iStock_000014305728XSmall-300x199[1]For years, clients have been asking us if they needed to get on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Google Plus. Now everyone’s asking about Pinterest. Our answer has never changed: “Don’t even think about any of them until you define your strategy."

In his timeless book “The Art of War," Sun Tzu wrote: “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." Those ancient words perfectly describe the all-too-common sound we’re hearing these days: the din of multitudes of marketers’ failed Social Media efforts.

It’s the sound of businesses getting on Twitter not knowing what they’re supposed to be doing there. Market awareness, brand reinforcement, lead generation, public relations, media outreach, reputation management, customer service, coupon code distribution and consumer research are all possible tactical uses for Twitter. But until a strategy has been created to determine the right tactics, those tweets are just the noise before defeat.

It’s the sound of businesses creating Facebook fan pages, not knowing if their brand supporters are even there, investing huge amounts of time and effort to try to create results they have not defined, and buying display ads that nobody sees or promoted posts that people hate. Just more noise before the inevitable defeat.

It’s the sound of websites dropping off page one of Google searches because of blogs being written solely as a “Social Media" tactic or Google Plus being ignored as just “that Social Media tool no one uses." And it’s the sound of huge Pay-per-click expenditures because they don’t know how Social Media contributes to their organic SEO.

It’s the sound of missed opportunities as many consumers opt for YouTube and Pinterest over Google as their preferred search engines, and businesses with no clear strategy have no clue what to do with either of them.

As the lines continue to blur between all media: traditional, digital and social, a disjointed tactical approach to any of them is just the noise before defeat. The sweet sound of success will only be found in all of them as tactical elements of a larger integrated marketing strategy.

(this article also appeared in the April 1, 2013 edition of the BizTimes)