Strategy vs. Tactics and your Social Media Activities

“Strategy is immutable; it is a Big Picture look at a problem that focuses upon the entire forest and not individual trees.

Tactics vary with circumstances and, especially, technology … So, tactics present a Small Picture perspective where individual trees are in focus but the Big Picture of the forest is not.”

I’ve opted to quote Alan Emrich from his online course ‘Principles of Game Design‘ because I think it nicely sums up the distinctions between a strategy and the tactics that support it.

An important distinction to make as I see some confusion out there where individual social networking tactics and activities are being mistaken for a comprehensive ‘SMM‘ strategy.

That said, I also know many of your organizations are short-staffed and under-funded, so I thought today I might provide a very high-level and somewhat simplified (e.g. dumbed-down) outline which might benefit your church or charity’s foray into the ever changing world of social media.

Simple Outline for a Social Media Strategy

So baby step 1, here’s a simple example of a strategy you which you’re more than encouraged to expand and refine:

  1. Build online awareness of the organization by inviting visitors and members to converse openly in a 2-way dialog;
  2. Expand the reach of the organization online by engaging influential voices in your community;
  3. Perfect the online effectiveness of the organization’s strategy by measuring tactics and activities;
  4. Protect the organization online through effective and doable policies.

Some Suggested Tactics and Activities

1. Ways to invite visitors and members to talk among themselves:

As I said in my 1st point, keep in mind that we want to create a two-way dialog here that allows the individual to feel like they are important to you, and have a voice.

So the idea here is to gather some low-lying fruit to answer the question “what’s in it for them?” One fast way to inspire such interaction is to practice finely tuned, sharply focused micro-blogs versus one big, bloated, blob-blog.

  • Some examples that come to mind are those built around entities such as the youth group or choir. Other examples are those built around events, such as 40 days of Advent.
  • Along with the above examples, consider targeting a wider pool of individuals by tapping into those ‘Long-Tail‘ areas of interest where we drill in some specificity those members, non-members and plain-old Janes share in common. “Summer athletic youth programs” and “Lutheran Vacation Bible School in Raleigh for ages 4 through 8” come to mind. A ‘Short-Tail‘ example being simply ‘summer programs’ or ‘vbs.’
  • In other words, start planning your Vacation Bible School microsite now (cult members: that’s not a request !-).

Note, This is all going to become MUCH easier with the release of WordPress 3.0, which will incorporate the multi-blogging capabilities of WordPress MU.

2. Some channels where your influential voices may be speaking:

That’s a lot of places at once, but most of the above services provide RSS feeds which can be used to track things in a single heads-up.

  • So for Twitter, create lists, then read those lists into your Google Reader. Yeah, you still have to read the stuff – but it saves a few steps.
  • For those of you coders in the HYCW cult … and you know who you are …  there is plenty of Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs) to shoot your foot clean off while using a caching/offline approach to gathering feeds I described back in 2003

    More recently, I’ve been blowing away toes with the huge number of API interfaces in the CPAN Perl library to code custom search bots and spiders. (Yeah, I know, I should be hip-n-cool using Python, but I can’t help myself.)

One word of caution I’ve dispensed here more than once: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Meaning, don’t feel you have to sign-up and link into every stinking social network in the Universe – just those where people talking with you and about you hang out.

Also, enough with the spambots … trust me, whether used for automated email, comments or Twitter campaigns, they’re a big fail my book that I’ve addressed on this blog more than once … but I digress …

Remember the point here is to create organizational awareness. This requires you to listen, respond and invite – not to beat down,  flame-up or suppress opinion – especially if the goal of your organization is to reach out and serve the surrounding community (if it helps, think Samaritan, sinners and tax collectors).

3. Continue nudging your efforts to perfection through metrics.

Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Put another way, if you’re doing the same thing over and over again and not getting the results you want, then make some changes. The problem is, what to change?

  • Tools such as Google Analtyics, Clicky, HootSuite and 5 Second Test can be priceless in helping you figure out what works, and what needs more refinement.
  • For you experts, programming platforms such as jQuery can extend your plain old hyperlinks and buttons into analytic smart bombs by simply intercepting the click and firing off a message to tools such as Google Analytics.

Here’s an example, let’s say you want people to sign up for a Wednesday night dinner online. You’ve got the page all hooked up to PayPal or Google Checkout but you’re not getting participation.

Knowing the goal, try and see the path to the goal from the perspective of a clueless visitor. Ask yourself:

  • do home pages and landing pages funnel and steer the individual towards said goal?
  • have I considered multiple paths to that same goal?
  • are there places where my user is getting stuck due to confusing design?
  • are there places where my user is getting stuck due to disruptive innovations (think iPhone)?
  • do I need to engage in a real-world or virtual campaign to create goal awareness?
  • am I measuring the progress of how people are getting to said goal?

Much of the above bullets on campaigns and conversion goals requires MUCH further and detailed explanation – but at least start thinking long those ways while you’re learning the more advanced features of your measuring tools.

Oh and for you hot shots out there, don’t be shy about digging into your Apache user and error logs. I’ve always found AWStats is fun little tool for that. Then again, I love regular expressions … but I digress …

4. Last but not least, doable policies and polity

I’ve talked about policy before. In fact my 2006 post on establishing policies to protect your user’s privacy is still an oft-visited article.

There are several reasons for this:

  • betray your user’s trust and you sink your organization’s name;
  • know how to deal with the “you suck” Tweets and posts;
  • figure out how to keep well meaning organization members from going ballistic on online nay-sayers;
  • understand that your tax-exempt status may depend on good policy.

Without good policy to guide your organization, you’re going to fall into the various pitfalls and traps that exist online.

A practical use case to consider is to think about this is how to respond when some ‘Bridezilla‘ flames-up your organization online about not being able to rent the main hall on June 12 because of established policy – and what the cost of making an exception might mean to your church or charity.

Remember, good policy can be timeless, even long after a given technology is long gone.


I know this is quite a bit to digest all at once – especially those of you who’ve been getting hammered by the newly minted, self-appointed social media guru in your organization who just discovered TweetDeck on his brand new iPhone.

Just keep in mind, one of the big reasons people get involved with your charity or visit your church to connect with other people – social media is just another way to accomplish this.

Hopefully as my current job situation spins down, I’m hoping to have more time to talk about many of the items I mentioned above individually.

Until then, keep in mind that the above this isn’t a comprehensive outline but rather a place to start conversations about social media and your church and/or charity.

That said, as much of the above is about listening and responding, it’s time to eat my on dog food and encourage you to go ahead and post your thoughts, comments, suggestions and experiences.

Especially as I know I’ve either missed or glossed over something important or conspicuous. Or put another way, “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work” -Thomas Edison

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