Social media: swarm vs. strategy?

So you’ve listened and maybe engaged in social media, now what?

It’s important to be there since the conversations are already happening, but have you integrated that work into your overall strategy?  I was on a call Friday with a PR firm talking about social media strategy.  When I think about what many of us often do (and yes, I’m including myself in this), I can’t help but think of a children’s soccer game.

We may have passion and focus, but we’re usually just chasing the ball.

Many of us get so caught up in the tactical execution, we forget to look at the overall strategy.  Two great posts to get you thinking about this more are Leslie Poston on Social Media Curves and Shannon Paul on The Missing Ingredient in Most Social Media Strategies.   Leslie discuses working from front end goals to setting “appropriate expectations” on the back end.  Shannon gets to the heart of the biggest problem, that most social media strategies are missing “actual strategy.”

We’re often substituting tactics for strategy.  One of the questions I discussed with the PR team on my call is “what are we trying to get out of this social media engagement?”  Shannon offers five “Steps to Defining the Strategy in Your Social Media Strategy” in The Missing Ingredient in Most Social Media Strategies:

  1. Push for clarity around the overall business strategy
  2. Push for clarity around the strategies you feel social media should be in direct alignment with; i.e. marketing, communications, customer service, human resources, etc.
  3. Ask yourself, how will you extend this strategic alignment to the social web? *hint, do not list tactics to answer this question, but rather focus on guiding principles or rules of engagement.
  4. Ask what experience/reaction do you want people to come away with when they interact with your brand/company online.
  5. Is your strategy proactive or reactive? Will you actively seek people out, wait for them to find you/mention you?
If you look at a children’s soccer game, the children typically chase the ball where ever it goes.  There’s very little understanding of positions team members should play and why they are important.  As the children learn to play assign roles, the nature of the game changes.  We move from swarm to more structured strategy.
Are you playing with a strategy? Or still chasing the ball?