The Myth of Social Media Strategy

I’ve spent a lot of time discussing strategy with different groups this week, so it’s fresh in my mind . Good thing, as my title is Senior Director of Social Media Strategy. I’ve also been looking at a lot of requests from potential clients and outside groups that all want a response that includes a “Social Media Strategy”.  The thing is, 99% of the time, they really don’t want a strategy…they want operations and tactics, and we can’t even give those to them because they don’t have goals in place.

Strategy is one of the most overused and misunderstood words in all of marketing, perhaps in all of business.

  • “Build a Facebook sweepstakes application that lets users share and win” is not a strategy…it’s a tactic.
  • “Be the best widget company in the social space” is not a strategy…it’s a mission.
  • “Get 100,000 Twitter followers by the Holiday season” is not a strategy…it’s a goal.

The big short circuit, of course, is that many people aren’t working off of the same page.  They’re not even working out of the same book, because clear and measurable goals have not been set.  If somebody approaches you with a mission to accomplish, and you answer with a lot of tactics, more times than not both sides will be frustated with the outcome because Goals and Strategies have been left out of the process.  The frustration won’t be evident right away, it takes time to realize that the different expectations are worlds apart. Without measurable goals, how do you know if your work will be judged as a victory or a failure?

The big problem with social media strategy, or any strategy for that matter,  is not that it doesn’t exist…it’s that it cannot exist as a stand-alone; it needs other pieces to work.

A social media strategy is not the victory itself, it is the path to victory. But if you don’t know where you are going, how can you plan a way to get there?

6 Things You Need To Know About Running A Social Media Program: Yourself

This is part 6 of 6 in the series “6 Things You Need to Know About Running A Social Media Program”. You can read part 1 “The Client” here, it has a full introduction. Part 2 “The Product” is here, part 3 “Your Audiences” is here ,part 4 “The Channels” is here and part 5 “Other Professionals” is here.

I’ve created this list of “things you must know” mostly based upon very positive experiences I’ve had, but also from negative ones…things that I’ve either experienced myself or seen others do.  This isn’t a tactical post, I think I write plenty of those.  Instead, this is my advice to those that are going to lend their expertise to others, and hopefully by checking these off you will avoid some common mistakes that often result in unmet expectations, from one side or the other…or both.

Know Yourself

I bet you weren’t expecting that one, were you? Let me explain what I mean by this: simply put, you need to know your own strengths and weaknesses, and you need to know your work flow and financial needs; this is especially true if you are consulting. Since most of us actually do know our strengths and weaknesses, maybe a better way to word this is be honest with yourself.  I saw a quote online recently that really rang true with me. Unfortunately I haven’t always followed it.

Work for full price or work for free, but don’t work for cheap.

As I applied that to many situations in the past that I have had to deal with, I see how true this is.  I could probably write an entire series of posts about why this is so important, but for now I’ll just let you ponder it and apply it to your own situation. In knowing yourself, you need to be honest with what your needs (or those of your organization) are, because sometimes…no matter how much you need the work…it’s better to say no to a project.  

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6 Things You Need To Know About Running A Social Media Program: The Audience

2306001896_7e0ce6e0f5This is part 3 of 6 in the series “6 Things You Need to Know About Running A Social Media Program”. You can read part 1 “The Client” here, it has a full introduction. Part 2 “The Product” is here.

I’ve created this list of “things you must know” mostly based upon very positive experiences I’ve had, but also from negative ones…things that I’ve either experienced myself or seen others do.  This isn’t a tactical post, I think I write plenty of those.  Instead, this is my advice to those that are going to lend their expertise to others, and hopefully by checking these off you will avoid some common mistakes that often result in unmet expectations, from one side or the other…or both.

Know Your Audience

Your audience is not “everybody” unless you are selling oxygen or religion…and even then there are plenty of people that don’t want either.  If you really think you can reach everybody, you are sorely mistaken.  You’re also going to be working 24/7 and going broke, because you cannot target everybody.  Now that we have established that, this is another great conversation to have with your client.  They probably have a pretty good idea of who their target audience is; make sure you understand who they are going after.  If you’ve done your homework (by knowing the product) then you can and should add to this conversation.  Once you understand the person that you are trying to reach you can start developing a strategy that will include some social media channels but not others.  Your strategy should also tell you when you should be active online (based upon when the target audience is), how often to engage them  and what sort of external resources you should link to that will add value to the community. If your client has no idea who they are targeting, I would suggest that you consider working this out with them before you start, it will prevent a lot of frustration from both sides.

