two wolves

The Ongoing War Between “Strategic” and “Innovative”

two wolves

There’s an allegory attributed to the Cherokee about two wolves doing battle inside people for control of their soul.

One wolf represents evil and one wolf represents good. Which wins, the story asks? The one you feed.

While my daughters giggled uncontrollably when I told them this story (Hey, I tried), I’m reminded of it when I think of the battle between “strategy” and “innovation.”

While innovation is, or can be, very strategic, in the social media marketing space these two concepts are often at odds. For example:

Innovation Wolf: “Let’s do a program on Periscope. I want to push the envelope and get into livestreaming.”

Strategy Wolf: “Let’s do that social sweepstakes. We should be able to hit our email acquisition goals using that if it goes as well as last year.”

Social media marketing continues to evolve quickly. Anyone who stays in one place doing what they did two years ago is going to fail. That’s a pretty compelling argument in support of Innovation Wolf.

At the same time, social media marketing should deliver measurable results (beyond likes, hearts or views) if we’re to expect significant budget support year after year. That’s a pretty compelling argument in support of the Strategy Wolf.

So which one do you feed?

The allegory is meant to have one clear answer. In our business, you have to feed both, but in different proportions. Depending on your industry and your business objectives, Strategy Wolf should get between 70% and 90% of the food. This means that you’ve set a plan to drive certain numbers, gotten corporate buy-in that hitting those numbers equates to success, and you’ve developed tactics to do so. This may mean annual planning, semi-annual planning or quarterly planning, but you need a plan to hit.

The remaining 10-30% of the budget should feed the Innovation Wolf. In some cases (conservative businesses or those with really large budgets), this may drop to 5%. This is your resource (money, time) to try new things. At Ignite Social Media, for example, we used that budget to create the world’s first Snapinar. It was a good learning experience and it did fairly well.

Even as you “do” innovation, however, think a lot about how you can measure success today, and how that success might look as the technology evolves. Innovation should be centered around discovering new things to become part of a future strategy.

Strategy Wolf vs. Innovation Wolf is probably not going to be passed down from generation to generation like the original story. But it’s a helpful construct to keep in mind anyway as you look at the huge number of ways you might apply social media marketing to your brand.

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