It may sound like I’m splitting hairs, but there really is a big difference between a social media strategy and a social media plan. Yet many organizations simply don’t make the distinction between the two. This mistake leads them to utilize only one. And that’s the biggest blunder you can make in a world of likes, views, comments, and shares. So what’s the solution? Accept that the only way to effectively build your social brand is to understand and create a winning social media strategy AND a solid plan to accompany it.

Let’s Cover the Difference Between a Strategy and a Plan

A STRATEGY examines and tackles the reasons “why.” In a perfect world, the strategy would always come first, because it is intended to shape the details of the plan that follows. It serves as the overarching wisdom that filters through the entire process. It’s that continual reference to your overall strategy that leads you to effectively reach your goals.

When you develop your strategy, you take a large scope perspective. You look at the final results desired, as well as the various paths to the chosen outcome. A strategy looks at every possible influencing factor, both predicted and unpredicted, then it comes to terms with the whole situation, not just one end result.

A PLAN, on the other hand, is often a list of steps taken to accomplish a particular goal. A plan tackles the detail questions like “how, when, where, who, and what.” A plan is critically important to the success of almost any effort. Your plan, however, is secondary to the overall strategy behind your vision.

What’s it all Have to Do With Social Media?

Your social media strategy should include the course, the methods, the obstacles, and the adjustments all rolled up into one. It should ask and answer questions like…

  • Why should we use social media?
  • How can we use social media today to impact our organization 10 years down the road?
  • How does social media fit with our company vision?

The strategy is the foundation. Any destined-for-success social media plan comes right back to the integrated purpose and foresight of the strategy. The problem is, even a great strategy will not accomplish anything without a good plan supporting it. Because after all, a strategy is not usually directly actionable.

That’s where the social media plan comes into play. It is the collection of the day-to-day process and practices of your social media team. Your plan is essentially the boots on the ground marching orders for the person in charge of manning the Twitter feed, Facebook wall, Pinterest board, Instagram feed, LinkedIn profile, Google+ page, etc. Everything that you do across every social media channel is a part of your social media plan. Without the plan, nothing gets done; at least not in an organized and effective way.

However, if all you have is a plan—without a strategy to back it up—then you can find yourself in a situation where a lot of work leads to very little accomplishment.

Time for the Takeaway

Some organizations have a social media plan, but they don’t accomplish much in the long run because they lack a solid strategy as a starting point. Alternatively, other companies have a great social media strategy, yet do next to nothing to implement it through a structured plan. They have the vision, but they haven’t found a way to make it actionable. That is where planning and focus are required. It’s not a question of one or the other. When you commit to taking your big social strategy and developing practical concrete plans from it, you will have the best of both worlds. What’s the alternative? The digital version of being socially awkward—ineffective or inappropriate use of social media. No one wants to be the wallflower online!

Consider an example of a social media strategy gone flop without a plan. Even if it wasn’t your company, think of a simple plan that could’ve made all the difference and share it in the comments below! I’d love to give you feedback that is sure to provide insight into making stronger strategies and more effective plans that work together for your success!

If you’d like more guidance on saving your organization from social self-sabotage, download our Free Guide “Social Media 101” today!