It’s a simple question really: “What’s your social media strategy?” And I ask people all of the time.  I’m a little surprised at the deer in the headlights looks or deafening silence on the conference call as a response.

A deer in the Headlights

Too often we’re trapped in the tactics and we forget the strategy element of what we’re trying trying to achieve.  So I thought I’d share some thoughts on the best social media strategies.

Typically social media strategies fall into the following categories:

  • Business:
    • Increase Sales – Driving revenue with social media.
    • Increase Brick and Mortar Traffic- Using social media to drive visitors to a venue.
    • Increase Web Traffic- Using social media to drive visitors to a website.
  • Connections:
    • Raise Brand Awareness- Cause the audience to be exposed to your brand promise via social media.
    • Manage Brand Reputation- To monitor and respond to questions and challenges to the brand perception in the market.
    • Promote Word of  Mouth- To engage with the brand advocates and influencers and activate them to spread the word of your brand.

It’s seems that those in the first group, Business expect results sooner.  Dollars and traffic are easy to measure and most businesses can see a result or lack of one fairly quickly.  Business oriented social strategies seem to fail more often and more quickly than those in the Connections group.    Is this because social media doesn’t return measurable hard dollar ROI for companies?  Or is it because social media is inherently more suited to softer objectives, rather than hard dollar goals?

We’ve all heard that social media is like a cocktail party, and that it’s not the place for a hard sell.  The question is can social media managers execute a soft sell approach with a strategic goal like those in the Business section?  I think that for many managers it’s a very difficult thing to do.  Most will not be able to resist the temptations and pressures associated with chasing these hard metrics.  In pursuit of the hard numbers (more people on the website, in the stores, or buying things) the marketing mangers will resort to harder and harder tactics in social media. These are the very tactics that are most poorly received in the soft sell world of word of mouth.  Therefore, these managers will ultimately fail because they are pursuing a poor strategy which is not well suited to social media.

Conversely, managers with objectives such as increase word of mouth, or raise brand awareness are well suited to a natural discussion.  These managers can engage with a tactical advantage over their competitors who are pursuing dollars because they are there to converse, not sell.  These conversations are certain to lead to sales in the long run but it will take more time.

In my opinion social media is about building relationships with your audience.  It takes time and patience to build relationships.  If you don’t believe me, try asking the boy/girl to marry you after the first date.  It never works.  As does asking your social media audience to do something for you, or buy your product if you’ve not built a relationship with them first.

In my mind, the most successful social media strategies target the Connections first and then seek to activate these relationships to achieve business goals.  Give me 1 good reason why you should pursue Business before Connecting with your customer?