Social Media Strategy: The Answer to the Top 5 Social Media Marketer Questions

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“Creating a social media strategy is still a major concern for marketers.”

Social Media Examiner recently published their 5th annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report, where they surveyed more than 3,000 marketers from around the world on a variety of social media issues. The report is free until May 30 (THAT’S TODAY!) and should be downloaded by everyone as there are very few insightful reports like it that exist on the state of the social media union.

Among the 43 pages of data, which provided many a takeaway, the most interesting data for me was page 6, in which the report details the top 5 social media questions marketers want answered by at least 83% of the marketers surveyed. While social media strategy creation was only one of the top five questions, I hope to show you how all of the questions are inter-related to having, or not having, a social media strategy in place at your company.

#5: How do I create a social strategy?

While the report painted this as a positive indicator that “marketers are now thinking about social media within the larger umbrella of marketing,” I was surprised that many are potentially implementing social media blindly with no clear objective – nor metrics – for how they determine what to do, how well they are doing, and what they can do better, which would be included as part of any social media strategy. Of course, not having a social media strategy also naturally leads to the next question:

#3: How do I measure the return on my social media investment?

No social media strategy means there’s no rules as to what is considered success in your social media program because there was never any clear objective documented. With a robust social media strategy in place, KPIs are determined to assess whether or not objectives are reached, and therefore ROI measurement becomes less of a question and more of a mathematical exercise. We all know that social media is not free, so the actual personnel expenses of those involved in the social media program will need to be part of this equation. In order to help assess their effectiveness in the greater scheme of your ROI calculation, you will need to appropriate time they spend in social media to their activities, which leads to:

#1: What social tactics are most effective?

Repeat after me: There is no cookie-cutter approach to social media. What one brand finds successful on Facebook might bring zero engagement to another. While one company might tweet up  a storm to generate leads, another might simply search conversations and contact those it thinks might benefit from their services. With that in mind, the only answer to what social tactics are most effective is to define those tactics that you think will help you reach the objective(s) outlined in your social media strategy, assess the effectiveness of them through your KPIs and metrics that you review on a regular basis, and then optimize accordingly. There is no single golden truth with social tactics because social media is a moving target, as best illustrated by one of my favorite slides from my social media speaking deck below:


Those that create a well-defined social media strategy will understand through execution and implementation which tactics are working on which platforms and which aren’t. It’s all part of a data-driven approach to social media marketing. Which leads to a related 4th question posed by marketers in this report:

#2 What are the best ways to engage my audience with social media?

As I remind businesses with almost every speech and consultation, social media was made for people and not brands. This puts companies at a distinct disadvantage. On the other hand, social media represents the convergence of information and communication. If this is the case, companies obviously need to be engaging in some type of conversation and/or sharing some type of content. If we consider an engaging type of question that we see on Facebook or generating a discussion that we might see in a LinkedIn Group as representative of distinct types of content, in addition to the other many content types that exist such as photos, blog posts, podcasts, videos, etc., we can see that similar to our tactics, we need to clearly map out and measure the different types of as well as nature of content that we are sharing on the different platforms and determine which are more effective over time. You won’t know until you actually implement, but here is another case where the creation, measurement, and continual optimization of your social media strategy will serve as your best guide in figuring out the best ways to engage your specific audience with social media.

Which leads to the fifth and final question, which is critical in the effective implementation of your social media strategy:

#4: What are the best social management tools?

I believe that social media marketers in general are overly fascinated by the myriad of social media tools that exist and the new ones that frequently appear on the scene. Truth be told that with a social media strategy that contains all of the elements mentioned above, you will begin to understand that there is no one single tool that will help you manage every single social media platform in the way that you might want to use them. Furthermore, analytics are still a weak spot for social media dashboards as well as the analytical tools that we see appearing. At the end of the day, effective social media execution is more about the strategy, implementation and measurement and less about the tools. Once you’ve determined what it is you are setting out to do, you will realize that it is less about trying out the latest and greatest social media tool and more about finding the specific tools that help you with your daily tactical and measurement requirements – and sticking with them.

