Twitter Is Not a Social Media Strategy

I’ve been talking to a lot of companies lately, who are starting to think that maybe they need a social media campaign. Their mum’s brothers dog suggested it, because, well, you’re not anyone these days unless you’re on twitter, right?

Upon further investigation, it seems that they have had a few social media agencies come and pitch to them, most of whom have provided no history on their business, or even the individuals history in social media, but these “social media agencies” have confidently advised these organisations that they “need a social media campaign”. In some cases I have seen the client be set up with a nicely skinned twitter account, a Facebook page with their logo, log in details and a wing and a prayer.

So I want to get a few things straight about social media,

This is not a bandwagon everyone should jump on

Social media is not suitable for everyone. If you truly think you can “do” social media, this fact should be jumping about slapping you in  the face when you meet one of these clients.  It might be that they are never going to be able to make the resource work for them, they may  have huge reputation  management issues, that are going to swamp them as soon as you open the flood gates, or they may simply not get it yet. This doesn’t mean that you as a “social media marketer” can’t work with them though. Each of these problems can be worked on, you start with educating them perhaps, or working on a strategy to help them get the processes and procedures they’re going to need in place. Just because someone isn’t in the right place to launch a social media strategy, doesn’t mean that you can’t work with them, just that you need to lay the ground work first.

A Twitter account is not a social media strategy

Nor is a Facebook account for that matter. These things are social media tools, nothing more. They are not the strategy any more than having a phone is a telesales strategy. The minute you set up a twitter account without a plan of what that account is going to say, what it’s aims are and who it is supposed to be talking to, you’ve failed. You need to know (or rather your client needs to know) what the process is for dealing with negative comments, you need to ensure that your tweeting is fully compliant with regulators. You become the companies public spokes person, So  you better be sure that you’re saying the right things before you start.

There are more than 3 social networks

So you’re creating a social media strategy. Great. Is your audience mass market? No? are you sure Facebook is going to be the most effective audience? Is it 20-30 something, affluent and left wing? No? Perhaps twitter isn’t going to be the medium for you. Is your audience very young? No? then stay the hell away from Bebo. There are hundreds, no make that thousands, of social networks out there. You’ve probably been using them for over a decade in some instances, but in the rush to get on twitter they are all but forgotten. Blogs, forums, yahoo groups, they’re all still hugely popular. What’s more (apart from the spam) they’re not marketed to. But they’re full of people who are interested in what you have to say.

There is one example of marketing to a targeted forum audience that always springs to mind for me, and it’s one you’ve probably all seen. Google has representatives in Webmasterworld they provide a service to the users of the forum, they are a port of call for webmasters all over the world. Is this marketing? Damn straight it is, and it’s one of the best examples I’ve ever seen.

There are so many ways to make a social media campaign work for an individual clients needs, targeting is the key. Lyndoman recently blogged that it’s not about the conversation, and I agree, for me it’s about the strategy.

Photo Credit: Stephen Poff

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23 Responses to “Twitter Is Not a Social Media Strategy”

  1. I’ve been spending some time working out how to best use Twitter by following the industry leaders for SEO and Web Design to see what they do.

    Only today did we have a meeting discussing how we think Twitter can work for our business and formed our strategy.

    Until our meeting today, I have found Twitter too time consuming and there seems to be a little too much noise. Thankfully I can now remove most of the people I’m following and keep it small (i.e industry leaders and my clients).

    Now I am cutting the noise out, I can measure how Twitter is actually working for us. In 3 months time if it is not positive I keep it to the areas that do work.

    But its always fun testing new areas that add to the marketing of our company.

  2. I could not aggree with you more Sarah, we often talk of the evils of spam then contribute with blogs, FB, Twitter etc for subjects that have no draw in these mediums, just because of this created need to be exposed socially.

    If you’re selling lawnmowers, for instance!, I see very little need for a FB page, company blog or Twitter a/c, however there almost certainly will be forums much more applicable in relevance to expose the messsage.

