Like a fart in church

The canonical view in corporate marketing is that you start high level at strategy and then work your way down onto tactics and execution. There are domains where this approach can rapidly desintigrate. Like social media.

For years I preached the message so eloquently spelled out by Forrester’s Josh Bernoff in Groundswell: work out a plan where technology doesn’t figure until right at the end, eg  the ‘POST’ approach:

P-eople
O-bjectives
S-trategy
T-echnology

I’ve sat through countless social media planning sessions where choirs of field and web marketing pros rabidly discuss social aspects to marketing campaigns or even social media programs they are looking to adopt. I’ve seen detailed strategy documents, audience demographic analysis, competitive analysis and detailed rollout schedules.

All wonderful works of fiction. An amazing number of these never turn into anything more meaningful than blogs that live no longer than fairground goldfish or Twitter accounts that stealthily limp along with monthly tweets.

Last week I sat down to talk social media strategy with a local team with trepidation: I could see myself going down a path I’d been down before.

But something out of the ordinary happened.

Within minutes we wandered into heretical geekdom and started scribbling down the relative merits of various social media platforms. We went through some of the capabilities of the blogging platform at our disposal. Other possibilities for blogging include Posterous and Tumblr which are great for mobile access. When it came to Twitter, I explained the success we’ve seen with the curation/syndication model. We talked video: we have a member of the team that is a big Justin.tv fan so we may as well leverage what he’s building there.

After about an hour we had mapped out a landscape of our social media properties, come up with a plan to link them together and were ready to talk about what kind of content we ideally should chase. Everything in me was telling me that we were putting the tactical cart way before the strategic horse. But somehow I felt we’d come closer to a workable plan in this hour than I’d ever have expected (although obviously the proof is in the proverbial pudding and I’ll report back on how this works out).

There’s an aspect of social media that doesn’t necessarily apply to other areas of marketing. That’s the principle that if you don’t have passion in your area of interest, really don’t bother. Not least because of the level of engagement required. Even though I’m in one of the most privileged places to practice social media, for most employees social media effectively needs to be a part time hobby until you can build a following and break out on your own. The gold dust lies in finding those that are already hooked and milk them for all they’re worth.

So even if you are confident that you have an audience you can engage with in the blogosphere, and a clear objective and content strategy, don’t set up a new blog until you have an individual or team with a proven track record, or who at least are chomping at the bit and can stump up some posts upfront to show they are committed.

Ditch the strategy and follow the lead of your foot soldiers instead.

There – I’ve said it. And like flatulence in a place of worship, you may find that you irk the establishment, create titters in the crowd and feel an initial embarrassment. But you’re being human. And in the social media space, that’s generally what you need to win.

Daryl Pereira is a web and social media manager at IBM and a profane Catholic who tweets from his little corner of the B2B tech universe @cagedether.

(image courtesy of Slimbolala)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *