Is Social Media A Strategy or A Tactic?

03/08/2012

  • In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell. – Jack Welch 

Strategy freenetwork
As BBF B.L. Ochman recently reminded me, social media has been around, and included in varying degrees (!), as a business initiative for the past ten years. Although most marketers agree social media is not a fad there is still a debate on what is social media. Is social media a strategy or is social media a tactic?

Just One Crowd Sourced Question

I was curious to understand what and why marketers thought on this issue and thought it would be a great question for Diva Marketing's sometimes series: Just One Crowd Sourced Question.

I reached out to people within social networks and invited them to reach out to their networks and answer .. just one question. It's a quick turn around .. a few days to respond. The goal, of course, is to bring you diverse opinions so we can learn together. 

Let's frame the question with a high level overview of strategy and tactics. The following is from Euromed Marseille School of Management, World Med MBA Program - Information Systems and Strategy Course

"Strategy and tactics are about means and ends: they bridge the gap between our vision of the future and our day to day decisions. Both strategy and tactics are about deciding the means by which a goal is reached. Ultimately the goal of strategy as a concept is to find a rigorous and systematic way of making these decisions."

Or put another way .. strategy is identifying which song to sing and tactics are identifying how to sing it. Then sing it out loud and strong! 

Crowd sourceOut of the 17 responses received, most people felt that social media was both a strategy and a tactic.

It was interesting that several marketers considered social media to be neither. They came up with their own creative descriptives ranging from "a corporate culture and state of mind to a platform and communications tools."

 Is Social Media A Strategy or Is Social Media A Tactic?

Social Media Is A Strategy

1. Social media is a strategy for communicating and engaging in/expanding dialogue with your brand's consumers/advocates/constituents. Sure, it's one tactic for broadcast marketing messages, but successful use of social media includes using it as a customer service, just as much as a marketing, tool.

Developing a strategy prior to implementing social media ensures that your company has the resources/manpower to keep it running; that you have the tools in place to measure its value; that you'll know what to do with it with a crisis strikes; and that you get the bang for your buck integrating cross-departmental use (customer service department, communications department, user experience, operations, etc.). - Laura Bellinger @madamebelle

2. Utilizing social media is a strategy. Tactics are how you accomplish the goal. Interestingly the idiom for strategy is "tools of the trade". - JoAnn Hines Packaging Diva

3. Because it helps to get your name/product out in the world by a host of different means. - AmyJo

Social Media Is A Tactic

1. While you can have a strategy for your social media program, it is a tactic within your overall marketing tool kit. It should be one element of a complete business/marketing strategy that aligns with business goals and objectives. - Katharine McMahon @marketingbykat

2. I think it is more of a Tactic than a strategy. A strategy is what you need to do to implement your goal(s). The tactics are the How's. Moreover, I believe that Social Media is more of a connector - it's the glue that links the offline and the online efforts of your marketing campaigns, it connects you to your fans, would-be fans, competitors and general public. That is built-in market research right there. - Sue Duris President M4 Communications, Inc. 

3. Like other forms of 'marketing' or engaging with your customer, social media exists to bring you face-to-face, either in real time or virtually. The strategy of your business needs to be finding the best ways to serve your customers - the tactic is in using social media, among other tools, to achieve that goal. - Yvonne DiVita, Lip-sticking 

Social Media Is Both A Strategy And A Tactic

1. SM is a great tool (tactic) to achieve and meet goals, but it truly needs a strategy to be successful. Without the strategy, how do you know if the tool is working? - Rachel Simon @raksimon

2. Offense is strategic, Defense is tactical. I see the world of social as offense versus defense. Tactically, I see the defensive positioning of responding to comments about your brand. Strategically, I see the opportunity to remain in an offensive position - pushing social campaigns and predicting results so you can stage the next campaign (think business process flows for social campaigns). - David Favero @mdavidfavero

3. Social media needs to be addressed as part of every marketing strategy. With a coherent, cohesive strategy in hand, a tactical plan to execute social media is the next step. Hard to have any effective execution without connecting the dots to a strategy that advances the business case. - Nancy Chorpenning CSuiteAdvisors @CSuiteAdvisors

4. For most brands it is mainly a tactic that needs to be integrated into a larger marketing plans BUT, several smaller businesses are utilizing it as a full-blown strategy because of the cost barrier being perceived as being low.- Anon

5. Social is breaking down the walls in the market allowing buyers to engage in a collaborative buying process in peer to peer networks for decision support. Buyers are building a strategic business case to justify their recommended approach to solving business problems while building consensus to the decision with their teams.

