Starting a facebook group is not a social media strategy

First, a story:

Almost a year ago, I met with representatives from one of Israel’s leading television and media networks, who had the backing of a prominent philanthropist to implement a social media strategy for Israel’s 60th birthday. Someone had recommended that they meet me, and I prepared a comprehensive presentation about what I called “Israel 2.0,” where we would create and implement a strategy that would celebrating Israel’s accomplishments with a diverse, wide-reaching web presence.

Notice I call it a “web presence”; that is because the web is no longer about just creating a website. It is about using the web and all its potential to promote your business, organization, or ideas with the greatest results possible. It is no longer sufficient to depend on your website alone, particularly since

“a recent Universal McCann report stating that content consumption outside of websites has increased 153% in the last 9 months. Overall, 53% of online users are consuming content outside of a publisher’s site – through the use of widgets, RSS readers, social networks and mobile devices” (from ReadWriteWeb)

Anyway, there was one guy in the room listening to my presentation who actually knew some of the terms I was using, like RSS feeds and the like, and I guess this made him feel like a social media expert. So when I finished my presentation, he said “Why do I need all that? I’ll just create a facebook group.”

Why isn't anyone in my facebook group?

I made a facebook group; so why am I all alone here?

What? Is he kidding me? I tried to explain until I was blue in the face that creating a facebook group is not a social media strategy, but it’s really difficult to explain concepts to people who have no knowledge of the field you are talking about, so they all believed the facebook-group guy, and that was that.

Needless to say, no all-encompassing web presence was created in honor of Israel’s birthday, and I don’t know what happened to that philanthropist’s offer.

A real social media strategy starts with goals, not tools

To create a serious web strategy, you should not start with the tools. “I’m going to create a blog,” or “I’ll join twitter” is not a strategy, since these may not be the right tools to use to achieve your goals.

Are these the right tools?

I would like to build a house. These look like good tools to use.

Here’s an outline of the general steps needed to create a successful web presence:

  1. Identify your goals: what do we want to achieve? Who are we trying to target?
    Part of this stage is benchmarking: analyzing current statistics; identifying what you hope will be different as a result of your social media efforts; defining parameters that you want to change most and least.
  2. Next, work out the strategy: how are we going to achieve these goals? Where do we need to be to reach our target audience, i.e. based on their demographics, where are they hanging out on the web? What type of content will they like? What manpower considerations do we need to be aware of (i.e. the need to hire a Community Manager, etc.)? Do we have legal considerations?
  3. Once all of that has been prepared, then and only then can you choose tools and technologies. A facebook group may not be the best strategy for your goals, or it may be appropriate, but maybe it won’t work on its own. Tools and technologies are just the medium, not the message (sorry McLuhan). For example, in the world of print marketing, you know a rollup is exactly what you need to get your message across at the upcoming trade show, but you’d look mighty strange schlepping it to pitch a new client at their office.
  4. Implementation. Now you get to have fun with your shiny tools, because they’re the right ones.

Forrester has laid out a similar approach to creating an effective social media strategy by putting technology last, which they coined as POST: People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology. (Here’s a link to the original blog post, but it looks like Forrester is trying to wipe out any memory of Charlene Li since she left, so you can only access the cached version on Google.)

Like most things in life and business, you need to know what you want to achieve before you decide how you are going to achieve them. And that is why a facebook group is most definitely not a strategy.

Lonely girl image from willgame on flickr