    Its good know that others are not as obsessed with Social and would rather look at the entire strategy for a client, great article, thanks

  3. rishil says:

    It’s really annoying when everyone starts thinking just cause they have a twitter a/c they can become Social Media Gurus. I have had proposals from big agencies with daft ideas like creating twitter a/cs and letting them run with your product feed. OK WTF?
    Another agency asked if they could submit a free proposal for a Facebook Social Campaign – their idea? Buying Face book ads. THAT is not a social campaign. That’s online advertising.

    My suggestions to most businesses, if they haven’t got a decent online resource internally, or a hefty budget to pay for an external agencies to run day to day management, then they either need to stay away or come up with worst case scenarios BEFORE they launch. At least that way they can be prepared when half baked strategies blow up in their faces…

  4. Julie Joyce says:

    EXCELLENT post here…sometimes the demographic for a site/client honestly just isn’t ready for a social media campaign.

  5. I haven’t encountered the onslaught of social media solicitations as yet, but its only a matter of time. The solicitation time line has progressed from web hosting to web site development to SEO and now SM. Insert big “sigh” here.

    I’ve spent the better part of a year studying/tinkering in SM and I’d say the most important take away is to observe (some say listen). Its really the only way to figure out who your audience is and whether or not you even have an audience. My company makes a pretty diverse set of products or components of products and not all of them have marketability in SM. In some cases, it simply waiting for the market to catch-up. In others, I’m not sure it will ever exist.

    My second take away and the first question I ask anyone who is considering FB or Twitter is “What’s your content?” Sure, you can post something today, tomorrow and the next day. but what about two weeks from now? A month? 3 months? This is usually when the eyes glaze over… sort of the deer in the headlights look. We’ve all seen the results of such “dive-ins”… a handful of posts to the FB wall, a dozen tweets, and then nothing for weeks. To me, that’s worse than no presence at all.

  6. Shira says:

    But the conversation is part of the strategy for social media. This is what makes the tools social. The element of importance here is: which audience do you need to converse with and what message do you want to convey? This changes depending on your goal (related directly to strategy) but conversation is a part of it – otherwise social media wouldn’t be the marketing tools used.

    When Google is on Webmasterworld they are conversing with their target market. The conversation is the tactic used to fulfill the strategy. To say that it’s not about the that is like saying an Oreo is still an Oreo without the cream filling. Strategy works through the tactics – and having a strategy which can’t be tactically fulfilled is useless. Hence, it is about the conversation.

    My 2 cents.


  7. Dave Doolin says:


    There really is more than Facebook and Twitter.

    If you’re in Brazil, you’re on Orkut or you’re nothing

    In the Netherlands, Hyve

    The Philippines and a lot of English-speaking East Asia seems gaga over Plurk. MS China liked Plurk so much they have been accused of stealing Plurk’s source code in toto.

    Great article!

  8. Lisa Myers says:

    Great article Sarah. I wrote an article on Searchcowboys last year about the difference between thinking you are doing social media and actually doing social media In fact when writing the blogpost I came up with the perfect anology (if I might say so myself, lol):

    “Thinking that you are doing social media by just having a twitter account, is a bit like believing you are building a house by just holding the hammer”

  9. Sarah says:

    @lisa I remember that article, I loved it at the time, and you’re right, it is the perfect analogy.

  10. Tola says:

    I definitely believe Social Media Marketing is a great marketing tool. But like you said, its not something you rush into or else you’ll make a mess of it all. Thats one of the reasons our company hasn’t got into fully yet. There’s no point starting it out and then leaving it high and dry, I actually think that could lead to negative feedback and reactions.
    I also agree with you its a thing about strategy. Sometimes you need to look at the big picture and not just the little ones.
    Well said.

  11. Very good post.I agree with you, social media is not suitable for everyone.Especially not companies! What on earth are they getting a Twitter profile for and what are they doing on Myspace and LinkedIn? Social media is for sharing, not marketing. Or have I missed something here?

  12. Barbara says:

    Thank YOU! You are saying what needs to be said!

    I spoke with a friend last week who had been approached by a “company” (ie: 2 guys with business cards) who offered to set up a Social Media Campaign. They actually said that all it takes is 5 tweets a day to push customers to the website site. Of course, this company had no history, no strategy and about 50 twitter followers.

