Social media: to plan or not to plan?


In the debate regarding whether or not social media should be planned, I typically fall on the “yes” side, while others may feel it should be more organic. Really, though, my answer is, “it depends who you are and what you’re doing.”

If you’re a large organization like Aurora Healthcare, you’re going to benefit from a more formal plan, for these reasons, according to Jamey Shiels, Aurora’s Director of Marketing:

“Our social marketing strategy is planned and documented. We have a corporate plan and smaller plans for internal partners that feed the larger plan. The documentation is critical for keeping groups focused on the long term strategy and goals. While documented, the material is not lengthy, one to two pages and is flexible to adapt to performance, user feedback and overall activity. Our success and ability to measure becomes easier to achieve with this approach.”

Yet, on the flip side, if you’re an individual, a small business, or a small, grassroots effort, having the “plan in your head” can be enough.

When Joe Sorge from AJ Bombers spoke at the Milwaukee Interactive Marketing Association earlier this year, he talked about not having a formal strategy: “I just really like to talk to customers.” It comes naturally and organically, to Joe. And that is awesome. Yet it’s also a huge mental shift for planners like me who are used to having a strategy for everything.

When we got #saveteecycle underway, being a planner, I started to write a plan. And while that discipline can almost always help crystallize efforts in some way, there was so much to be done in such a short time that I ended up deciding that the hour I would have spent putting the plan to paper was better spent just making it happen.

Had I put a Save Teecycle plan on paper, it would have contained these incredibly simple “strategies.”

  1. Involve as many people in the community as possible.
  2. Create lots of ways for people to contribute.
  3. Encourage people to come up with their own ways to contribute. Offer direction, when asked, but not control.
  4. Ask local businesses to help, in big ways, and do everything possible to create value for them in the process.
  5. Be guided by the belief that Miracles Can Happen, when we all work together.

There is a reason why WhatTheF*#kIsMySocialMediaStrategy.com exists. I interpet it as commentary that social planning is not rocket science, to the point that when you are writing it, it often seems ridiculous. I’m not belittling the discipline; again, in larger organizations, it is much more complex to make social business happen, and having a written plan can help align the many planets.

So the answer to “Do I need a formal social media plan?” is really super simple: Do what you need to do to make it happen.

When you do a social plan, it needs to be incredibly flexible and dynamic. But that a topic for the next post.

Do you need a social plan, and why? Or, do you prefer a more organic approach?

Susan Spaight

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2 thoughts on “Social media: to plan or not to plan?

  1. Thanks, Susan, for your insight. The best line? “Do what you need to do to make it happen!” So true. Sometimes we get stuck on the plan and strategy and meetings and input and rules. At the end of the day, we need to create content and build communities. Our clients are depending on us to “make it happen!”

  2. Susan, I agree with keeping it simple, especially for solo pros and small businesses. One of the best assets of a small business is that they can adapt and improvise on the fly, work the plan to its advantage. Like you said, flexible.

    I started with a cautious plan that I am revising almost daily. Just being more open and available, seeing where it takes me for a while.

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