Eleanna Sbokou
Eleanna Sbokou 29 May 2015

Special Weapons And No Tactics: How To Avoid Doing Pointless Social Media

Author: Phil Adams, Planning Director at Blonde. What is the most important aspect of social media planning and how badly will it affect your brand if you ignore it?

Author: Phil Adams, Planning Director at Blonde.

“It’s cold this morning. Warm up with our hearty product that is served hot.”

“Phew, it’s hot this afternoon. Cool down with our refreshing product that is served cold.”

“We’re eating our own product right now! Who else is enjoying it as much as we are?!”

“That major sporting event you’re all talking about is awesome. Our product is awesome too!”

“We’re loving the red version of our product this Valentine’s Day. Who prefers the blue?"


Tenuously topical tweeting or tweeting by numbers. You’d have thought brands would have grown out of this by now.

They haven’t.

Sorry to pick on you Quaker Oats but you paid to promote this into my timeline so you kind of asked for it. 


This is straight out of the No Shit Sherlock School of community management. The same school that evidently counts a large proportion of fmcg brands amongst its alumni.

The same school that is twinned with the Going Through The Motions Academy of content calendar planning.

It reminds me of this old Viz comic cartoon.

SWANT - Special Weapons And No Tactics.

It is typically extreme, hyperbolic to a fault, but it makes its point. It is a comic strip fable with a clear moral. Namely, without a plan things get gratuitous and messy. You don’t want to be weighed, measured and found SWANTing.

I was 14 when I watched in dropped-jaw amazement as British special forces abseiled from the roof of the Iranian Embassy in Princes Gate and freed the hostages within. Like most boys of my generation I grew up in awe of the SAS. SWAT teams are cool, in theory at least. SWAT-level competence is something to which we should all aspire.

  • Objectives so clearly defined that they are a mission.
  • Meticulous planning for multiple scenarios.
  • Excellence in execution. Surgical precision underpinned by relentless training.
  • Rigorous public scrutiny and evaluation of results.

The opposite of most branded social media in other words, particularly the clearly defined objectives.

Crystal clear objectives are the most important aspect of social media planning, of any kind of planning for that matter. Everything flows from there.

The prerequisite for any successful strategy is a clear, credible, commercially valuable statement of purpose.

There are any number of ways to define such a purpose. At Blonde we are quite fond of a deceptively simple framework called “How can we… so that… ?”

Here’s an IRN-BRU example.

How can we generate strategic levels of reach through social platforms so that we make a significant, cost-efficient contribution to brand health?

The power of this structure is that it forces the planner to differentiate betweendigital or social means and business or brand ends.

When it is done well the top-level strategy and the evaluation framework pretty much fall out of the definition of purpose.

In the IRN-BRU example above it works like this:

  • In order to make a significant, measurable impact on brand health, as measured by brand tracking studies, we have to deliver reach on a comparable scale to TV advertising.
  • To do that cost-efficiently we need to deliver an awful lot of unpaid, organic reach.
  • To that end we need to create content that is shared by the thousands of people who have liked our pages or followed us on Twitter to the millions of people who haven’t.
  • The logical conclusion of this is that the only digital means in which we are interested are shares, retweets and the reach that is generated as a result.
  • And the only brand ends in which we are interested are the same brand affiliation measures that are the basis of advertising KPI’s.

This is a proper strategy in that it involves focus and sacrifice. It tells us as much about what not to do as it does about what we should be doing.

It means that we have to have a very clear understanding of our audiences in terms of what they share and why.

It means that we need to elegantly align the brand story with audience interests.

It means that we have to set the bar high in terms of the shareworthiness of content. There is a line that has to be crossed if you want your content to be shared by lots of people. Quality control has to be ruthless.

It means that we don’t chase vanity metrics such as likes.

A dedication to shares leads to content like this, which was posted on Facebook in reaction to a very un-Scottish heatwave in July 2013. 


From a page with around 259,000 page likes at the time it was shared over 12,000 times, achieving a reach of over 620,000 people, with no paid promotion.

And when shareworthy content repeatedly crosses the line in the eyes of your audience across a whole year, it is possible to deliver reach at strategic scale.

In 2013, on a UK basis, Facebook delivered 25% of the reach of TV advertising (as measured by impressions), for only 6.5% of the paid investment*. Strategic scale cost efficiently delivered. 


And in 2014 our week-in, week-out quest for shares and reach in the service of brand health was fundamental to the brand securing top spot in the Social Brands 100 report into the most social FMCG brands in the UK.

Source: Social Brands 100 - The FMCG Ranking

So make sure that you have a clearly defined, valuable purpose. Don’t be pointless.

Plan, execute and evaluate accordingly.

Don’t be found “SWANTing”.

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