Rugby tackling the Duke of Edinburgh - and what that taught me about social media strategy

It’s not often you come within a hair’s breadth of committing treason. That’s what happened to me one, almost fateful day, in 1999.
It was the 800th birthday of the city of Hull and as a Yorkshire Television reporter, I’d been sent to report on the visit of the Queen to mark the occasion. My role was a pretty minor one – I had to interview the people who Her Majesty spoke to on her walkabout on the city’s streets.

The Duke had a lucky escape that day

I was behind the cordon when the Queen approached and she stopped to talk to a lady on the opposite side of her route. So, I waited for the Queen to pass and prepared to make my move. When she was a safe distance away I ducked under the barrier and darted towards my target. But as I charged across no man’s land, a blur of something caught in my peripheral vision. I skidded to a halt, narrowly missing accidentally rugby tackling the Duke of Edinburgh. And saving my journalism career at the same time.

I didn’t have much of a strategy that day and it wasn’t a concept I thought about much in reporting assignments. As a social media marketer, though, it plays a big part. One of the first things I talk about in every training session is strategy. Why are you on social media? Where are your customers? What do you want to get out of social media? So many businesses jump into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc, without any thought of how they are going to make the networks work for them. Why waste months floundering about with social media when a well-thought out strategy could have made it effective straight away?

I’ve been doing a lot of LinkedIn training in businesses recently and one of my first questions is: What do you want to get out of it? What is your LinkedIn strategy? LinkedIn reminds users they won’t be as effective without a 100% completed profile. What rubbish. LinkedIn, for instance, say you ought to have an application on your profile but if their applications don’t fit your strategy then don’t install them. Especially the Amazon reading list when your last book was a Harry Potter.
The same goes for filling in your past jobs. Only put in the ones relevant to your strategy. Don’t copy the example of the general manager at a Porsche garage who put ‘burger flipper at McDonalds” as his previous job 24 years earlier because he ‘needed to list another job to get my rating up so there you go’. Everything you do on LinkedIn should be tied to your strategy, whether it’s your status updates, the groups you get involved in or the connections you make.

So when you think social media, think strategy first. Don’t rugby tackle your way into it. You never know when you might suddenly commit treason by mistake.

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