I’ve been doing social media strategy consulting for almost 3 1/2 years, so its exciting to see the market catch up to the reality that every business should have a social media strategy before making significant investments in social media. I’ve already blogged about why many social media strategies really aren’t social media strategies. My upcoming book, Maximize Your Social (Wiley), will be the first book of its kind to help you actually create your own social media strategy based on my experience. Until then, does a social media strategy answer your top social media marketing questions? Would love to hear your thoughts, as well as if you have burning questions that didn’t appear in the above five. Thanks!

For my complete analysis of the report, listen to my podcast below – or better yet subscribe to Social Business Unplugged on iTunes.

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer


Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness & @socialtoolssmmt | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker
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Neal Schaffer
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  1. says

    Excellent post Neil! Applies as well to nonprofits. Peter Drucker said all good ideas ultimately degenerate into work. And that’s the point. Social media can’t do anything by itself. It needs you to work it. Set a strategy (one that gets both you and your constituents what they want/need). Implement the strategy. Measure to see if you achieved what you set out to achieve.

  2. says

    Great share Neal. Thanks! I believe you hit the nail right on the head: “…every business should have a social media strategy before making significant investments in social media.” I see many jumping into Social Media, without much thought, then coming out the other side not understanding what went wrong – expensive lessons.

  3. says

    excellent points – there is no “magic bullet” in social media.
    note – that #SocialMedia report is still available even though it’s June now – so get it while it’s still available!

  4. says

    Excellent post Neil. I so agree that “social media was made for people and not brands” – so essential to remember that in any social marketing strategy. I also agree that there’s no one tool that does it all – but I’d be interested to hear which (several) you consider most useful :-)

  5. says

    I do some days think that everyone should forget about a Social Media Strategy. I think that it might be better if Social Media was considered a tool that could be used to implement strategies that are business drivers. For example…a customer service strategy might include a social media component that answers questions or resolves problems on Twitter or Facebook much like a call center. A marketing strategy might involve social media to sponsoring a FB contest to collect contact information for potential sales opportunities.

    • says

      Valid point Harold – and appropriate if your company is completely up to speed on social media and is already being used in all of the different departments like you suggest. Problem is that less than 1% of the companies that I know are that level. The other problem is that there are many ways in which departments will need to work together to truly maximize and synergize their social media efforts which requires a framework and some guidelines – at the bare minimum a social media strategy can play this role. Either way social business will evolve into the scenario that you illustrated, so it will be interesting to see the changing role of a social media strategy into a social business strategy into the future!

  6. says

    The only way to “win” in your social media efforts is to not gamify (buying bots, etc) and remain consistent, engaging, and if you develop a good strong presence that will help bring in business.

  7. says

    Social media marketing comes down to one thing “being social”. Attracting people to your page is only the first step. You need to sincerely interact with them in a real way. Giving free tips and advice. Sharing real valuable information. Running value driven promotions. Etc.Just my 2 cents…

    • says

      Totally agree Dustin – and that’s actually the subject of my new podcast episode which I hope to publish tomorrow! Social media was made for people, not businesses, so companies have to figure out how to be “social” and “liked.”

  8. says

    Social media is a time consuming endeavor. As a marketer for my clients, not one of them is a duplicate of another. Each client is unique with different strategies applied to each. I do not utilize management tools too often as I believe it is better to work each account organically.

    • says

      Hi Christine, yes, social media was made for people, not businesses. The Internet came out of government and research institutions. It all changes as companies want to offer value and need $$$ to stay alive. So long as companies respect this and pursue best practices in their social media through the creation and maintenance of their social media strategy, they can create deeper connections with consumers in a way that they become “part” of social media 😉

  9. says

    Thanks for your thoughts! As a nonprofit, we are navigating how to best engage with people through social media to share important ideas and generate action!

  10. says

    Cool nice post maybe bring your Podcast audio up to the top I prefer to listen to the author rather than read a massive blog post

  11. Clarissa Gonzalez says

    I’m grateful with this blog because you really inspire me to start my MBA in Social Media Marketing!!

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