First Things First

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Strategy before tactics.

"What are we doing on Blogs, Facebook and YouTube?" is the wrong question to ask (so don’t let those boardroom discussions get too heated). The better question is: "why?" "Why should we be on Blogs, Facebook and YouTube?" As I’ve said before, asking "why?" forces a brand to look at the business objectives and strategy first. "What?" is simply a tactic (which should always follow from the strategy). It’s the same as when initial brand planning sessions immediately diverge into conversations about the color of the logo or what the business cards should look like. We will (hopefully) all agree that the strategy needs to drive the tactics.

But before you get to the strategy, ask yourself this…

What are we really great at creating? Social Media isn’t one kind of media channel. It’s many different type of media that can be interacted with, created and collaborated on in many different ways. If you have a solid strategy that aligns everything to being on Twitter (let’s just say), you then have to find someone within the organization that will not only understand Twitter (what it is, how it works, etc…) but they will have to be good (err… great!) at publishing small bursts of content, frequently and engaging with others within the Twitter community. As obvious as that may sound, I’ve seen many strategies relegated to the bottom drawer of the Chief Marketing Officer’s filing cabinet because there was nobody within the organization who had the passion and skills to be the content creator and see the initiative through.

Remember: being great at Marketing means being great at Publishing.

Yes, you can still use broadcast media to drive a message through, but when you start to connect with Social Media and the many new communications and marketing platforms, you are a publisher, and the best publishers live and breathe the content they are sharing. So, if it turns out that the strategy deck calls for YouTube but there is nobody with a passion for online video, you’re going to struggle (unless you can bring in the right resources). To make Social Media work – in a very authentic way – you need to sit down, review your team and figure out what you’re good at creating, publishing and talking about.

There’s some good news.

Again, Social Media isn’t just one media. It’s many media channels. You can create content in text, audio, video and images. You can create short pieces of content (think Twitter or posting pictures to Flickr) or you can create an ongoing Podcast series (in audio or video). Spend those initial first moments before diving into the strategy to really figure out what type of content you would be best at producing. That line of thought might help move the strategy along, and it will also ensure that there is someone (or many people) within the organization that not only see this as part of their day-to-day job, but enjoy the process of creating it and engaging within it.

Take the time to really figure out what you’re good at before chasing after the latest shiny social media object.


  1. I believe it was Cory Doctrow who said, “Conversation is king. Content is something to talk about.”
    My shtick with clients of late has been “Content. Conversation. Conversion.” In that order. Before jumping onto the myriad of social channels, one should review/capture what they have, identify strengths and weaknesses and create/curate new, quality content to initiate real discourse.
    The sweet upside to this marketing model, is that it’s allowing me to help find a lot of my underpaid, overqualified, brilliant journalist friends new work! The publishing industry’s “demise” is opening up a huge talent pool of smart, available writers for content-marketers, each with certain, highly-applicable subject-matter expertise.
    Just my two cents…

  2. Interestingly, I’ve been asking the same questions to my multimedia and communications department as of late. We engaged in a interesting discourse on which channel would be the most effective for a particular strategy and campaign.
    I got a lot of replies which range from demographic targeting, “who are the people who use twitter, facebook, etc. etc.” and of course “why those people are there.”
    We tried to empathize with the average user and came up with a dearth of interesting perspectives on “why those people are there”.

  3. Mitch, solid video.
    What’s interesting is I know you didn’t create this video before the release of your book. That would have been an easier project to do.
    Instead you created the video after. And to do that successfully, you had to pull out a vein of thought that is relevant to the current needs of marketing folk.
    After reading SPOS, there are probably a half dozen solid veins of thought you could have used. You went the ‘why?’ angle, with a deeper emphasis on brand and strategy. Something, we both know, most companies aren’t doing.
    For that, I’d say, good job.

  4. Mitch –
    While I agree with the underlying premise that one needs to have passionate channel guardians that are consistent with your strategy, I could also argue that once you’ve set the right strategy for your brand, you can find the right people in the marketplace to bring it to life. Often times, however, bringing in those new experts can come with a trade-off…
    How do you think about balancing channel experts (eg. those that would be fantastic at publishing on Twitter or a blog) with long standing interal brand advocates (eg. those employees that know and have lived the brand’s strategy for a longer period of time but may not be the best social media experts).
    In other words, how to choose between someone that knows the message inside and out vs. someone who can get the message across beautifully? Which would you rather bet on?

  5. The strategy before tactics model is the exact opposite from what anyone should do, ever. (At least in SM – right now)
    I cant agree with you more that the delivery needs to be great, but you cant force it because a strategy calls for it.
    There is simply too much crap and not enough good stuff out there.
    When you begin to dictate the content by asking why? why? why? you lose the what if? that eventually leads people and business to success.
    Look at any SM success story and it has always been an extension of the organization/person running it, not a communal decision based on Social Media strategy. Take the blow-hard Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV – he was playing in a bunch of different media, decided to try the Video blog and exploded.
    If you want a strategy, try identifying the person(s) that will represent the company best and support them in any damn way possible.

  6. It would be ideal to have people within who are both. But, you’re right, there’s nothing wrong with getting the help you need… that’s why we have a growing/thriving agency here 😉

  7. But ‘Why’ doesnt take strategy.
    The ‘Why’ in SM should always be to have something interesting to share, any way you are good at doing it.
    Developing strategy first means that you have a clear understanding of what to expect from the medium, which in SM is pretty off-base given how flexible and new everything is.
    If everyone can agree that Social Media is different from traditional promotions, why must we treat it with the exact same approach?

  8. Mitch, THANK YOU for this post. You inspired a much longer response on my Amplify space than I’ll include here. For me, one of the things I think we need to help organizations be “okay” with is slowing down (just a little bit) to take some time to think about strategy. In my work, I am focused predominantly on non-profit clients. These time and resource-starved folks often (understandably) feel like if they “throw something” up on the Web, or get that Facebook page started at least they’ve DONE something. It’s important to help them hit the proverbial brakes a bit and think it through.
    And good strategy development doesn’t have to take days.
    I think it’s also pretty critical to help these clients take a good assessment of their internal assets, as well. It was REALLY nice to hear that validated in your post. Again, this takes a little pre-work, but you walk away from an audit (ick – not a fan of that word, but it is what it is) with a much clearer sense of “this is what we are good at” and here’s what we struggle with, etc.
    Keep the great posts coming! Much appreciated.

  9. Yes, asking yourself “why” really makes you think about the strategy you are going to use. no strategy = no future for the business. so it’s really important.
    you said “the best publishers live and breathe the content they are sharing”. that is true. but i would add one old saying: we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice more than we speak. publishers also have to listen to others and interact in social media, otherwise I believe there won’t be much success.

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