Tactics: Actions, Not Tools

Georgetown Harbor

The following is draft material for my next book, Welcome to the Fifth Estate (the follow up to Now Is Gone, which is almost out of print). Comments may be used in the final edition. You can download the first drafted chapter of the new edition — Welcome to the Fifth Estate — for free.

If strategy is the plan about how to achieve a desired goal (A to B), then tactics represent the actual actions of engagement. In a social media sense, tactical mastery is the art of contacting and interacting with your stakeholders via the outreach strategy and tools you have chosen.

Note that Facebook is not a tactic. The use of Facebook is. After determining the plan and type of outreach, you chose Facebook as the last part of your strategy.

More specifically, tactics mean do you publish messages or are you asking questions of your community? Is activity strictly limited to your page, or are you writing on the walls of your important community members? Sharing useful information or only asking people to attend your event? The actions of using Facebook represent your tactical execution.

When you frame tactics in this light, there are many general actions to consider in your social media effort:

  • Participation: Do you use conversation starters or messages?
  • Approaches and linking: How are your interactions with others? In a relationship-oriented media, it’s about other centric behavior.
  • Design: If you built something from a simple widget or blog to an application or social network, how social is the design? Is it easy to use, open and shareable?
  • Integration: How well integrated is your social effort into your larger communications plan?
  • Influencer relationship development: Are you building relationships to last or spamming your influencers?
  • Community Management: Are you using principles to encourage the community to take your subject matter and make it theirs? Or are you dominating the conversation?
  • Course Correction: Sometimes even the best planning can’t anticipate how the community will react to your effort. That’s when you adapt. Is your effort flexible enough to change course?
  • Reputation Management: What will you do when the Fifth Estate disagrees and openly questions your position? Just because some community members disagree, doesn’t mean it’s all woes and misery.

These overarching concerns apply to just about every social media outreach effort. And that’s not including individual uses of tools and their best practices. You’ll need to know the ins and outs of your preferred social media networks, publishing engines, applications and widgets, too.

5 thoughts on “Tactics: Actions, Not Tools

  1. Geoff,

    Thanks for this!

    When orgs confuse tactics, strategies and tools, it’s a symptom of a deeper problem around grasping fundamental business skills. As you’ve pointed out, quite concisely, strategy must be established and then cascade down to tactics and tools.

    There may be cases when messaging – and not conversing – is the appropriate thing to do. For example, amber alerts. In this case their strategy is to mearly inform so that their community can spread the word.

    Nice work!

    John

  2. Thank you for focusing our thinking, Geoff. Whenever dramatic new tools become available we forget this lesson. We forgot it in the mid-90s with the rise of the Web, and we’re forgetting it today with social technology. Your bullet points provide several facets with which to examine how our tactics can implement our strategy with these new tools.

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