Why a social media strategy is never about social media.

‘Tis the season of proposal writing.

It is a time where I am more aware of my terrible typing posture (as my arms seize from the required 211 wpm needed to respond to everyone) and I reflect on the work I am doing.  Over the last few weeks the agency has worked on a number of fully integrated proposals for clients, as well as those focused on either our online or ‘offline/traditional’ work.  While the conduits between online and offline work may vary, its beginning and end are always the same.

We begin a project with the following type of question;

How do we encourage ‘insert activity’ from ‘insert target audience’?

..and we end it with the following type review:

Did ‘insert target audience’ carry out ‘insert activity’ as planned?

The medium doesn’t matter. Whether we use a poster, Facebook, a journalist, a radio ad or a website, the objective is the same: work out the best way to engage your audience so they will be inspired to act.

In a recent post by Seth Godin he made the following comment to affirm his belief that we should focus on people strategies within our businesses and not social media:

Hard to imagine a consultant or investor asking the CMO, “so, what’s your telephone strategy?”

I agree. But while the idea of having a telephone strategy seems somewhat ridiculous to us now, history has a habit of repeating itself.  I am sure in the late 19th century the world was close to free of consultants (heaven forbid!) and Sitting Bull was the only available chief – however the thoughts about how a breakthrough technology was going to change the world, were startlingly similar.

This is taken from Ithiel de Sola Pool in his 1983 book ‘Forecasting the Telephone’.

“..people said the telephone would: help further democracy; be a tool for grassroots organizers; lead to additional advances in networked communications; allow social decentralisation, resulting in a movement out of cities and more flexible work arrangements; change marketing and politics; alter the ways in which wars are fought; cause the postal service to lose business; open up new job opportunities; allow more public feedback; make the world smaller, increasing contact between peoples of all nations and thus fostering world peace; increase crime and aid criminals; be an aid for physicians, police, fire, and emergency workers; be a valuable tool for journalists; bring people closer together, decreasing loneliness and building new communities; inspire a decline in the art of writing; have an impact on language patterns and introduce new words; and someday lead to an advanced form of the transmission of intelligence.”

Phew. That paragraph reeks of social media ‘guru’.

For those of the glass half empty persuasion – you are right, most of us never learn to stop focussing on the technology and putting our attention to where the value really lies. No matter how complex it may seem, technology either works or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, it requires fixing and then it will work. It is the most tangible.  It has defined parameters.  It is the easy bit. (No matter how hard you may think it is!)

In my decade or more of rolling out online strategy I am yet to hear “if only we had spent more money on the ‘insert technology'”.  I tend to hear “if only we had spent more money on “training”, “measurement” “understanding our audience” etc.  These things may take a little more time than getting the technology right, but ultimately they encourage ‘insert activity’ from ‘insert target audience’.

For those who prefer their glass half full, be confident that one day, social media will become as much as a part of the way you connect to people in your life as the telephone.

Talk to us about how we engage people through social media (and brochures, journalists, posters and radio ads).