social networking

Do You Have a Social Media Playbook or Game Plan?

Written by Paul Steinbrueck

Recently a marketing manager at a company that is launching a new product later this year contacted us.  He was interested in having us do a social/viral marketing campaign leading up to the launch and beyond.  He described his vision of a passionate community developing that will buy their product, spread the word, and grow exponentially.  He sent us their “digital plan” and asked us to submit a proposal for the campaign

The 4-page “digital plan” starts with a general vision and philosophy for digital media and follows with a 2-page list of every conceivable feature anyone could ever want on a website, including:

  • digital brochures for products
  • online store for physical and downloadable products.
  • hundreds of PowerPoint presentations
  • video and audio presentations
  • membership, log-in, member directory, member profiles
  • discussion forums
  • mechanisms for receiving daily reminders via popular push mechanisms
  • individual pages on team members, including photos, bios, responsibilities
  • links to team members’ blogs, newsletters, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  • online donations

And that’s only a fraction of the items listed.

The “plan” follows with a list of social media tools they want used in the campaign as well, including a Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, e-books, smart phone aps, email subscriptions, podcasts, YouTube, and more.

The document is a good start, but it’s not a plan.  To use a football analogy, what they have is a…


playbookEvery team in the NFL has a playbook.  For the most part they are very similar.  They have the same formations, the same runs, and the same passing routes.  Most of them have hundreds of plays in them even though in a typical game each team will only run 60-70 total plays.

But when teams run out onto the field on a Sunday afternoon, the playbook is nowhere to be seen.  Instead, they come to play with a…

Game Plan

In preparation for a game, the coaching staff reviews film of their opponent and selects plays from the playbook they think will work best in the upcoming game.  They look for favorable match-ups where they can focus their attention.  Some teams script the first series of plays they plan to run.  They may even draw up a few new plays that aren’t even in the playbook.  The end result is a game plan that is unique to that game.

Game planning is one of the most important things that separates winners from losers in the NFL.

Social Media Game Plan

The same is true when it comes to social media.  Everyone has the same social media playbook.  It includes websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email, and so forth.  What separates great social media campaigns from good ones (and bad ones) is not the playbook but the game plan.

  • Where is the favorable mach-up – the groups and demographics to focus on?
  • Which social media tools go into this game plan and which get left out?
  • How can these specific tools best work together in this campaign?
  • Is there a sequence of scripted social media plays leading up to and beyond the launch?
  • Are there some creative social media plays that aren’t even in the playbook?

Our Proposal

We submitted a proposal to create a social media game plan for the product launch.

A couple of days later we spoke with the marketing manager.  He was disappointed with our proposal.  It was partially our fault for not clarifying what the expectations were, but he essentially wanted us to develop the social media marketing campaign for his product for free and give it to him as a proposal   If he liked the our plan he would hire us to execute it.

We considered that option, but while discussing it realized that the success of the campaign would be determined equally by the quality of the plan and by its execution.  By expecting us to give him the plan for free, the marketing manager was demonstrating he did not place any value on having a great plan nor on the time, effort, creativity and expertise to develop it.

We tried to help him see the value of the plan by comparing the campaign to a construction project and the development of the plan to the development of blueprints.  In a construction project, the client doesn’t expect the construction company to create the blueprints for free and then decide whether to hire the construction company.  They hire an architect.

In the end, we just couldn’t see eye to eye.  The marketing manager indicated he was just going to have their web guy do the social media campaign, apparently without a real game plan (as I see it).

It’s disappointing not only because it would have been a really neat project, but also because the product itself is remarkable and word of it is probably not going to get out like it could.  Thousands of people who could benefit from it will probably never hear about it, and seems unlikely that a passionate social networking community will form around it.


So, what do you think?  Does the playbook/game plan analogy ring true to you?  Do you think a social media marketing plan is comparable to architectural blueprints and thus should be paid for rather than given away in a proposal?

And how about you?  Does your social media plan look more like a playbook or a game plan?

[image by mrvilay]

About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.


  • Very pertinent, great analogy. Was there a social media game plan for this article? If so, what was it?

    • Hi Neal, thanks for your comment. If you're asking if there was a social media game plan for product referenced in this article… no, we never go that far. If you're asking if we had a social media game plan to promote this article… yes.

      We don't develop an entire game plan for an article unless it's a special article, but we have a social media game plan that includes publishing regular blog posts and sharing them through Facebook, Twitter, social bookmarking sites, RSS, and email. We have a specific game plan for each of those tools – what content to publish to each, when, how frequently, how they integrate together, and so forth.

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