  13. Richard says:

    Great article – this left me with a question I have been thinking about for the last week – how would you measure ROI for a client. I am working on my first Social Media contract and I am facing this issue…any ideas? Things to consider?

    Many thanks

  14. ReaderX says:

    Great, you’ve told us the obvious: ignorantly clinging to a buzzword does not a plan make. With that out of the way, what process do you follow to develop a social media strategy? At the moment, this post reads like the social media guru tweets about “SEO needs links to rank” and other hyperbole not backed by first-hand research. In short, I’d like to hear details from you on the methodology you invoke for yourselves/clients.

  15. @Readerx Firstly, congratulations on realising that this was obvious, that places you far beyond the understanding of many clients, and many social media experts too.

    Do you think I should have put everything about developing a social media strategy into this post? That attitude is exactly why I wrote the post in the first place. I can’t tell you how to develop a social media strategy in a post, hell I probably couldn’t tell you everything you would need to know in a dozen posts. What you are asking is no different from someone saying “tell me how to design a website in a blog post” or “tell me how to cook in a blog post” few things in life are so simple, and trying to boil them down into a single formula is when things start to go wrong.

    I can tell you the methodology I use for clients though, I look at the objective, budget and resource of said client, I look at the demographic they are looking to talk to, and the conversation they want to have, and I build upwards from there. There is no more methodology than that because each campaign will vary to such a degree, that what comes after that could be anything from start training call centre staff to start planning a new website build.

  16. multimediadiva says:

    I agree…I concur….all the above. As a Visibility Social Multimedia Strategist I am a avid believer in what I consider Inclusive Strategy by incorporating offline and online media techniques and using visibility such as web development,video,images,music and content to work with other, as harmony to a song. Creating multimedia and content is the branding that ties it all together.

  17. Iris says:

    I never knew Twitter had so much potential for marketers. Thanks for the read.

  18. Clare Brace says:

    Is it fair to say that Twitter is just a PR platform? Or is that simply what social media is? And that’s the case, then target audience really should be taken into consideration more otherwise it has little benefit?

    I welcome everyone’s thoughts.

  19. Andy Nathan says:

    Great blog post! I agree that slapping up a Twitter account does not mean that you have created a social media strategy. Instead you need to actually craft a strategy that will provide additional quality traffic to your website.

  20. [...] far as marketing is concerned, we know that social media is not a strategy (in and of itself); just jumping on Twitter won’t do anything for your brand unless [...]

  21. I believe that Twitter is a good advertising tool to promote your business but the more important factor for success is your website. If you have a good number of followers but a site that does not convert followers to clients than you should consider a website overhaul.

    SEO Expert and Marketing Strategist

  22. Being that this article is over a year old and that tech cycles move at ultra fast rates, i find that this subject still rings true in todays market. SEO & social network marketing has started to become keywords that are now in the early phase of jumping the shark. More and more sales companies (especially in the last year) have latched on to selling & packaging SEO manuals and how-to workbooks that are just regurgitating the same information that was all over web years ago. Have you ever listened to a sales person trying to sell a SEO package and not understanding what it truly is??? all they ever mention is “first page of…”, “Twitter..” , “Facebook..” do these people even understand your niche or your product? not likely.

    Remember that SEO is FREE! But it takes time, it takes dedication, and it takes a bit of determination. Use the guides on how to lay a proper ground work and then just follow through. If you are too lazy to keep up with your marketing, then you might just be too lazy to be running the marketing for your company.

    BigFoot Web Labs

  23. I largely kept away from social media until I found a strategy that works for a lazy sod like me. Not for me the 20 drip-fed tweets per day. No begging for Facebook Likes. Those require too much effort and doesn’t work, anyway.

    No, what I did was decide I would profile people in my niche who do have active social media lives. I would write articles so scintillating they’d want to share them with everyone. And in promoting my profile of them, they’re promoting me, too.

    There’s more than one way to market. Bwah-hah-hah!

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