Why you shouldn’t skimp on a social media plan

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I saw a blog post recently that said the need for a social media plan is one of the “seven lies” surrounding social media discussions.

The blogger’s point was that social media shouldn’t be put into its own marketing silo, rather, it should be part of a broader marketing plan of an organization. He wrote, in part:

The reality is that there is no such thing as a social media strategy, just like there is no such thing as a digital strategy. There is a communication strategy in which you use an entire set of tools — including digital spaces.

It may not always be necessary to know all of these tools in detail; what is essential to understand is how the social web has affected the way we do business and, in particular, the relationship between the company and its stakeholders (employees, shareholders, suppliers, community members, and customers).

I agree with the general premise of his point, but there’s an unintended downside to this perspective also.

Here’s why: The benefit of a social media plan is that it provides a personalized guide for how an organization should use social media. The plan gives specific directions on what they’re going to do with it. For people who haven’t used social media much (or used have used it unsuccessfully) this is your best chance toward gaining momentum and ultimately success.

Social media shouldn’t stand alone…

The blogger’s particular concern is one that has been gaining momentum in marketing circles over the last year. The concern is valid, and mostly a reaction to organizations
that create social media plans that stand apart from the rest of the organization’s marketing efforts.

As has been noted, silos form in these scenarios, and you have promotion and outreach efforts that aren’t created to work together. For instance, a product launch may have a traditional marketing plan that doesn’t fit with social media plans. This is clearly not smart marketing or smart planning. While giving intentional effort and focus to social media is good, it needs to be part of the broader marketing plans.
Old Gravel Silos, Buffalo Bayou, East of Jensen, Houston, Texas 0906091552BW
Although social media doesn’t need its own silo, it still needs specific attention. Patrick Feller via Compfight

…but it still needs special attention

While making sure social media plans get synced up with the other marketing efforts is needed, this isn’t an excuse to use social media poorly or ignorantly, yet that’s what can happen if there’s not specific focus given to social media planning.

The problem with many social media efforts is that the people executing the plans think that whatever works in traditional media will translate in social media. This isn’t usually the case.

Social media marketing efforts need to earn people’s attention. Just because you have Facebook fans, for instance, doesn’t mean they’ve given your carte blanche permission to sell stuff to them all the time. You want to earn their attention with non-sales related updates and then make strategic sales offers when the time is right.

Plan for success on all platforms

That’s why we need social media plans. They ensure that you’re using social media the way social media works best, rather than using them as new blasting tools to hit the people who are already ignoring you. That’s just smart marketing, and that’s what a plan does.

To neglect the social media plan entirely is to risk using it poorly. In that case, the best thing you can hope for is that you’re wasting your time and people keep ignoring you. The worst thing would be that people get annoyed and start pointing out your erroneous social media ways.

Perhaps in the future social media marketing and other marketing will be so tightly integrated that this will be an invalid discussion. For now, however, there are still two
distinct worlds of marketing: social media and everything else.

For that reason (and for now) social media plans provide a needed guide for businesses seeking to shift and succeed in a world that doesn’t look as much as it used to.bill-seaver

Bill Seaver has consulted numerous organizations to help them understand and apply social media into their marketing initiatives. He’s the founder of MicroExplosion Media. Follow him on Twitter @BillSeaver.