Why Your Social Media Strategy Sucks

Social media strategy sucks

Social media is crap. Social media is a waste of money and time. Social media can’t be measured so we’re just wasting energy. Social media doesn’t offer lead generation. Blah blah blah.

I’ve seen a ton of criticism about social media and what it can and can’t do. People and companies are quick to jump in and castrate those of us using the medium as charlatans and maggots. Generally the excuse is any one of the reasons above, amongst others.

Most times the biggest complaint is that “social media isn’t working for us”, and because of that, social media is automatically a crap shoot.

But maybe those doing the loudest complaining should take a long hard look in the mirror and ask why it’s not working. Because I’m pretty sure that it’s not because of the reasons given at the start of this post, but a far simpler one – your social media strategy sucks.

And here’s why.

Blogs and Books Are Your Education

You read a ton of blogs. You follow all the big names and hang on their every word, gleaning nuggets of wisdom and tips and real-life examples of companies that “did social media right”. Then you take these posts and use them for your business, or product, or team.

And then get all upset because the advice in A-List Blogger’s latest masterpiece didn’t work for you. But are you really surprised?

A blog post isn’t a strategy. A blog post isn’t a campaign measurement stick. A blog post isn’t a research and development program. A blog post is just a drop of water in a bigger pool of ideas that bring a strategy to life.

A blog post isn’t specifically written for you, either – it’s a generic cover-all that can apply to thousands of other readers, some of whom will be your competitors. So why would you replace specific with generic?

As for these never-ending social media books that are hitting the marketplace at the rate of what seems like one a week? Many are just regurgitated blog posts with a new introduction anyway, so all you’re doing is doubling your chance of failure.

Forget generic – start thinking specific.

It’s Not Strategy If There’s No End Goal

Setting goalsWhat’s your end goal with your social media activity? What are you looking to get out of it?

Brand awareness? More eyeballs on your company blog? Sales? Customer service satisfaction levels up? Head hunt new employees? None of the above?

If you’re going into social media without an end goal in mind, why are you even going in? Where’s the benefit? Is it because your competitor is doing the Twitter and they look like they’re having fun and getting people talking to them?

Great – but what’s being said between your competitor and these people? Is there an end goal there? Is it simply building relations on another platform, much like having open days at your workplace and inviting the public in?

Whatever it is, if you’re not getting any results it’s because you haven’t set any results up to be met.

  • Ask how many connected conversations it’s going to take to turn into one sale.
  • Ask how many products you’ll have to give away via a blogger outreach program to raise awareness, positive sentiment and actionable intent on your audience’s behalf.
  • Ask how many people you’ll need to man the social phones and react to hundreds if not thousands of questions being thrown at you.
  • Ask what your cut-off date is and what happens next – cut and run or adapt and conquer?

Every single thing we do in life has an end goal. The difference with life is that our very end goal we have no choice in. But in business, you do. Set your end goals out and work strategically toward them.

You Don’t Believe

You’ve used print and radio ads for longer than you can remember. They must be working, because you’re still in business. Besides, everyone reads newspapers or listens to the radio – you have a guaranteed audience. Can the same be said of social media?

Well, yes, it can, with targeted audience marketing. But let’s forget that for now, because you don’t believe you can target success in social media. You don’t believe you can bring in sales with social media, or improve your business practices, or customer satisfaction level, even though there are plenty of examples of these and more.

Simply put, you don’t believe in social media. And as that wise little guy Yoda once said, that is why you fail.

Sure, you’re tweeting. Yes, you’re Facebooking. Yes, you’re Linking In. But your heart’s not in it. You’re not in it. You’re only here because others said you should be.

But you know, maybe you don’t need to be – social media isn’t for everyone. It is for everyone’s customers, but then there’s a whole other approach you can take for that.

So stop wasting your time. If you don’t believe in something, are you really going to put your heart in it? No. Plain and simple.

Believe or leave.

It Doesn’t Need to Be This Way

I could run a ton of other reasons off why your social media strategy sucks, but I think you get the gist. Some of it might be you, the complainer’s fault; some of it might be your boss and his or her whip cracking on you.

But it’s not a lost cause. It doesn’t need to be this way.

