social media strategy

The Cornerstone of Social Media Strategy is Clarity

3 Comments 20 May 2010

Image courtesy of Mr. T in DC

It’s this simple: if you aren’t clear, then neither am I. My job as a social media consultant is to help you think more clearly and find your own vision so that your social media strategy is the best it an be.

Clarity of vision and objectives are the cornerstones of a strong social media strategy, and must be defined at the very beginning of the process. There are two different kinds of objectives to be defined: the organization’s general objectives, and the value that social media would provide. Without these you won’t be able to use social media effectively.

Social media is a communications tool. It’s purpose is to create engaging relationships that will support organizational objectives and goals. The first thing I usually ask from a company is a list of specific goals for the next six months and year to find out what the organization is hoping to accomplish in the future. Will you be raising funds for a new building over the next year? Will you be launching any new initiatives? Do you need more volunteers for specific programs? Do you want more people to download your product online? The overall objectives define how we will create the strategy.

Here is a typical unclear objective:

We want more people to know about our organization.

That’s an overall objective, but is so vague that it’s not useful. When given this, I’d work with you to figure out what that goal really means and make it specific enough to be useful. How about:

We want to increase website traffic to our programs enrollment page by 250%, and get our organization mentioned in other organizations’ blogs at least twice a month.

That’s more like it – from there, we’re able to think about developing a social media strategy that emphasizes program enrollment and collaborative relationships with other organizations. This goal also has the added benefit of providing its own benchmark to measure success.

The second thing I usually ask a client is:

What value would social media provide to your organization? What would a successful social media strategy look like to you?

I often hear a response along the lines of:

Two hundred Facebook fans (people who like our page), because we want a big Facebook presence

Facebook is the tool to support your organization’s goals, not the objective in and of itself. Facebook is a tactic, not a goal, and it’s important not to confuse shiny new tools with where you want or need them to take you. Furthermore, the number of fans isn’t half as important as what you want the fans to do once they like your page. Numbers mean nothing without engagement.

The value of a successful social media presence might be (looking back at the overall goals listed above):

  • Higher program enrollment
  • Shorter decision process from a person first hearing about our organization to program enrollment
  • Online supporters who will recruit others to our programs

Now we have a set of objectives and stated return on value from social media. We’re ready to go. We can create a comprehensive social media strategy that meets your organizational goals and provides the return on social media. And what’s more, we’ll be able to pick exactly the right tools, tactics, and channels to make it successful.

Social media is a communications tool. If you’re unclear, your tools won’t be clear either.

  • Thanks for sharing on this topic. Admittedly, when I first started my organization's social media initiatives over a year ago, I did so with a plan that did not really address goal setting. The plan included where our supporters live on social networks and how to properly use them (tactics), but I look forward to re-addressing our social media strategy with slightly more strategic thinking. I've learned that I'd rather advance organizational goals than just advance our presence on Facebook in a vacuum.


  • Hi Andy – thanks for the commend. I'd love to hear what you come up with after reassessing the social media strategy with slightly more strategic thinking. Glad this post inspired!


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Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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