No.1 reason why social media strategies fail

If you are listening to 1,000 social media practitioner you get 1,000 different ways and ideas how to deal with social media. Typically just tactical ideas, most of them start with how you can use certain tools and a variety of other inputs.

Once you get in touch with more experienced consultants they will tell you stop the experimentation and think strategically. Most will tell you to start with a well defined goal or objective.

Mother of all mistakes

Starting with your Goal or Objective is a great idea but it’s wrong. Even though this is what 80% of social media consultants will recommend to you – and it sounds absolutely plausible – yet it is the mother of all mistakes !!!

I developed social media strategies over the past 6 years for all kinds and all sizes of businesses and recently for the public sector. About 4 years ago I realized that starting with the goal – actually the goal of the owner of said strategy – is a major mistake.

We all know by now that social media works best when all the human and social beings in a given market get engaged. Customers recommend a certain product, provide feedback to new versions and improvements, ask questions publicly in the social web, customers help other customers and so forth. A brand can call itself really successful with social media when all the above happens and the economic impact is a reduction of support cost, shorter time to market with new products, less marketing expenditure and faster trend analysis.


Obviously to achieve all of the above, you need to know what your market really wants, you need to know the gap between what they want and what you do, you need to understand strength and weaknesses and you need to know where your brand is, relative to your competitor and your distribution channels, agents etc. A good old SWOT analysis is actually a good way to do a gap analysis between you and your market. It would be fatal to believe you can create a strategy only by defining what YOU want to do. OK you did all that – can you now develop your strategy? NO – unfortunately not.


We said earlier that your engagement shows the highest success if your customers and partners are highly engaged. Now the question is what to do to actually inspire customers to engage? Didn’t you hear almost every month that this community is dormant, that page didn’t get as many fans… ? Well if YOU define a strategy in which you decide what the customers and partners have to do – without ever involving them in the strategy development – the likelihood that they do what you want is very very slim. That means you need to motivate customers and independent business partners to develop such a social media strategy together with you.


Got your team assembled? Great – now is the time to explore objectives. And you guess it already – the objectives in that composition is  with 100% certainty different than the strategy you develop on your own. Also since your customers become a part of that strategy they take ownership and you have what you need so badly – advocates in the market. Without those advocates your social media strategy is doomed to fail.


Most social media initiatives are based on trial and error. Lack of highly skilled social media strategists make it even worse. It takes a few months to see the real effects of a social media engagement and that means it may take a whole year to figure out what works and what not. While many mistakes can be fixed quickly – there are still several counter intuitive aspects of a social media strategy that make it fail – the one described here however is based on my experience the No.1 mistake.

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4 Replies to “No.1 reason why social media strategies fail”

  1. Hey Axel,
    I love the diagram on social media and was wondering if it would be possible to include it in an upcoming networking training I’m doing—-giving full credit to your website and whomever developed it?

    1. Absolutely – as long as you are not changing the image and giving the Social Media Academy credit, feel free to use it. Thanks for asking!

  2. Axel, hi. This is a very nice graphic and the words I read are true. But are they new?
    No. you can not really define a strategy without assessing your environment. You can not make a SWOT withouth leaving your cage. Of course, if you try to do that anyway you will fail. But that is not happening since Social Media has entered the world. It is happening where ever you meet bad preparation, short sighted strategists and bad analysis. It is not linked to Social Media.
    Yet, remembering everyone to take those (hopefully well learned) steps in a new environment is ok – but it is just like taking the sentence of our mothers to take warm clothes if it is cold outside to someone, who is preparing for an artic expedition. If you don’t know your business, you will fail anywhere else too.
    Greetings from Germany! :)

  3. Pingback: No.1 reason why social media strategies fail |

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