Everything can be turned around; all courses can be plotted again and new directions taken when an obstacle or turbulence kicks in. Just because you think it sucks now doesn’t mean it can’t suck a whole lot less in a fairly short amount of time.

  • Stop acting on what works for others and build for what works for you.
  • Take advice with a grain of salt and ask if that great post is really talking to you, or just talking (albeit greatly).
  • Write your own books. They don’t need to be physical – successful campaigns are books, just in a different format.
  • Think with the endgame in mind, or don’t play the game, period.

Bad strategy sucks, not social media. But then isn’t that true for everything?

image: JKonig
image: successfromthenest

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  1. says

    This was a really good read. I just graduated but have taken internet/social media marketing classes and run a twitter for a local concert promoter and have worked on several client projects. A lot of what you said I completely agree with, when I’d ask clients what their goals were with social media they would have no idea and get stumped when having to think about it. “Well everyone else is doing it?” It needs to be targeted. Good read. I dont want to write a novel in response but I look forward to more reads in the future

    • says

      Hi Devin,

      Thanks, mate, really appreciate it (and congratulations on your graduation).

      Targets are made for a reason – surprising how many don’t see them as required or, worse still, not measurable. You’re just throwing time, resources and money away otherwise.

  2. says

    When will people realize that the word “strategy” is nothing other than a fancy way of referring to a “map”? You check your GPS to arrive safely (and timely) to a destination. Why not apply the same “technique” to our professional life? Thanks for the reminder Danny. ~Paul

    • says

      Love the GPS analogy, Paul, one of the approaches we always use at Bonsai. Like you say, if you know your destination and can plot your journey to get there, the rest will come naturally.


  3. says

    Greatness in a blog post. Danny, you’ve done it again.

    It always amazes me when talking to clients when they have a finely detailed outdoor marketing strategy but then when I ask what their endgame is for social media they look at me like I’ve asked them to solve a Rubix cube blindfolded.

    While everything in a sense has changed, nothing has changed at the same time. There are still tactics we employ the fit into a larger strategy that is based on desired results. “Think with the endgame in mind, ” brilliant.

    • says

      Amazing, isn’t it Joey? You take so much care on the building blocks external to social media, and then fail to use these tools to really complement what you’re already doing. Then wonder why you’re only reasonably successful as opposed to meeting your goals.

      Oh well… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • says

        Granted if you are paying for billboards you have a real marketing budget and thus have a choice of where to invest. My take for every client is what are their resources and what brings the best return on investment. Social takes resources (less money more people power) and needs to be continually maintained. And not all businesses really benefit by using Social for marketing purposes aside from ancillary sales. Obviously Nestles with 2 bil customers world wide won’t move the sales needle with Twitter and Facebook. But should they turn away any extra sales if they can earn them profitably?

        I don’t know everything Empty Jar offers or Bonsai. But we all tend to have a biased prism when it comes to advising clients based on 1] what we think will work and 2] what benefits us.

        It’s really up to the client to ensure they look at everything and choose where resources should be allocated, and its up to the agencies to ensure they get to see all those choices.

        Uhm…weird I have no off topic joke for this comment Danny! Aside from why does the word Weird break the I before E rule?

        • says

          The first thing we do when speaking with a client is look at their current expenses and see where we can save. A lot of the time there’s a ton of unwarranted expense because “that’s how it’s always been done”. But if we can save you X amount, you can re-invest into your business; your people; and, ultimately, your customers.

          Once we have that, then we’ll look at what you need as opposed to what we think you might. Seems to work – after all, if you (the client) are successful, that means we are too. And that’s far more beneficial than telling you what we think for a short-term gain.

          And no joke? You’re slipping, son… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. says

    Great post specifically for calling out blog posts, even yours, are generic and we all must try our own thing! The problem is confidence, which marketers folks are quick to run with and make people spend a lot of money. :)

    One new thought I had though reading your post is the idea of a client taking the cost of ONE print ad (especially if it’s 1K or more) and instead putting THAT money into a social media campaign for 3-4 months, via hiring someone who can really get things going. It seems to me if people could get launched and going, it’s easier to keep on pedaling.

    • says

      Oh, I’m as generic as they come, Elizabeth. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Couldn’t agree more with your thought. We pretty much always combine all mediums – print, email, marketing, social, mobile – and work out where we can allocate funds from one aspect to another.

