Why you don’t need a Facebook strategy

If you’re scrambling to figure out strategies for individual social media platforms, you’ve got it all wrong. You need a content strategy instead.

In a discussion I had a month or so ago after shrugging off Facebook’s changes to how Pages updates get into news feeds, I was told that the move frustrated marketers who had invested so much time, energy and money into their Facebook strategies. The unintended consequence of Facebook’s introduction of Graph Search may be that more marketers and communicators will embrace the idea that they need a Facebook strategy.

Developing a strategy for any single platform is misguided, and a waste of your organization’s or client’s resources.

Advertisers used to know better (and many still do). Nobody had an ABC, New York Times or Redbook strategy. They had strategies for TV, newspaper and magazine advertising. They selected the platforms for those ads based on demographics and other criteria. If audiences stopped watching one show and started watching another, they didn’t wring their hands and lament the hours spent strategizing ads for that program.

If a magazine changed its focus, nobody directed ire at the publisher, complaining that all that energy spent on crafting content for the magazine was wasted.

The mentality that leads to a full-blown strategy for Facebook is the same one that causes angst among communicators when a new platform gains popularity. I’ve actually heard professionals say they have enough bandwidth for only three platforms (like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter). If a Pinterest or Instagram becomes a hot social channel, they just can’t make time for it.

None of this would be an issue if they had communication and content strategies and viewed platforms as channels to deploy content. Platforms come and go. The audiences that embrace them are fickle and abandon them easily for something that better suits them. (Recent research, for example, shows that teens gravitate toward Tumblr and away from Facebook.)

For communicators with a content strategy, adjusting to these changes is simple, just like a Mad Men-era advertiser sliding content into new or newly-popular TV series or publications. I pity the poor marketer who once poured time and energy into a MySpace strategy!

Now, the Graph Search announcement has sparked a flurry of posts about how brands can optimize their content for the new offering. (There’s no agreement yet on what to call it—Facebook Graph Search Optimization (FGSO) or Facebook Search Engine Optimization (FSEO) or something else.) The fact that people are thinking about this is great (like this), but I worry that marketers will be distracted from overarching content strategies and begin investing unreasonable amounts of time on this single opportunity.

Optimizing content for Facebook’s new search should be factored into your general search engine optimization effort, which should be part of a larger content strategy. It should not be undertaken as a discrete activity.

For communicators, stellar outcomes begin with understanding what a strategy is and how it differs from objectives and tactics. Strategies define overarching approaches to achieving business goals. Tumblr, Instagram and every other platform on the planet are tactics selected to meet the measurable objectives you identify in support of your strategy.

If changes at Facebook have you pulling your hair out because of the disruption to your strategy, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

Shel Holtz is the owner of Holtz Communication + Technology. This article first appeared on his blog.

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