Future Is in Creating Strategies, Not Copying Tactics

How not to react to social media is found in a famous exchange between Alice and the Cheshire cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. Which road do I take? she asked. Where do you want to go? was his response. I don’t know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter.”

It might seem obvious that you must know where you’re going to get anywhere. But because social media is a disruptive technology shift, it is leaving some wandering aimlessly creating noise and others euphorically promising unicorns. A common mistake is failing to draw the distinction between developing strategy and copying tactics.

Hammering out a coherant communications strategy is hard word. But only after a clear strategy is developed is it possible to determine how your communications mix (i.e., public relations, advertising, promotion, and direct marketing) will work together to achieve your communications objectives. Only then can specific tasks and message delivery systems be assigned to each of these disciplines so that their combined efforts are mutually reinforcing and inspire important audiences at opportune times.

Social media is not a magic bullet that enables you to ignore timeless communications principles. It is a tactic or message delivery system, not a strategy. Copying any tactic without a strategy is a waste of time, a recipe for activity without accomplishments. (Sure, copying social media tactics may have worked when social media was in its infancy and the element of surprise was on early adopters’ side. But audiences, like bacteria or opposing football teams, eventually become immune to tactics.)

In the words of Geoff Livingston, whose blog posts are famous for applying timeless strategic principles to social media and Web 2.0 communications:

“Let’s hope that amateur hour is over, and that unknowledgeable social media communicators go the way of the dodo bird. Unfortunately, while some will be forced to shutter their doors, the real answer lies in educating the marketplace and upcoming professionals about the basic fundamentals and ethics of communications.”

Of course, communications dinosaurs who underestimate social media will become extinct too. The future is in creating innovative and integrated communications strategies reflecting the wonder of the Web 2.0 “real-time” shift. Another Lewis Carroll novel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, contains a memorable dialog illustrating the way today’s communicators must adapt:

“`Well, in our country,’ said Alice, still panting a little, ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.’

‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen. ‘Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!’”

Do you think social media is a magic bullet changing all the rules of communications? If you disagree with my analysis, challenge me.

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About Monica

Monica specializes in strategic communications, web and new media, and print materials with an international or multi-cultural context. She has worked on national public outreach campaigns targeting multi-cultural audiences and has conceptualized, written, and/or designed multiple websites. Monica also has written, edited, and/or designed high-profile newsletters, brochures, and reports, including some prepared in collaboration with the White House. She holds a bachelor’s in journalism and a master of international service with a focus on international communication. Monica is based in Washington, D.C.


  1. Thank you, Monica. I really appreciate the shout out. A good post. I think this is the way of the future, but I think many cannot help but become mired in tactics. It makes real strategists that much more valuable. Cheers!

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog, Geoff. I am looking forward to reading your new book, Welcome to the Fifth Estate, because, unlike many other social media ninjas/gurus mired in tactics, you’re a real visionary with a clear grasp of the big picture and what lies ahead. Can’t wait to get a better grasp of what you foresee. Thanks again.

  2. Monica your article is sophomoric and simple minded. It is a boundless transgression against all common sense.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog, Joe, and for challenging me on my analysis. I am very interested in what specifically you think is sophomoric and simple minded. Do you think social media does change all the rules of communications? Do you think tactics are more important than strategy? I hope you’ll stop by again and tell me more about where my analysis went wrong!

  3. You’re a real deep thinker. Thanks for sarhing.

  4. Zachariah Scherich says:

    Thats a very good feedback. Wondering what you think of its implication on society as a whole though? There are times when things like this begin to have global expansion and frustration. Ill check back to see what you have to say.