      The great thing with combining is you can still have your print or radio or TV ads, but now with a measured vanity URL for click-through results from each, as well as mobile push marketing opportunities to use and measure as well.

      Seems to work well for those doing it… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • says

        I’ll never forget a presentation I heard in the fall of 2008 from the Chief Marketing Officer of Dow Jones who said their marketing budget did not differentiate online from offline; it was one budget and it was up to the team to allocate as they saw fit.

  5. says

    Hi Danny,
    You are absolutely right! It been 4 months that I am on social media (for my own business); I can see that several friends (especially the newbie blogger) has come and gone. What I thought is that they learn from other but don’t try to implement to their own way.
    For me, my goal to using social media are: brand awareness, develop relationship and keep in touch with them including giving some help (as I can).

    • says

      And that’s the key, Rose – yes, we can all learn from each other, but we need to remember that word: learn.

      That doesn’t mean replace our own approaches, but add to them. Get that ratio right and we’re off to a good start.

  6. Michael J Lis says

    Danny – great post, I especially liked the part about how many connections is it going to take to make a sale. I would even add that companies should think about how many conversations it takes to make a sale. As we move into year 4 of social media the analytics will drop off and the new measurement criteria will be conversation indexing.

    • says

      The social search indexing will be interesting to watch this year. Though part of me wonders how effective it will be when profiles are set to private – better hope these don’t show up, or could be a very interesting legal year ahead. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. says

    Hi Danny,

    When I read, “Social media is crap.” I thought you had changed your mind about it, so I was about to move on :-)

    But after deciding to read more, your 2nd section reminds me of how I learned computer programming. I would find bits of code, analyze it to understand the logic of what they did, then try to rewrite the parts necessary to adapt it to my unique situation.

    Often the original code was wrong or outdated, so I had to figure that out, as well–i.e., understand it wasn’t me that failed, but that I was working with a faulty model.

    That process is what real “education” is all about. Almost any formula is merely framework to be customized. E=MC2 isn’t the finished product anymore than ‘get on facebook’ will make you rich.

    From my experiences in the corporate world, executives don’t want details, they want results. But it was always frustrating when they knew ‘just enough to be dangerous’ yet wanted to guide the project, or had unrealistic expectations based on faulty data that they read in trade journals.

    Nice post.

    BTW, if you didn’t see my (late) comment in your ‘new theme’ post, I really like the much easier comment method you now employ. Oh, and the site looks great too! Lisa did a great job, and inspired me to make some great improvements on my own look.


    • says

      Hey there Rick,

      Yeah, I put that in there to see who’s paying attention… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      That’s an interesting comparison with the tech/programming side, and yet such an apt one. No-one’s singular process is right for everyone, but often we just put our trust in that process anyway. Now if we could all do a little bit more deep-down editing and programming, we’d all be better off.

      And thanks for the compliment, mate, appreciate it – love what Lisa’s done, and glad to see life is easier for you these days for comments. :)

  8. says

    Really Great Blog Post Dan.

    Enjoyed how you kept it real with this and spoke how you felt. Being honest with yourself and your company will take you further than trying to just do what other companies are doing. If you do what you feel is best for yourself then your opportunity to win will come.

    • says

      Thanks Justice,

      That’s such an important part as well – I’m a firm believer that passion and intent will get you much further than just knowledge and intent. Knowledge might give you the answers you’re looking for; but passion will make sure you ask the questions to get you there.

      Cheers, sir!

  9. says

    Another good post my friend!

    I work with a LOT of CVB and chambers of commerce boards of directors who are just like some of your examples in your post.

    Unfortunately, this type of thinking is very rampant in this field. Making inroads but it requires patience. BUT…if it was easy, everybody would be doing it!

    Thanks, you made my Saturday morning.

    Dennis Lively

    • says

      Hi there Dennis,

      Ah, the beloved CoC again. :)

      How do you work around them? I know you mention patience, but obviously that would still have a limited shelf life. Do you say enough’s enough and move on, or dig in and redouble the effort?

