fb-graph-search-logoOver the past few years marketers have invested a lot of time, energy and money into their Facebook strategies. So it’s understandable that they get frustrated when Facebook switches things up with a new feature such as Graph Search, the social search function it introduced earlier this year.

The unintended consequence of Facebook’s constant tinkering may be that more marketers and communicators are embracing the idea that they need a Facebook strategy. Because developing a strategy for any single platform is a waste of resources.

New lessons from old media

Image by Matthieu via thenounproject.org

Adapted from image by Matthieu via thenounproject.org

Advertisers used to know better. Many still do. Nobody had an ABC or New York Times or Redbook strategy. Brands had strategies for TV, newspaper and magazine advertising.

They selected the platforms for those ads based on demographics and other criteria. If audiences stopped watching one show and started watching another, they didn’t wring their hands and lament the hours spent strategizing around that program.

If a magazine changed its focus, nobody directed ire at the publisher, complaining that all that energy spent on crafting content for the magazine had been wasted.

The mentality that leads to a full-blown strategy for Facebook is the same one that causes angst among communicators whenever a new platform emerges that gains popularity.

I’ve actually heard professionals say they have enough bandwidth only for three platforms (like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter); if a Pinterest or Instagram becomes a hot social channel, they just can’t make time for it.

Platforms are ephemeral

None of this would be an issue if marketers had communication and content strategies and viewed platforms as the channels for deploying content. Platforms come and go. They change.

The audiences that embrace them are fickle and abandon them easily for something that better suits them. (Recent research, for example, shows that teens are gravitating toward Tumblr and away from Facebook.)

For communicators with a content strategy, adjusting to these changes is simple, just like a Mad Men-era advertiser sliding content into a new or newly popular TV series or publication. Pity the poor marketer who once poured time and energy into a MySpace strategy!

Tactics vs. strategy

The Graph Search announcement has sparked a flurry of blog posts about how brands can optimize their content for the new service. (There’s no agreement yet on what to call it—Facebook Graph Search Optimization (FGSO) or Facebook Search Engine Optimization (FSEO) or some other jargon.)

The fact that people are thinking about this is great but I worry that marketers will be distracted from their overarching content strategies and begin investing unreasonable amounts of time on this single opportunity.

Optimizing content for Facebook’s new search should be factored into your general SEO effort, which should be part of a larger content strategy.

For communicators, stellar outcomes begin with understanding what a strategy is and how it differs from objectives and tactics. Strategies define overarching approaches to achieving business goals.

Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and every other platform on the planet are tactics selected to meet the measurable objectives you identify in support of your strategy.

So if changes at Facebook have you pulling your hair out because of the disruption to your strategy, it’s time to rethink your strategy.