By Ira M. Gostin

The more I am out speaking with senior executives and business owners about their marketing, I am amazed to hear all the conversations about likes, clicks and shares and their importance to the overall marketing strategy.

More disheartening, is pitching a prospect and finding out how many of our colleagues out there are pitching clients with a strategy of “social media is the holy grail of marketing.”  Huh? Not by a long shot.

Now before you label me a luddite, consider that all the social media platforms (Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, You Tube, Yelp, Foursquare, Vimeo, etc.) are tactics, from a marketing perspective.

We aren’t talking about which one is more fun, or which one delivers the most prospects, we are just talking about what these are from a marketing definition, and they are tactics.

Which means, that by all definition, they should be a piece or pieces of a marketing or communications strategy.

With LinkedIn at nearly half a billion users, Facebook at over one billion daily users, Twitter at 300-plus million users and Instagram with about the same, I’m not suggesting at all to ignore these tools and their members.

What I am suggesting is that without a clear and specific strategic plan, identifying the objectives to be filled by each tactic, you will revert to a series of social media analytics that do nothing for your bottom line.

Take a mythical candy and chocolate boutique as an example, “Candy.” The owner identified annual goals of 15 percent gross revenue growth, 10 percent growth in weekly customer count and per ticket spending increase of 15 percent.

Candy has 5,000 followers on Twitter, 5,000 on Instagram and 2,500 on Facebook. They put out several posts a day across each platform. Scrumptious candy pictures, special menu items, special pricing and more, all through their social media firm.  At the end of the first year, Candy’s owner looks at the books and finds this:

  • Revenue basically flat, up 1percent,
  • Daily head count down on average of one person per week,
  • Per ticket spending up, 2.5 percent

So what did all of the social media engagement and money spent actually do for the business?

While I just created some easy numbers here, there are businesses of all sizes who have put the Facebook page before the strategy and are not using the correct metrics to judge success.

Had the owner at Candy created a marketing and communications strategy before engaging social media, he might have learned a few things: that the messaging didn’t work for each of the social platforms because Instagram was just scoring hits based on cool photos, but no engagement; that they were doing no targeted marketing to existing customers, so not creating per ticket growth opportunities; and that some customers didn’t know where the shop was located, so no increased daily headcount.

A strategic plan would have fine-tuned the specific tactics to each market segment across the marketing platform, not just social media, and garnered some “move the needle” results.

Chinese philosopher and general Sun Tzu wrote 2,000 years ago, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest rout to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Ira M. Gostin, MBA, is the president and chief marketing officer at 120 West Strategic Communications. He can be reached through the company’s website at www.120west.biz