Jeff is right on the mark in his post “Your Social Media Strategy May Not Be A Strategy.” But it may even be worse than he reports. Some companies and organizations don’t even have clear tactics when it comes to social media, but still think they have a strategy.
I often remind people that knowing how to use social media is not the same thing as knowing how to use it strategically and tactically.
I have trained many college students (in my classes and interns at work) who claim to know how to use social media at the start of the training. By the end of the training the invariable comment that they never thought it through strategically or tactically before.
Our strategy at the Center for American Progress and Center for American Progress Action Fund is to use social media to influence influencers so they will share our ideas with their audiences. Sometimes that is simply to get our policy reports, videos, and interactive graphics out to an influential audience. Sometimes our goal is to mobilize people to take action to influence policymakers.
This means we need tactics that ensure we recruit as many influencers to our audience as possible, that we work to deepen our relationships with those influencers, and that we provide value to those influencers so they have a reason to help us. This requires a lot of research to identify influencers and a lot of outreach to engage with them once they are identified.
We use a variety of tools to do our research, more tools to facilitate our engagement, and even more tools to measure our effectiveness.
Metrics are always a big challenge with social media. Yes, new tools are always emerging to help with this effort, but few, if any do everything needed. As a result, we are forced to used a multitude of tools and assemble our metrics from them.
Like any effort to measure success, this is involves operationalizing our success metrics. For example, one measure of success is driving people to our website to read our products. Tools like Bit.ly and HootSuite help us measure the number of clicks on the links we share, but experience shows that not every click results in a page view (discrepancies between Bit.ly and Google Analytics, for example, are different by an average of 8%, but that gap varies as the number of clicks increase).
Measuring influence is a lot harder. Size of audience is important, as is the number of Twitter and Facebook impressions generated by our posts, but that doesn’t translate directly into actual views (much as gross rating points for a TV ad doesn’t exactly translate into eyeballs on your ads). We like to use a combination of measures, including number of retweets on Twitter and the number of likes, shares, and comments on Facebook. As well, we like to look at the influence ratings for the people sharing our messages (on Twitter you can use Twitalyzer or Klout).
Moving forward, I expect that these tools will get better. One of the better premium services, Thrive from SmallAct.com has good metrics already and are developing enhancements as we speak.
So, returning to Jeff’s assessment, as you can see, a real social media strategy goes far beyond posting things to social media. You need clear goals, effective tactics, and a program to evaluate your efforts so you can refine them. Only then do you really have a social media strategy.