Social Media Strategies and Tactics Are Not the Same

Let’s Not Confuse Tactics with Strategy

If I learned one thing in a previous life as a Tactics Coordinator in my old Navy squadron, it’s that Objectives, Strategies and Tactics are distinctly different concepts.

This point came up today during a wildly fun and respectful debate at a business mastermind group I contribute to on most Saturday mornings.  One of the key takeaways I came out with is that it can be dangerous to confuse Strategy with Tactics.  (Download the interactive mindmap notes below that highlight today’s mastermind meeting. )

SMMOC Meeting Notes 06-18-2011 (v-2.0)|1.89 MB|downloads: 938
You must use Adobe Reader (not Preview or other viewers) to view this document. Interactive mindmap of the highlights from Orange County's Social Media Mastermind (SMMOC) group. Opens in a PDF player. Interactive, with expandable branches and live hyperlinks to key resources. (If you find this useful, I'd appreciate you helping out by: 1. Liking the article and 2. Telling your friends!)

All too often, we hear about social media consultants / experts / coaches / (insert your favorite noun here) espousing the need for a “social media strategy.”  Only to then move forward and describe these strategies in terms of tools and techniques for using some new shiny social network, online service or blog plug-in; tools to automate or otherwise greatly enhance some online activity.

I’m not debunking the great skill with which some of our friends wield these tools.  It’s great, in fact, to have that kind of proficiency with a vast toolset.  But, as far as those go, they’re tactics.  Not strategies.

Why Should You Care?

Ask any military person with field/operational responsibility, and she’ll tell you that Objectives and Strategies (also distinct from each other) should dictate tactics.  Tactics should never dictate strategy.  (Lives have been lost that way.)

Objectives vs Strategies vs Tactics

(Click to enlarge)

The image above is one way I might suggest viewing the distinctions.  Read some of the examples (click to enlarge) and let me know what you think.

What would you say are other examples that could help paint a picture in the minds of our clients and executives about the differences between a social media “strategy” and a social media “tool” or “tactic?”

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