Social Media without a Marketing Strategy is like Sailing in a Rudderless Ship

Social Media without a Marketing Strategy is like sailing in a rudderless ship, bound to break up in pieces on coming in contact with the very first rock

In a recent article Al Reis points out that we’re so quick to crown social media successes that we forget what they’re actually based on. His major point is if you don’t have the right strategy, good tactics won’t help you.

The internet is exceptionally good at promoting web products, not physical, brands. The entrepreneurs who launched Google, Facebook, YouTube, Groupon, Pinterest and LinkedIn are doing well for the most part. . But what about their partners, what about the marketers using the web and social media to build their businesses and organizations ?

Social media has so captured the imagination of the marketing community that no one seems to want to talk about anything else. However, it is very important to remember that if you don’t have the right strategy, good tactics won’t help you very much no matter how good the tactic.  And social, like all media, is a tactic (although recently many social media practioners claim that social media is a strategy… it is not!) First comes the marketing strategy and then come the tactics.  What concerns experts in the marketing field like Al Ries are that too many marketers have elevated tactics — especially those of social media — to the level of strategy?  Or even worse. This is a big mistake and marketers will continue to pay a big price for this foolishness if they persist in thinking this way.

“Strategy is dead,” Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, recently proclaimed: “Who really knows what is going to happen anymore. … The more time and money you spend devising strategies, the more time you are giving your rivals to start eating your lunch.”

This idea isn’t new. According to Reis, in the advertising business in “the old days” what was important was “creativity.” You made the work you thought would knock the socks off judges at awards contests and “backed down” the strategy. That is, you began with the advertising, and then asked yourself what you could invent to justify it. You designed a client presentation that focused on a problem your advertising was going to solve.

If social media’s the solution, what’s the problem? Though that’s the question everyone appears to be asking, I’m not sure it’s the right one. It seems the order should be reversed: What’s the problem? What’s the strategy to address it? Which tactics do we use to execute the strategy?

Strategy should dictate tactics, and coming up with a good one is difficult. But if you live in a fool’s paradise where you think that social media is the solution to your marketing problem and think you can get away with doing social media without a marketing strategy you are fooling yourselves and more important your organization. I recently spoke to a head hunter whose business is to recruit social media/digital and interactive marketers  and he told me that most of the people who apply for jobs in these areas have lots of experience with social media but have little if any background in marketing. No wonder we continually see ill-conceived social media campaigns which fall flat on their face because they are like a “rudderless ship”.

Let me know what you think.

Also check out Does Social Media Marketing Really Work?

Also check out Mike Kujawski’s blog on social media


3 Replies to “Social Media without a Marketing Strategy is like Sailing in a Rudderless Ship”

  1. Excellent post! My firm is focused on strategy-execution alignment. Strategy firms don’t usually care about tactics and execution firms ( like Saatchi) have never really concerned themselves with nor have they understood strategy. Social media, like PR, advertising, even pricing and distribution are tactics. Unless they are aligned with strategy, they undermine perceived value and increase risk.

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