Social Media Strategy, Social CRM, Social Media Marketing

Is Your Social Strategy Proactive or Reactive?

Is your social media program about asking, or answering?

Like Sonny divorcing Cher (or was it the other way around?) there’s a schism coming in social media between companies using it for marketing, and companies using it for customer service and CRM.

Thus, one of the first questions I recommend you ask about your social program is whether it’s true mission is to gain customers, or retain the ones you have. And at the execution level, it’s an important distinction.

If you’re trying to gain customers, your social program is more about content creation, influencer identification, and virality. Sample tactics include writing blog posts, sending promotional tweets, creating and posting videos, and blog commenting.

If you’re trying to retain customers, your social program is more about listening, problem resolution, and turning customers into advocates. Brand communities, contests, most social listening, and non-promotional tweeting fits into this category.

Match Your Social Media Tactics to Your Social Media Goal

The problem we’re faced with today is that very few companies seem to be thinking about their efforts in this way. Instead, we find solely self-promotional Twitter programs (I’d argue this is flawed and Twitter is the de facto tool for customer retention).

We also find Facebook fan pages that try to explain product features (wrong again, as it’s unlikely that non-customers are going to fan your page, thus talking about features is preaching to the converted).

Conversely, many blogs are too community-oriented, taking an overly insider approach, given that new research from my friends and clients Compendium Blogware shows that search drives 60%+ of total traffic on 80%+ of corporate blogs. People coming from Google don’t know who you are yet, so you can’t treat them like a Facebook audience that’s already drinking your Kool-aid.

Of course, this isn’t entirely an either/or scenario. On Twitter for example, if you’re tweeting about your company’s new product, you’re engaged in a customer gain event. But, if one of your followers tweets and asks you to solve a customer service problem, and you answer back, you’re engaged in a customer retention event.

But, figuring out which of these is the primary reason you’re active in social media, and how to allocate resources accordingly is going to be a major issue, as norms, software, and staffing around each approach are starting to diverge.

Sure, you can use social media for both customer acquisition and customer retention, but which is your PRIMARY goal?

Facebook Comments


  1. says

    Objectives should always inform the decision of what tools and tactics to choose. I’m constantly referring back to Forrester’s POST methodology when planning campaigns. But your characterisation of a strategy as proactive vs reactive adds another important layer to planning.

    For those who are not familiar with it, Forrester’s POST methodology is People (audience), Objectives, Strategy & Technology (tools & tactics). Technology should only be determined at the last stage of the planning process. More info on the POST method –

  2. says

    I'm not sure I see this as such a clear cut dichotomy. Businesses will surely veer between the two given the way their focus shifts.

    If there's a crisis, for example, they're going to be out there broadcasting their crisis management blogs but also reacting to customer issues.

    I do think though that every communicative act has to be rooted in some kind of strategy within the business. Ultimately, at some level at least, we have to be cognisant of our aims and motives.

  3. says

    To answer Jon — it's not a clear-cut dichotomy. Businesses need to have the flexibility to switch between modes depending on any situation.

    But understanding your primary goal is key to developing a strategy for social media. Yes, that strategy needs to be flexible enough to handle new things when they crop up, and anyone involved in for-business social media shouldn't expect to be monolithic in their approach.

    I see this as a natural for Twitter, but Jay is right to point out the shortcomings of most companies when it comes to their facebook and blog approach. They tend to be seen as less-immediate, and somehow require a more solid plan with less flexibility. Thanks, Jay for reminding us to extent our flexibility (dammit, I need a new word…) beyond the Twittersphere.

  4. says

    I think much of the time, the social media effort is expected to do both acquisition and retention (at the very least, I've yet to have a client who didn't expect both).

    An interesting little related aside. One company I know of discovered that after two or three months of customer-retention-focused outreach answering questions and resolving issues via social media, their brand's negative sentiment was increasing in the monitoring tool. Turns out that the monitoring tool was flagging their online community manager's activity as mostly negative–because the word “problem” “issue” or “concern” was showing up in her posts.

    Which was actually an accurate assessment–the negative stuff was becoming more visible, but so was their efforts to respond.

    Didn't make it any more fun to send the reporting around, though. :)

  5. albrocious says

    Any social media strategy must have a monitoring element. Many consultants over look this, and worry about what to say and how to say it. This is the a classic issue with many marketing and product developers, they don't listen. The question is not proactive or reactive but be situationally aware of what is happening around you.

    When we talk monitoring not just for PR/Marketing but product or service development and industry related news as well.

  6. randyx123 says

    I like your post Jay. When applied to the area of Social CRM, we see the majority (+90%) of activity as reactive (social monitoring)– very focused on the service-side. There is little on the proactive (acquisition) side where planning and strategy are concerned.

  7. says

    The approach that an organization takes in regards to their social media initiatives is just as important as taking that first plunge. Some organizations just get it… Jay, I enjoyed your post.

  8. kahuna7 says

  9. alexasamuels says

    Another great post, Jay.

    You have a wonderful ability to drill straight to the fundamentals, presenting them in a way that's clear and logical.

    I've read a lot about people who talk about matching the strategy to the objective, but have been left scratching my head about the real differences between, say, using social media to increase awareness or drive sales. But you spell it out. Thanks.

    Kudos also to the value contributed by your readers in their comments.


  10. says

    Jay – curious about your statement: “it’s unlikely that non-customers are going to fan your page). Is this based on your experience or is there research to prove this? I'd agree with you in theory if I wasn't a fan/non-customer of so many Pages.

    Also, I work mostly with nonprofits. The ones that have Facebook Pages report that most of their fans have never donated. So really, I'm curious.

  11. gravitygardener says

    “It is easier to keep an existing customer rather than trying to find a new one”.

    Companies know their bottom line is directly impacted by repeat business and without it, the business can struggle. Customer Relationship Management Marketing can generate new opportunities, repeat business and most of all, additional revenue.

    Whether large or small, each and every business is dependent upon their customer relationship strategy. All companies should be driven by their customer wants and needs, otherwise they can struggle and eventually fail. Aligning client needs with company products and services is critical in client retention and company growth.

    CRM systems help track every aspect of a customer through sales and into ongoing support. Many companies fail to utilize their own client base for revenue generating opportunities. Through these systems, marketing other products and services to existing clients can create “Starburst Opportunities” that can add to the bottom line with minimal expense.

    Gravity Garden

  12. says

    My sentiments are with John on this matter. My customers are either still sending emails, or picking up the phone and calling for customer service. Very few of these people are sending tweets or writing my FB wall.

  13. says

    My sentiments are with John on this matter. My customers are either still sending emails, or picking up the phone and calling for customer service. Very few of these people are sending tweets or writing my FB wall.

  14. robertbacal says

    There's an important issue that small business should know about, that affects Social Media use for business and that is that there will be constant attrition of followers, at least for something like Twitter.

    Our research suggests that 25% on average of followers who follow small business will go completely inactive, and while I don't have numbers yet as to how many go dark each month, it's a repeated phenomenon.

    So regardless of how you use Twitter, you need to factor into the equation the cost of lost followers, and a need to continue to acquire new followers. And of course, how many followers will become customers.

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