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Social Media – Strategy or Tactic?
By: Monique Terrell
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It’s common to see social media stated as a strategy and a tactic, but the question is: where does it fit? Is it a strategy, tactic, or both?
We’ve seen the social media "strategy" where there is a stated goal with a list of activities that include tactics such as creating a Facebook page or using Twitter to connect with customers. And then you’ve seen marketing plans or even advertising campaigns that list social media as a "tactic" for the campaign or plan.
Is social media really a strategy by itself, or is it really a tactic that is part of the bigger strategy? Let’s first explore the definitions.
Strategy: Strategy refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. The word is of military origin.
Plan: A plan is typically any procedure used to achieve an objective. It is a set of intended actions through which one expects to achieve a goal.
Tactic: A tactic is a conceptual action. A military tactic is used to implement a specific mission and achieve a specific objective or goal. A tactic is implemented as one or more tasks.
Campaign: A series of operations undertaken to achieve a set goal; as in, an election campaign, a military campaign, an advertising campaign.
Now that we have our terms defined, we can better understand how social media is used best. Social media as a plan means that you're putting together a procedure for achieving a specific objective. So what would a social media procedure look like? If I were putting one together, it would look like this:
When using Twitter, our goal is to provide prompt, high-quality customer service. To achieve this, each Twitter agent will follow these steps:
  1. Identify yourself as a customer service agent for ABC company
  2. Thank customers for taking the time to share their issue or concern
  3. Ask direct questions to better identify what next steps need to be taken
  4. When addressing questions, do not share private/personal customer information and remember to provide the customer service phone number (if needed for more detailed situations)
Now we have a plan, but what about the strategy, that is, a plan of action to achieve a specific goal or objective? The goal for our strategy, if taken from our plan above, is to use social media for providing prompt, high-quality customer service. What we need is a plan of action (strategy) for achieving the goal. Here is what our strategy will look like:
ABC Company will use social media to provide prompt, high-quality customer service.
  • Twitter agents will staff the ABC Twitter account 24/7, addressing customer inquires, concerns, and challenges
  • ABC will hire 100 agents across the globe to support this effort
  • Facebook will be the education source for customers to learn more about our products and services and as the primary place for potential and current customers to engage with the ABC brand
  • Staffing the Facebook page will be personnel from the following departments: Product Development, Education, Marketing, and Communications
We now have a strategy and a plan, so it's time for the tactics. These are the tasks involved with implementing the strategy. This is where it can get tricky (or clearer) about where social media fits. The "tactics" when it comes to social media are really more about content development than overall social media. What do I mean by this? Let’s take a look at the tactics for the strategy.

Twitter agents will:
  • Post answers to questions (i.e. text)
  • Provide links to more detailed information (i.e. text, video, etc)
  • Create video-based responses to FAQ
Facebook staffers will:
  • Provide links to PDF-style brochures
  • Write a weekly note to update fans about current happenings at ABC (i.e. text)
  • Post daily status updates (i.e. text)
As you can see, these tactics are not necessarily exclusive to use via social media. These are tactics that can be replicated on a website, in an email, or other spaces. Therefore social media doesn't really exist as a "tactic."
When it comes to campaigns (sets of actions and operations to achieve a set goal) the campaign goal, social media isn't a "campaign" in itself, but rather a marketing, advertising, or awareness campaign that is made up of tactics that include social networks for distribution.
Bottom line: you can have a social media strategy or a plan, but not truly a "tactic" or "campaign." That's my take. What’s yours?

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About the Author
Monique Terrell is the Sr. Manager of Social Media & Professional Networking at the College of American Pathologists. She is also owner/operator of Sparkle Internet Image Solutions, a social media marketing company. She has more than 15 years of Internet, eLearning, and website development experience. Her company provides virtual marketing services to both national and international organizations. 
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