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The Internet Is Dead

The-Internet-Is-DeadOkay, the title of this post may be a bit dramatic and sensational…it’s not that The Internet is dead, it’s just that it doesn’t exist the way it used to.  Instead of being a destination, it is now a container.  No longer do you “get on the internet”, although technically speaking of course you are connecting to the network of computers that does comprise what we call The Internet, but that event is no longer an event itself.  Instead, most people are going to a smaller internet inside the larger container called “The Internet”, and these smaller internets are now destinations of their own.

I recall sitting in a meeting just over a decade ago where I was discussing (okay, arguing) the merits of Th Internet and having a presence there.  The topic du jour was whether or not this company should spend “ridiculous” amounts of money to build a website.  “After all,” said one particular stodgy gentleman, “we could take all of that money and instead spend it on a larger yellow pages ad.  THAT would be a good use of advertising, and bring us more people”.  You know what?  He meant that, sincerely.  He truly thought that a big, full page ad in the Yellow Pages would bring more business in than some silly, new fangled, johnny-come-lately web site.  The Internet, in his mind (and many others around the table) was a silly place for kids to play, not a place for serious business.  “The Internet” was still a destination, but not one to be taken seriously.

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Why You Must Deal With Negative PR

One unhappy customer has created a PR disaster for United Airlines

One unhappy customer has created a PR disaster for United Airlines

Have you seen the uber-popular YouTube video “United Breaks Guitars”?  I’ve embedded it at the bottom of this post so you can, it’s well worth 4:36 of your time to see this creative and funny look at poor customer service.  Seems Dave Carroll from the band Sons of Maxwell had his guitar broken while flying on United Airlines, and just a handful of days ago released a music video detailing his complaint. If we take what he says as truth, he spent a year trying to get some resolve and was repeatedly told “no”.  Personally I believe him because I’ve dealt with similar issues while traveling, and the corporate “no” is just too common.

If you run a business, big or small, you need to pay attention to what is happening in the world. The days of burying customer complaints are over, you need to develop a social media strategy to handle social media issues.

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5 Ways To Follow Good People On Twitter

Follow People On Twitter

Follow People On Twitter

If you pay attention, you can find at least one article a day about how to get more followers on Twitter.  This isn’t about how to get more followers, this is how to follow more people.  If your focus on Twitter is simply to get a lot of numbers in your followers column, then you are missing out on so many great people with amazing thoughts…you’re too focused on yourself.  This also isn’t about how to spam people by following 2,000 within 15 minutes of signing up, then making only one post that links to your “how to get rich quick on the internet” site.  It’s about finding quality people so that the cocktail party that is Twitter is much more enjoyable for you.

  1. Do a search to find people with common interests. I use Tweetdeck (you can find a tutorial about how to use it here), and often make new search columns to find particular phrases.  For example, I’m one of those oddballs that owns and loves a Zune.  I created a search for “Zune” and take a look at it every once in a while to see what people are saying.  When I see somebody that writes something helpful, creative or witty, I usually follow that person.  If you don’t use Tweetdeck (or something similar) you can always go check out the Twitter search site.
  2. Browse through a directory. I have always liked Twellow as a way to find new people, but there are a lot of other services as well.  Mashable recently did a write-up on 15 Twitter directories compared, it’s worth a read.  Directories categorize people by category or geography.  One potential shortcoming is that people are free to categorize themselves, and I often find misrepresentation.  Still, go check out your favorite category and find some new people to follow.
  3. Pay attention to who your friends are talking with. Don’t discount @ replies from your friends to others as a private conversation.  I pay attention to whom others are speaking, because very often I find some fabulously brilliant people that I otherwise would not have known about and I follow them. If people that you respect speak to others, click on the @username link and go see what they are all about.
  4. Use a service that recommends others. If you go to my profile at Twitter Grader you will see several people at the bottom that the service thinks would be good for me to connect with.  I have found good people this way, although Twitter Grader is unusually obsessed with the fact that Imention flip flops in my bio, so it tends to point me toward others that also have flip flops in their bios.  Not necessarily the best connections, but it has been valuable.  Another concierge service of sorts is Mr. Tweet.  Again, I’ve had only moderate success is reasonable matches, but still have found a few good ones.
  5. Don’t only follow the big names. There are plenty of services that give you a list of the top tweeters.  These are usually great folks to follow, but don’t only follow people based solely on big numbers…some of the most insightful and interesting people I follow have fewer than 100 followers.  As an added incentive, if you are interested in conversing with people and not just listening, the people that I am most interactive with usually have smaller follower/following counts…they don’t have as much to keep up with, so it naturally goes that they are free to interact more.  Think about it in terms of a real life event; if you are at a party with 10,000 people and there is somebody you want to talk to, you will have to wait your turn or even get passed over.  Go to a party with 25 people, and you will be involved in more frequent and often more significant conversations.

