Chief Executive Insights

A Dog’s Breakfast of Tactics Is Not a Strategy

Jim Everhart

Can you have an Instagram strategy, a Facebook strategy, a LinkedIn strategy, and a Twitter strategy? In a word, no. Because tactics are not a strategy.

To put it another way, only one company can have a Facebook strategy. The one run by Mark Zuckerberg.

If your name isn’t Mark Zuckerberg, you can’t have a Facebook strategy. 

A brand has one strategy. Just one. It can employ dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of tactics (like Facebook posts) in furtherance of that strategy. But you get only one strategy.

As a business leader, it’s your job to make the most of it. And to make that strategy come alive through marketing. 

I know, I know. It sounds as if I’m being a word nerd, quibbling over semantics. I might be, but there is a larger point. If you have a Facebook strategy, you probably have an Instagram strategy and an email strategy. Maybe even a search analytics strategy. 

But that could mean you don’t have a strategy at all. Here’s why: When you say you have a strategy for something like Instagram, you’re trying to say you have a plan that has been thought out and considered carefully. That the things you are proposing are important and well worth the effort. And that you’re not suggesting something haphazard. You may even have tried to outline the business case, proving the company will benefit. That’s all well and good.

Unfortunately, some people go further than that. Directly or indirectly, they’re saying their Facebook strategy is so important it doesn’t need to coordinate, complement, or play well with anything else their company is doing. Because It’s so important, so special. It’s free-standing. It doesn’t have to work with their advertising. It’s too critical to fit into their marketing program. And yes, it’s even more important than their business strategy. It’s above all that. 

Sorry, I’m not buying that. That’s something a company can’t allow. Its business strategy is too important. And a rogue “strategy” doesn’t support the business strategy. It undermines it.  

So saying you have a Facebook strategy or an Instagram strategy, or even a digital-first strategy is saying you really don’t have a strategy at all. Because the worst thing you can do in marketing is to latch onto a specific tactic – whether it’s a medium like videos or podcasts or a channel like Facebook or Instagram – because that’s the hot ticket right now. 

Since the beginning of time, all too many marketers have clung to tactics like drowning people cling to life preservers. And failed to think in holistic, unified terms. Largely because this kind of thinking is hard work. Doing Instagram (or Facebook, or Twitter, or whatever) is not a strategy. And to act as if it is a strategy is to court disaster. 

The point is that all these wonderful tools help us reach broader audiences. And reach them faster, engage them more directly. But they are just that: tools. Not strategies. 

Your strategy needs to come first. It needs to tell you what you’re going to say and why. Only after that’s done can we talk about the wheres and hows – the media channels and types you’ll use as tactics. And even then, you need to integrate all those tactics like Facebook posts, email, paid space, and web site into a cohesive plan. Something we don’t see as much as we need to.

Of course, that plan is going to have social and digital tactics. You’d be shooting yourself in the foot if it didn’t. And it will have other tactics as well. Tactics that are designed to work together. Planned out. In a campaign that can be evaluated, optimized, and improved constantly.

After all, these social and digital tactics were made to be connected. Email content needs to connect to web pages. Search the same. And few people actually buy products directly on social media. So while it’s one of the earliest features of the digital landscape, it’s also probably the most ignored.

They all need to be connected in a campaign. A campaign that is thought out, considered carefully, assembled. Orchestrated.

That’s how you show you have a strategy. And how you make that strategy come alive in marketing.


Written by Jim Everhart.
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Jim Everhart
Jim Everhart author of BRAND VISION: The Clear Line Of Sight Aligning Business Strategy and Marketing Tactics, is a freelance strategist and writer, working with corporations and agencies to develop marketing communications tactics and campaigns. He spent more than four decades in the marketing industry, most of it at Godfrey Advertising, one of the largest business-to-business marketing agencies in the United States.


Jim Everhart is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn.