Social Media Strategy | What Would Patton Do?

by Robert Madison on November 21, 2011

“Only two kinds of people are gonna stay on this beach: those that are already dead and those that are gonna die. Now get off your butts.” ~ Brigadier General Norman Cota in “The Longest Day”

The above quoted theme of taking action is important. It’s the point of this post, actually, and I will return to it shortly. First, I want to refer to Jason Falls and Erik Deckers’ new book, No Bulls**t Social Media1 – Chapter 4, page 62. They write:

Before you dip your toe into the social media marketing waters, you need to first ask some telling questions:

1) Why are you using social media?  If the reason is, “because everyone else is doing it,” you’re not ready. Remind yourself of the six things2 social media can do for your business and walk down the road of planning for a bit first. If you jump in without a good reason, you’re not going to be able to measure or justify your time.  No goals means no way to measure what you’ve accomplished.

Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with this advice. Still, I want you to hold that thought for a moment and follow me if you will just a flip of the page away to page 64 where we read:

2) Create a strategic plan.

Erik knew a university department that spent six months debating what they should do with their social media plan.  They didn’t sign up to use a single tool because they debated whether it would even be effective.  The obvious solution was to try just one tool and see what happened…” 

One hypothesis on why the department debated: Because somebody told them that they shouldn’t get into social media without a strategic plan, and that if the only reason they were doing it was because everybody else was doing it, “they weren’t ready.” (Having worked in academia, I know how stifling the committee atmosphere can be.)

So, why the differing ideologies? Well, to put it simply, every situation is different. But I’d like to unite the two:

I think the “you must have a plan” advice for social media strategy, while well intentioned, actually causes some confusion and apprehension for the very people it’s trying to help. One company may be “doing social” without a plan while another company may be hesitant to jump in to “see what happens.” It depends on where you are in the stages of integrating social into your marketing strategy, but the one who hasn’t listened first to develop that strategy is the loser here.

General George S. Patton says: "Get in there and do it! Start your social media marketing plans by listening first."

Plans are good, but they aren’t necessary to get started. I’m not arguing against having a plan, I’m saying that if you’re not utilizing social media and you’d like to get started, then get started!3

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week” – Gen. George S. Patton

A lot of companies come to us nervous as hell, afraid of making a mistake, afraid of doing it wrong. They don’t have a strategic plan, aren’t sure what a strategic plan even looks like, and basically don’t even know where to start.

Getting Started 101

1) Does your company own its online social identity? That would really suck if you didn’t own your own identity/brand online. It happens. Start with placeholders on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,  Google+, and YouTube. Get those bases covered at the very least.

Take Twitter, for example. Create an account and start following your employees, your suppliers, your customers, and your prospective customers. Follow trade publications. Listen more than you talk, and behave as though you’re a person who works for your business as opposed to an impersonal version of the personality you think your business should have.4

Even if you don’t think there’s any value in using a platform like Twitter (for example), surely you’ll agree there is value in at least owning the handle (your username) you want to use. To wit, consider Netflix and Qwikster.

2) Managing your presence on all those social networks takes time. If you expect a current employee to do it, you might want to think about filling out the proper request form first. The one where you request him/her to stop working on whatever it is they normally do and start spending time on social media platforms instead. I’m only halfway kidding, but if you want to do social media strategy right, it takes time and it takes commitment.

3) Listen to what’s being said about you, and start taking notes. I’m not saying this because I work for a company that gets paid to listen, I’m saying this because it’s a fundamental truth of social media, and because it’s right. It’s why companies like Spiral16 exist in the first place. Naturally, you don’t have to go with a paid solution such as Spiral16, but it’s just downright foolish to not take advantage of some sort of listening platform to gather business intelligence that will influence your social media strategy.

Now get busy!


  1. A great resource, and belongs on the shelf of any marketer who wants to get into social media marketing.
  2. There were actually 7 things listed that social media could do for a business.
  3. While this post was sitting in the queue, Oliver Blanchard posted the following comment to this post (by David Armano), which I thought captured very well the message I was/am trying to convey:

    “The thing is though, we HAVE to get off this imaginary quantifiable return conundrum. Whether we are talking about ROI (financial returns) or non-financial impacts (like increased share of voice, improved brand image or operating a real-time consumer insights engine), it really isn’t complicated. Look at your business, figure out what needles you want to move, set some targets, plug social into what you are already doing, figure out what works and what doesn’t, and keep improving the model until you start seeing the results you want to see. It’s been over 3 years now that companies have been tripping all over themselves with this non-problem. Decide what the quantifiable return needs to be, and chase that. Setting targets and determining what the KPIs for those goals are shouldn’t be rocket science.”

  4. If you’re the kind of company that has to send tweets to legal first, I wouldn’t worry about it. Your competition will kick your bureaucratic ass so fast you’ll probably be out of business before you realize it was flawed social media strategy anyway.  Either that, or just move the entire social media responsibility over to the legal department, and let them speak on behalf of the company. Attorneys like to write anyway.

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