If we are buyer-centric in our commitment to helping our buyers make better decisions then we need to find where strategic and tactical intersect. Tactical engagement in support of strategic relationships for business impact. – Judy Mod @JudyMod @SocialCouncil

6. Mmm.that's challenging because a Strategy (in marketing parlance) really should be an idea of how to execute a goal...like "nuke the enemy to achieve world dominance." And the tactic would be the tools you use to do this. So technically Social Media is a tactic, but surely there is some way to define social media as a strategy? Am I waffling here? – Anon

7. Social media may be a strategic marketing approach. The actual way you use SM is tactical.A marketing strategy might be to use SM to launch a new product. Actually posting your campaign on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. is a tactical exercise. - Maggie Buerger @getfamousfast

Neither A Strategy Nor A Tactic

1. Corporate culture, state of mind. For social media to be effective for a brand, it requires both the brand and its constituents to be willing to connect and engage. A brand that uses the tools just to promote misses the point of social.

On the flipside, brands that are willing to tell its story, listen to feedback, make the necessary changes AND defend certain key aspects of their 'personality' will eventually build trust and collaboration with their constituents which is the ultimate goal for any brand. - Jacqui Chew

2. Social media is a platform to communicate from one to many. Social media can be qualified as a medium for strategy or a tactic supporting a strategy if there is an objective for the platform. Without the two it is simply a Techology for publishing or consuming information. Peter Fasano @pfasano

3. Social media is a set of communication tools. Social media - media in which conversations can take place - is a set of tools in the communications toolbox. – Anon

4. It's a supporting arm of your marketing and communications goals. Not a strategy alone, but a strategic element that is comprised of many tactics. - Anon

Toss of a pink boa to everyone who shared their thoughtful insights!

My thanks to  Candace McCaffery for her post that inspired this Just One Question post.

Here's my comment on her post (add me to the Both list):

I believe that social media demands a strategy of its own .. not unlike pr or marketing or customer care or (fill in the blank).

Assuming that social media touches all aspects of an organization, it's critical develoip an over arching direction that integrates with all BU/departments/employees who are impacted by its intrusion (I use intrusion not as a negative). Without that high level focus how can the brand promise or values be consistently represented internally and externally? How can we use social media to support business goals and objectives? How can we incorporate it into campaigns and use it as a digital conversation tool that becomes an asset unto itself?

Social media has evolved into more than just a channel, communication outreach or customer service vehicle. I would suggest that the "tools" of social media e.g. social networks, blogs, podcasts, blogger relations, etc. are the tactics under the umbrella of social media strategy.

Social media has evolved to command the same respect as other marketing/communication disciplines to be consider a 'strategy."

Update: Thanks Damica Kombol for your contribution.

What are your thoughts? Do you consider social media to be a strategy, a tactic, both or something else?

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Comments

I was one of the ones who obviously responded but did not put my name! Now I forget what I said. No need for attribution however, because this is a great post with great thoughts. Thanks for writing! Thanks for sharing. Got me thinking.

Posted by: Danica Kombol on Mar 8, 2012 7:05:36 PM

@Danica - appreciate your participation and your kind words. I'm sure your insights were as always, spot on smart.

Posted by: Toby @tobydiva on Mar 8, 2012 10:55:22 PM

Love that you took a complicated topic and really tackled the core of it. It’s a talent to be able to see into the heart of problems. :)

A strategy might be to increase the number of visits to our web site, with the objective of increasing online sales. The tactic might be to use Twitter and Facebook to engage online communities and promote the content on our blog.

Posted by: Facebook Statistics on Mar 9, 2012 6:32:58 AM

Thanks for this terrific post Toby! Spot on as always.
BL

Posted by: B.L. Ochman on Mar 9, 2012 1:27:07 PM

Thanks for another enlightening post Toby. It's fascinating how the concept of social media has encouraged us to think things over like this. I think it is both a strategy and a tactic. But more than asking that, I think it is also worth asking how much of social media we use for the greater good. Does anyone care about this anymore? Just a thought.

Posted by: Jhonny Lowemar on Mar 10, 2012 2:36:21 AM

Very interesting perspectives! I think I would lean towards social media being both a tactic and a strategy.

Posted by: Jen @ Ecommerce website builder on Mar 10, 2012 10:42:04 AM

IMO, it's clearly a tactic. If it's a strategy, I think your business is in trouble. A strategy is what you need to accomplish, and a tactic (like social media) is a tool in your toolbox.

Social media is a tactic in your overall marketing strategy. And I say that as someone who works in social media.

Posted by: FLT on Mar 12, 2012 11:16:25 AM

I think that social media is such a broad phrase that it can encompass many different things. Personally, I think social media will replace SEO eventually.

Great post!

Posted by: Maciej Fita on Mar 16, 2012 9:09:06 AM

Goals are what matter. They should be stated clearly and succinctly.

A Strategy is the roadmap of the terrain between where you are and your goals.

Tactics advance you along that roadmap toward your goal.

It is that simple. Social Media is not a strategy, it is a bundle of tactics.

Posted by: Erik Hare on Mar 16, 2012 2:29:57 PM

Very great post and interesting question! I would agree that it is both.

Posted by: Ashley@A10sm on Mar 19, 2012 10:30:22 PM

Keeping a social media business go isn't so easy, needs hard work and investing your time wisely in it.

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