Driving The Point Home: The Difference Between Digital And Social Media Strategy

Posted by Tracy Shea on February 18, 2014

Imagine if you will, a car. The car needs to satisfy your particular needs. If you are single and young, the car is fast and small. Once you start a family, the car gets more doors, more safety, better range and, perhaps, more “sensible.”

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The car is like a digital strategy. It is based on the needs of the owner, to get from one place to the next, to transport goods and services and messaging to your passengers.

Now imagine the paint job, the sound system, the fine Corinthian leather seats, the vanity plates and the under-mounted neon lighting. This is your social media effort.

Digital in its essence is the overall transportation need and road map, while social is the engine, tires, style, personality and so forth. It is what you convey when behind the wheel. It is as simple as this, yet is so complex, and one of the most hotly debated topics in the agency break room today.

Digital strategy, or really digital business strategy, is the process by which a brand identifies the vision for its online and electronic efforts. It includes web-based, mobile and even offline activities. The role that digital marketing plays in a product launch, new process, holiday sale or corporate crisis is largely comprised of identification and direction.

In the marketing world, a brand has to understand what the opportunities and the challenges are, balanced with what the consumer needs or wants. It has to develop the overarching brand mission and vision, and then prioritize the activities that will be implemented over time. Then, it must identify the measure of success. After all, as digital analyst Brian Solis has said, “the landscape for business isn’t changing because of social media, it’s changing because consumer expectations are evolving.”

Digital strategy requires analysis. To understand the opportunities and challenges, there is a need for an understanding of the competition, the marketing assets currently in existence, and even the financial goals or impact the effort will have.

To understand consumer needs, we must understand who they are, where they are and what they will need from the brand. The brand needs to be a useful part of the media mix both online and via mobile devices, as well as on the traditional screen.

What does this tell us? For one, it says that to have an effective digital strategy, we must do the upfront research for a level of understanding of climate and control of a desired topic or product. Then we need to identify the influencers and other appropriate people and resources available to enable action and engagement.

So what is social media strategy?

Social needs digital, like cars need tires. The only way to get where you want to go is to have the right knowledge of the route and the right transportation to get there. So we’ve outlined digital strategy, but now we need to build our vehicle, or social media strategy.

Loosely put, social media involves the tools and platforms that a brand will need to enable to activate the digital strategy. It is also the goals that each effort will have. This can range from building audience to brand awareness, share of voice and reputation management.

What social strategy shouldn’t include is a sales tactic. While brands rely on increased sales, social media audiences rely on brands to be informative, knowledgeable, entertaining and honest. When you add those things up, a brand wins with increased sales as a result of being a good social citizen. If a brand goes for the hard sell, the customers run.

So the next time you are asked for a social media idea, push the pause button and check to find out if a digital marketing strategy exists. If it doesn’t, you have to find out what kind of car you need to build before you crank up the Van Halen … or is it Beethoven?

What differences do you perceive between digital and social media strategy? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.