      We’ve worked with some CoC directors at Bonsai and, like anything, some are better than others. But often patience is stretched very thin – curious how you manage it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • says

        I actually request/demand a meeting of the entire board of directors at a nice restaurant in their area, have a good meal and a drink and…start to make fun of them! Not personally, rather in general and en masse’. The first couple of “jokes” get a pretty stiff reaction but soon after that, they are laughing along with me AND (whether they know it or not) at themselves. By the end of the meeting, 9 out of 10 directors will say that they got their eyes opened wide that night.

        That usually translates into extra duties and expectations for the CoC staff But they LOVE being given a lot freer rein in their marketing strategies.

        Great topic that hits home with many of us. Thank you!


  10. says

    Well, you just beat me to my post that I was going to call “One Size Doesn’t Fit All.”

    Yes, you definitely have to cater your social media to your particular audience.

    And, it may piss off your CFO but you do have to allow some cushion for trial and error because some things will work and some things will not.

    I’ve seen this with all the clients I performance social media for; one idea will take off, while the next one won’t and then the next one will.

    It’s not that your social media stategy sucks it’s just know that it’s not a perfect science.

    • says

      Hi Sarah,

      Oops, sorry about that – you’re still going to write it though, yes? Love to read it. :)

      A good CFO will work with other departments and allocate some risk to the campaign – like you say, nothing is guaranteed but at least make sure you’re taking some risk toward your goals.

  11. says

    Interesting how you have such hard-hitting practical stuff in there like, “have a goal, stupid!” (I’m paraphrasing, of course) and “thou must believe in the Force.” I’m totally down with that. :)

  12. says

    Oh, I loved this post, Danny. When you just do Social Media because you were told to do it, and you don’t understand what you do it for, you’ll just be a flag in the wind: relying on the next new hype to tell you what to do next. And you’ll never get anywhere.

    When you know the core of your business, and you know where you want to take it, the only thing you need to understand about Social Media is that itโ€™s pretty simply about building relationships, right? You need to think about what you want to invest into building and sustaining those relationships, and what you hope to get out of them. When you got that clear, the next new book or next new platform or next new gadget may change your route a little, but you donโ€™t start mapping out a whole different journey?

    Thank you for this great read!

    • says

      That’s a key point right there, Dagi. Unless you know your business, you’re not going to know your goals. Don’t know your goals, and your strategy – social media or otherwise – is going to suck, plain and simple.

      Cheers! :)

  13. Linda Zimmer says

    Great post! Love the way you framed this. When training professionals in social media we avoid case studies like the plague – except as critical thinking critique tools, emphasizing that case studies are much too “micro-local” to be anything other than idea- fodder. Meaning… that another company cannot reproduce the exact set of circumstances and environment that made the case successful – it can’t import the same people, leaders, budget, goals, customers, product, resources, etc. There is no such thing as “digital replication.”

    Think I’ll have to include another one of your links in our resources on the subject….

    • says

      The case studies thing is a good example, Linda. Too many businesses look at case studies and think the same successes will work for them because, well, it’s a case study so it offers authority.

      But authority only comes from relevance to you and your business – customers, clients, employees, etc. Like you say, you can’t import success, but you can import ideas and adapt.


  14. says

    And upcoming subject I am going to write about if businesses need to find their independent voice and find an independent advisor. Without being catty quite a few Social Media ‘Rockstars’ I don’t read their blogs or follow them on Twitter. Mashable is rubbish. But people don’t know this. I went to see Peter Shankman speak because I am friends with him via Social. The attendees were not marketers.

    So your post here rocks because you highlight some sensitive subjects. Businesses need to find people to advise them who have zero monetary bias outside of the success of their business. If I have a platform, a media channel, or a book to sell I am going to be biased.

    But then hey I have a direct line to God please send me $100 by 10pm tomorrow. Thank you.

  15. says

    Hi Danny,

    Superb post, sums up so many of my thoughts re social media and lack of strategy. Too many people look for the ‘quick win'(this was one of my wishes for social media in 2011 over on The Social Penguin Blog) and when it fails to materialise, spit the dummy and claim ‘social media doesn’t work’. Put some thought and planning in before you start people!

    Top work as ever!

    • says

      Hey there Mike,

      Great to see you over here, mate – just started reading the SMP blog on the recommendation of some of my colleagues, and finding it a great new read, so cheers for that. :)

      Sure are a lot of dummies lying around – must be a lot of spitting going on… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • says

        Cheers Danny, glad you are enjoying TSPB! Always enjoy your posts. It’s something that I face more and more, people losing the plot as they haven’t amassed 1000s of fans/followers/whatevers. Then I dig deeper with them and show them the levels of engagement and they tend to see the light a little. So many have so much pressure from above them and those above can be guilty of focussing on the big numbers.

  16. says

    This post is EVERYWHERE! Looks like everyone’s having fun sharing it from Facebook, Twitter (look at the retweets), SocialMediaClub, SocialMediaToday, among others. :-)

    The main problem that we encounter is that we plan what we want but most of the time, we just can’t get it from our targeted markets. Of course, it’s a matter of what we’re doing wrong.

  17. says

    Great post that will get shared about lots I’m sure. As you say Danny, it you don’t have a goal defined – basically start at the end when planning your SM activity – then you’re going to screw up. So many think that ‘day to day engagement with fans’ is enough of a strategy and it isn’t. It can be part of one, but shouldn’t be the whole aim.

    The thing that makes it so frustrating is that by being able to define your own end result/goal you make it pretty easy to actually give yourself a realistic social media win that you can take to the sceptics and go ‘see, this is how it works and here’s what we achieved’ but so many fail to see the benefit of that.

    All the best for 2011,


    • says

      Hi there Craig,

      And that’s the thing – like you say, it’s a win-win situation. You’re successful from one client because of your approach, but then you’re also able to show that success to would-be clients because you’ve been there and done it, as opposed to others who are just there.

      Surprising the difference that can make…

  18. says

    Social media marketing is merely a cash grab like ppc is. When is the last time you purchased from an add on any social platform? Prob never. The point is here that anyone can be social on there profile on any social network without paying a dime. Seriously, when is the last time you went to a social website to purchase? Never we go to social websites to be social not purchase. Wake up people, its only a cash grab for these websites and very none effective for any company to invest in pay adds on the social networks. My comp-aqny hads lost clients due to this greedy implementation of the social networks. T

  19. Viktor Nagornyy says

    Ha! I just wrote a post with a same title yesterday, similar content but inspired by something else.

    I have to agree with everything in here. You need to know your final destination to know how to get there and how long it might take you. Simply knowing the direction doesn’t help and can’t be measured.

  20. says

    I dont’ recall anyone asking whether a portrait of me with a “suck voice” caption could be used to illustrate this post. :)

    My sense is that you could do a search/replace on this post, substituting “social media strategy” with “marketing strategy.” If an organization can’t tease tactic from strategy in social media, it’s highly unlikely that they’ve got it sussed out in other marketing disciplines, either.

    • says

      Sure beats the little white G of a generic gravatar, mate – get yourself signed up! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      For sure – you could probably replace it with a ton of offerings and the end result would be the same; no strategy, no success (or at least, no long-term success).

  21. says

    Hi Danny, I really loved the post. I am a social media marketer for various clients and surprisingly I run into people who jump on the “bandwagon” just because their competitors are doing it quite often. The most surprising thing is when I ask “what are your goals for your profiles?” the usual response is x number of fans/followers in x amount of time. That’s it. And then they wonder why nobody’s listening. Its an obstacle that I am learning to deal with because as you said “Bad strategy sucks, not social media.”

    • says

      Both funny and scary how many businesses just look at the numbers, Brandy, and not how much impact these numbers are making (if any). Guess we’ll just have to keep educating. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  22. says

    Hey Danny!

    Thanks for the inspiring text. I awoke up in the middle of the night today and I saw a twitter with the link of your text. I think it was the most inspiring morning for my work that I had in months. Actually, everyone wants to be in social networks but do not know “why”, “how” or “when”. Funny thing is that it’s often the analyst to propose what would be the best for the customer, isn’it strange? Our profession eventually lead us to perform multiple functions, not to mention getting great results at no cost. To “teach” to consumers and businesses to understand the power, scope and complexity of social networks is also our task. I will share your text to all my community, friends, followers, etc… Thank you sooo much!!

    Big Hug,


    • says

      Hey there Natalie,

      Thanks for the kind words, miss, and glad you enjoyed the post.

      Agreed – it’s up to us to make sure we’re educating properly, and hopefully businesses will ask the right questions as well to make sure they’re not setting themselves up for failure.

      Cheers! :)