Brian, your distinction between visibility and presence is huge. It does seem like the checkoffs you start with are where most companies end. At a root level, the company personality and frame of how to engage will help or hurt how authentically they engage and reach customers and prospects.


  8. jasoncormier says:

    I might refer to the 3F's as baby KPI's. I agree you can't establish the success of real strategy on those metrics, but would also say don't disregard them.

    Much of what I'm seeing from a strategic measurement perspective relates to how you can realistically correlate social media to “traditional” business success metrics. Granted, some social media efforts are more closely associated with hard conversions – but most are not.

    What that typically means is companies must “do” social media over a relatively long period of time in order to have enough data to correlate the success… but the stronger the strategy, the more accelerated the results.

  9. matthixson says:

    This is at the root of most of my thoughts lately. It seems that a ton of businesses are just doing social media without understanding what business problem they are solving – thus defining their strategy. I agree that there is this segment that just sees it as a new channel to use as a marketing bull horn. I don't think they get it. Presence is the area of power to me. It not only builds brand but allows you to establish key relationships in your particular network that allow you to achieve things in the digital and physical worlds. In our industry the core of the twitter network are the people who are considered the thought leaders. These are the people writing books, talking at events and organizing these events. By building these relationships it allows us to achieve things over time that other brands try unsuccessfully using old methods. Do you think that building trust in that network becomes a part of doing business that businesses spend more and more money on in the future as they see the importance of their networks? It is hard to tie back to a clear ROI today.

    Great post – this was one of my favorites you have written.

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