Blog Post:
It’s been said that 85% of the people who work in social media have been in the industry for less than two years. I think it was LinkedIn who first suggested this, but it often explains why there is so much bad advice floating around, so many poorly devised strategic plans and so much money wasted on failed campaigns. The thing with being a social media strategist is that it’s believed (in digital marketing circles anyway), to be quite a sexy title, and yet it is one that requires absolutely no formal qualifications or established processes for development. Hence all the social media ninja’s, guru’s mavens and wizards that we encounter on a daily basis. The problem here is that this lack of experience often causes a misunderstanding of what an actual social strategy is. In my opinion, the misunderstanding isn’t complicated, it is simply this… “Strategy Does NOT Involve Emotion” You would think that this is obvious. Business leaders have understood for years that the best strategies are absolutely devoid of emotion, bias or agenda. They are not shaped by the opinion of an individual but around the evidence and insight gained from working closely with an organisation. [Re-read that last sentence because it is REALLY important!!!] The issue here for social media strategists is that one of the main things they believe to be true of social media often blurs some boundaries…
“Social Media Users Share Emotions Not Facts”.
It’s a great quote, one that I believe came from research by Jonah Berger at Wharton University, (I even used it myself when I built the Purpose Pyramid), but it has no place in the strategic process. Emotion has everything to do with social psychology and why people behave the way that they do online, but that has nothing to do with strategy. Facebook even has a term for campaigns that are built upon emotion: “Social by Design”. Many social strategists have migrated out of the advertising or brand comms industry, which goes some way towards explaining their reliance upon “fluffy” awareness metrics. I’m talking about the kind that are focused solely on engagement - the likes of which you often hear when discussing the relative success of a TV, press or outdoor campaign. I believe in Lovemarks as much as the next brand strategist (the term refers to an emotional attachment with a brand and was coined by Saatchi CEO, Kevin Roberts), but it’s easy to confuse an “emotional strategy” that will raise awareness, with a business strategy that drives sales. Look at these two examples of strategic processes and it’s easy to see why people confuse the two (you’ll notice the second version isn’t as sexy but involves a specific ACTION plan): Lovemarks : A Brand Communications “Strategy” Customer-Based Brand Equity model (CBBE, Keller, 2002, & Kotler/Pfoertsch, 2006), modified by Pyramid Source: Customer-Based Brand Equity model (CBBE, Keller, 2002, & Kotler/Pfoertsch, 2006), modified by Pyramid. blog.pyramid.se A “Traditional” Strategic Process Source: visionsforireland.com Source: visionsforireland.com The problem with all of this is that whilst good social media people understand that great campaigns are built on emotion (in order to get someone to share, RT or view it), the strategy that campaign is founded on should NOT be built on emotion. Strategy Shaped by Emotion = House Built upon Sand* etc. etc…
  1. Look at the data
  2. Find out exactly what it is telling you
  3. Build your strategy on that rock* instead.
Your boss will love you for it. * (Apologies for the biblical analogy).
Author: Date Created:1 March 2013 Date Published: Headline:Just because you’re a Social Media Strategist, doesn’t mean you’re any good at strategy…” Social Counts: Keywords: Publisher:Adobe Image:http://blogs.adobe.com/digitaleurope/files/2013/03/87.png

It’s been said that 85% of the peo­ple who work in social media have been in the indus­try for less than two years. I think it was LinkedIn who first sug­gested this, but it often explains why there is so much bad advice float­ing around, so many poorly devised strate­gic plans and so much money wasted on failed campaigns.

The thing with being a social media strate­gist is that it’s believed (in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing cir­cles any­way), to be quite a sexy title, and yet it is one that requires absolutely no for­mal qual­i­fi­ca­tions or estab­lished processes for devel­op­ment. Hence all the social media ninja’s, guru’s mavens and wiz­ards that we encounter on a daily basis. The prob­lem here is that this lack of expe­ri­ence often causes a mis­un­der­stand­ing of what an actual social strat­egy is. In my opin­ion, the mis­un­der­stand­ing isn’t com­pli­cated, it is sim­ply this…

“Strat­egy Does NOT Involve Emotion”

You would think that this is obvi­ous. Busi­ness lead­ers have under­stood for years that the best strate­gies are absolutely devoid of emo­tion, bias or agenda. They are not shaped by the opin­ion of an indi­vid­ual but around the evi­dence and insight gained from work­ing closely with an organ­i­sa­tion. [Re-read that last sen­tence because it is REALLY impor­tant!!!] The issue here for social media strate­gists is that one of the main things they believe to be true of social media often blurs some boundaries…

“Social Media Users Share Emo­tions Not Facts”.

It’s a great quote, one that I believe came from research by Jonah Berger at Whar­ton Uni­ver­sity, (I even used it myself when I built the Pur­pose Pyra­mid), but it has no place in the strate­gic process. Emo­tion has every­thing to do with social psy­chol­ogy and why peo­ple behave the way that they do online, but that has noth­ing to do with strat­egy. Face­book even has a term for cam­paigns that are built upon emo­tion: “Social by Design”.

Many social strate­gists have migrated out of the adver­tis­ing or brand comms indus­try, which goes some way towards explain­ing their reliance upon “fluffy” aware­ness met­rics. I’m talk­ing about the kind that are focused solely on engage­ment — the likes of which you often hear when dis­cussing the rel­a­tive suc­cess of a TV, press or out­door campaign.

I believe in Love­marks as much as the next brand strate­gist (the term refers to an emo­tional attach­ment with a brand and was coined by Saatchi CEO, Kevin Roberts), but it’s easy to con­fuse an “emo­tional strat­egy” that will raise aware­ness, with a busi­ness strat­egy that dri­ves sales. Look at these two exam­ples of strate­gic processes and it’s easy to see why peo­ple con­fuse the two (you’ll notice the sec­ond ver­sion isn’t as sexy but involves a spe­cific ACTION plan):

Love­marks : A Brand Com­mu­ni­ca­tions “Strategy”

Customer-Based Brand Equity model (CBBE, Keller, 2002, & Kotler/Pfoertsch, 2006), modified by Pyramid
Source: Customer-Based Brand Equity model (CBBE, Keller, 2002, & Kotler/Pfoertsch, 2006), mod­i­fied by Pyra­mid. blog​.pyra​mid​.se

A “Tra­di­tional” Strate­gic Process

Source: visionsforireland.com
Source: visions​forire​land​.com

The prob­lem with all of this is that whilst good social media peo­ple under­stand that great cam­paigns are built on emo­tion (in order to get some­one to share, RT or view it), the strat­egy that cam­paign is founded on should NOT be built on emotion.

Strat­egy Shaped by Emo­tion = House Built upon Sand* etc. etc…

  1. Look at the data
  2. Find out exactly what it is telling you
  3. Build your strat­egy on that rock* instead.


Your boss will love you for it.

* (Apolo­gies for the bib­li­cal analogy).