Many people talk about how many followers they have, and become slightly obsessed with adding as many as they can through begging, contents and shifty practices like the pump and dump (to be discussed in my next post), but I think it is more important to have quality people to follow.  These are my five favorite techniques for finding new people, if you have a strategy for finding great folks that I haven’t mentioned, please share it in the comments.


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Want Some Buzz? Give Your Goods Away

I’m listening to Viva La Hova while I write this. It’s a mashup mix of Coldplay, one of the greatest rock bands in the world, and Jay-Z, one of the greatest hip hop artist in the world. “A Spy’s Prayer” is playing much louder than I should probably play things while I’m trying to work, butI just can’t help it.  What a great song.  What a great mashup album! I started hearing some buzz about it a week ago, and I finally downloaded it today.  I’m pretty sure I will do the digital equivilent of wearing this album out (remember that with cassette tape? ha ha!).  Haven’t heard of it yet?  You will.  I think that in the next few days it will trend on Twitscoop, I think it’s picking up some momentum.  Why?

It’s Free.

Yes, the great minds that put this together, Mick Boogie and Terry Urban, are giving their music away.  You can go download it right now, DRM free, no strings attached…all 20 tracks. I wonder how hours they put into this project? I wonder if they were tempted to try to sell it? What kind of buzz would they have if there was any cost involved to the consumer?

I have lost track of how many business owners and managers have asked me to create “something viral” that makes money for them right away.  They want visible, tangible results that they can track on Excel, sort of the equivelent of a coupon that tracks sales of a product.  Here’s the thing…you won’t always see immediate results, but if you can break free of the traditional business model of cashing in on the first step, you will probably do better in the long run.  I don’t know what the future holds for Boogie and Urban, but I think they are going to do well. Buzz about this project will continue, people will download their work for free, and they won’t make a nickel off of it at first glance.  But…they will make money.  Publicity, offers, promos…

In your next team strategy meeting, will you try to figure out something that you can give to your customers and fans free of charge? Don’t add conditions and hoops to jump through, just give it away. The loyalty and buzz you create will likely produce more long term gain than anything you can gather in the short term.

I should probably note that before you download the album, the language is, well…hip hop.  If you are not familiar with Jay-Z and are easily offended, you may want to proceed with caution.  Consider yourself warned.

Changing Focus

Welcome to my new readers…and a familiar hello to my long-term readers! If you subscribe via RSS I did a little bait and switch on you.  Let me explain.

I’ve been blogging since 2000 when I wrote my own blogging platform (don’t get me started…it was the billion dollar idea that I never brought to market). Then I switched to platforms like TypePad and WordPress, and I ran a leadership blog called “Leading With A Limp”.  I think it did alright…it even got on Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop page as one of the best of the best. I wrote about organizational leadership, particularly as it related to churches and non-profits.  I always included a pretty fair amount of personal information as well, and there are a lot of people all over the world that know a pretty fair bit about my life.

Recently I’ve decided to change focus. 

There are a number of reasons behind this, but I won’t bore you with the details.  Here is the new focus however: I will still talk about leadership (it’s been a big part of my life as a working adult), but I am also going to get a little more helpful (I hope) to established businesses, non profits, start ups and Joe Six Pack as things relate to social media and brand strategy.  I live deeply in the online world, and I see so many entities around me struggling to get it.  They want to participate, they want to be involved…they just have no idea where to start.

I’m going to focus on tools (tips and review), strategy and resources.  I’ll do live Qik streams when I’m at cool tech and media events that people would want to be a part of.  I might even throw in an interview here and there…who knows?

It’s going to be fun, useful and focussed.  Yes, I did say fun. To know me is to know that I perhaps have a screw or two loose, so it’s hard not to have fun with the tools we get to work with these days.

Thanks for being a part of this, as always, drop me a note (matt at mattsingley dot com), leave a comment or find me on Twitter if you have a question or comment.