Guide to Social Media Marketing Strategy vs Tactics

Can you get us more Facebook followers?” – voice on the phone asked – “We have over 2000 fans and need to get to 10,000! Can you help us with that?

This is often how “we need help with our social media” conversations begin. Unfortunately… it’s backward. It’s like calling an airline and asking to “book a flight for exactly 876 miles”… without a destination.

Each move, each tactical event (or mile if you wish) should align with your business and marketing strategy (the destination).

TACTICS – Think one-off gains. Running a contest on Facebook or buying radio spots to promote a specific sale would both be examples of tactics. If you look around, most of the social media efforts being touted as a strategy would fall into this class. Tactics SHOULD support the long-term strategy and each campaign SHOULD take you one step further in the right direction.

IMPLEMENTATION – I would call this a subsection of tactics. What falls under this category is the creation and customization of a Facebook page, opening of a Twitter account or setting up a blog. These task-oriented activities are not really tactics and certainly not a strategy, but rather enable your business to take advantage of either.

STRATEGY – Think long-term business goals. Where you are today, versus where you wish to be 3, 5 or 10 years from now. For example, imagine today you have a single muffin bakery in the downtown area. It’s run by yourself and two full-time employees. So… where would you like to be in 5 years? How about building up a franchise that will span throughout the country? Your strategy, in that case, would be very different then if you wished to stay local, become known for gourmet muffins and service upscale catering events.

When it comes to social media or any marketing effort, before making a move… THINK. Is this a strategy or a tactic? And do either one, or both, take me closer to my business goals? If not… abandon ship and start over.

While we’re chatting, let’s elaborate on this just a bit more. The way I look at building and aligning tactics and strategy is like a heartbeat with an upward slope. Basically, a campaign will produce a “blip” of engagement. Following the end of a campaign, you can expect some attrition, depending on how well it was structured and how well you connected with the audience. To be on the safe side, I will often advise clients to expect 30% – 50% attrition. Consider this a “riff-raff” tax. However, the result should always be a positive net gain towards your strategic goals.

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4 thoughts on “Guide to Social Media Marketing Strategy vs Tactics”

  1. This is a really good point. Many people find themselves with strategy vs. tactic confusion.

    Instead of jumping onto Facebook and running a Facebook contest, look at your goals. Do you want to increase sales, improve customer service, etc. Then look at the tactics that align with the goals.

  2. Very helpful, thank you Ernest. How deep would you go into highlighting the different tactics in your org strategy? Eg explain some possible tactics (contests, Ads etc) and then let the social media editor pick & choose depending on their goal?

    • Hi Heidi, thank you for commenting.

      I think the answer would depend on the strategy itself. Once you have your target markets picked out, as well as overall digital marketing objectives – the rest is basically acting as a bridge between the two. Each tactic or campaign needs to bring you one step closer to the overall strategic goals.

      The approach you mentioned of coming up with a few ideas, flushing them out and presenting them to a marketing directors / editor is definitely viable.

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