Stop and Think. Social Media is Not a Strategic Plan

One of my all-time favorite jobs was when I worked as an analyst for a market research firm.  My focus was the computer product channel.  At that time brick-and-mortar retailers were grappling with the advent of e-commerce and its impact on their business models.  It was an amazing time of transition with much uncertainty as to the future of the various players.

Now, we are witnessing the movement from standard, static websites to the much more dynamic world of online reviews and social media.  We are interacting with our customers and stakeholders in real-time, which requires us to be more nimble than ever before.  Again, there is much speculation as to where this will lead.  If only I had a crystal ball.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

The world in which we do business changes constantly and if we don’t adjust our methods we risk losing our competitive edge.  But, the basics of business strategy and planning stay the same.

Social media is a tool.  It is a wonderful and exciting tool that allows us to be where our business connections are in real-time.  Whether we are reaching out to customers, partners or industry influencers, social media gives us access to people in a way we have never experienced before.

Social media is not, however, a marketing, sales or customer service strategic plan.  It has blurred the lines between these disciplines and it has certainly affected the way we approach them but it is ill-advised to run in, guns blazing, without a plan.

I’m not saying that you should stop everything and spend hours in front of a white board before responding to those who reach out to you on social media.  But, before you spend significant time and resources building a social media presence think it through and determine what you hope to achieve.  Questions to consider include:

  • What are your overall strategic goals and objectives and how can social media be leveraged to help you achieve them?
  • Which social channels are best suited for your target market?
  • How are your competitors using social media and what does that mean for you?
  • How will your participation in social media impact your overall digital footprint?
  • What are the risks of engagement and how can you mitigate those risks?
  • What resources are you going to need?
  • How will you monitor and manage your social media activity?
  • What it is going to cost and how you will measure your effectiveness?

Take the time to explore these questions and any others that are relevant to your business then create a tactical plan that allows for experimentation.  Ensure that you have buy-in from others in your organization – you will need their support to be successful.  Be realistic and set expectations about how long it will take to see results.

The business environment changes constantly and we need to be flexible but the basics still apply.  Plan, test, measure, adjust, repeat.

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