Strategy or tactics?

  • Reading time: 8 minutes
  • Level: Basic competence Social Media Strategy

Why we should be able to distinguish between strategy and tactics and how we can “easily” do this.

Why it is important to distinguish between strategy and tactics

In the company as well as in the markets, we are in a permanent competition. Within companies, this competition is about attention and recognition in order to secure or increase resources for one’s own work and to advance one’s own career in this way.

The objective reason

Attention is also an important currency within companies, especially when we try to secure and improve support for our own work – in the form of company resources.

The greater the attention, the higher the chance of achieving this goal. We generally attract the attention and support of top management more with issues of a strategic nature than with issues of a tactical nature. That’s why it’s important to be able to present and communicate the strategic qualities of your own work/projects/function in a well-founded manner.

It is perfect if we can correctly define the strategic importance of our company – in the sense of the definition – based on the company’s business model. This is almost automatically relevant for top management because it affects their core issues (business model and strategy).

The difference lies in the effect

The effect is the essential difference between a more or random collection of measures and a real strategy.

  • In a strategy, I know all the possible benefits that are possible for the success of the company (its business model). From this potential benefit, I choose the one that contributes the most to the company’s success and which I choose based on my resources and the competitive situation
  • In an arbitrary collection of tactical measures, I choose measures (for day-to-day business) that I consider relevant without knowing the possible benefits for the business model.

The decision problem

If a social media manager decides on the “social media strategy” or suggests it, we have a more or less hidden decision-making problem: Social media management decides which components of the business model are supported by social media.

  • If it is a real strategy – i.e. the decision in knowledge of the possible benefits of social media for the business model – this decision should not lie in the competence of social media management but rather in the competence of the company management.
  • If it is a more or less arbitrary collection of tactical measures without knowledge of the possible benefits of social media for the company’s business model, the social media management has forgone this possible benefit – due to a lack of professional competence.

The decision about the benefits of social media for the business model should generally rest with company management. The task of social media management is to transparently present the situation – the possible benefits of social media for the company (i.e. the business model) with the associated resource requirements and the competitive situation. If social media management does not fulfill this task, we are dealing with a strategic skills deficit. Strategic because this skills deficit affects the ability to use (new and existing) potential, the competitiveness and the profitability of the company.

The personal reason

For example, if we describe our work or a project as strategic or strategically relevant, but this is clearly not strategic to others, this does not support the impression of competence but rather proves the opposite – at least as far as the level of strategic competence is concerned. If our work or one of our projects has corresponding relevance and we do not communicate this relevance, we are not being modest; we are not using the potential of this work/project to the extent that is necessary and, if things are going badly, we are also reducing the chances of success and thus the contribution of the work/project to the company’s success.

A faux pas of this kind is embarrassing at the peer level – i.e. colleagues at the same hierarchical level. It is fatal when the lack of ability to differentiate becomes clear to superiors or top management. Nobody wants to be seen as a fake or less competent. People with strategic competence are more likely to be promoted because they can contribute more to the success of the company.

Using the two terms without being able to distinguish between them is therefore not recommended.

If the previous justification for this is not enough – just imagine that you are presenting a project that is important to you and the company to the company’s top management and a person from this circle asks you to explain the strategic importance of the project as you have described it in a little more detail explain because it was not fully understood by this person. In this case, you should be able to explain the respective strategic relevance well and, above all, accurately or be able to live with the question mark behind your own competence.

Distinguish between strategy and tactics

We encounter both terms more or less often in our everyday professional lives. Activities or decisions are often referred to as strategic. But if this designation does not always have to correspond to reality, it serves to support an other goal – usually attention.

Definitions of strategy and tactics

We find quite a few definitions when we google both terms. Few of them are self-explanatory and helpful in practice for making a simple and comprehensible distinction. If you have to answer a question, you shouldn’t have to look it up on Google for a long time or carry out a somewhat lengthy analysis. Where simple, comprehensible and generally understandable explanations and, above all, the difference between them are required, I use and recommend the following distinction:

StrategyAll measures that open up new potential or new capabilities for the use of potential or increase the competitiveness of the company are strategic.
TacticsAll measures with which we implement a strategy or which serve to implement an existing business model are tactical.
pragmatic distinction

This is a very pragmatic distinction that is primarily intended to make it easier to classify in everyday life. When making the distinction, we base our distinction primarily on the impact on the potential that the company uses in its markets or the potential that represents the company’s capabilities. When it comes to skills, we primarily take into account the ability to develop and use potential and competitiveness.

If you want to develop your professional competence in distinguishing between these two levels, I recommend the external resources linked at the end of the blog.

Practical distinction

Below are some examples to make the distinction easier based on the definition listed above.

Processing existing marketsTactical, because an activity within the framework of the existing business model – does not open up new potential for the company.
Aquire new marketsStrategic because it opens up new potential for the company.
development of existing business capabilitiesTactical, if no new potential is developed.
Applying existing company capabilities to new fieldsStrategically, if it opens up new potential for the company.
Developing new business capabilitiesStrategic if it opens up new potential or achieves greater competitiveness.
Development of a new productStrategic if it opens up new potential or achieves greater competitiveness.
Examples of distinguishing between tactical and strategic activities.

Example social media strategy

You can tell whether a social media strategy is a real strategy or just a tactical collection of measures by whether the strategy is based on the potential that social media can contribute to the success of the business model. So if we have developed a social media strategy based on the benefits of social media, this indicates that it really is a strategy and not a more or less arbitrary collection of tactical measures.

StrategyA strategy is based on the knowledge of the benefits that are possible with social media for the company’s business model and on the decision of which benefits we want to and can realize for the business model.
We therefore know
– what benefits are possible overall.
– what benefit we want to realize from it
– which benefit of it we can also realize.
The strategy is therefore geared to the benefits that we want to and can realize and thus, in the final analysis, an “economy of resources” (Clausewitz).
arbitrary tactical collection of measures (without strategy)In an arbitrary tactical collection of measures, we use the measures that we believe will contribute to the company’s success.
We don’t know what overall benefits would be possible, and we usually don’t know whether the measures we have planned can be successful in competition.
Above all, we do not know whether the proposed measures are actually using our company resources in the required economic manner.
The different effects between a real social media strategy and an arbitrary collection of tactical measures.


  • If company resources are used economically in an arbitrary set of tactical measures, it is largely a matter of chance.
  • In a social media strategy, the economic use of company resources is the result of knowledge and conscious decisions.
  • Measures in social media without a strategy usually lead to a less economical and successful use of company resources.
  • Measures in social media without a strategy generally contribute significantly less to the success of the business model.

Internal resources on social media strategy

Strategy models in social media

Action options

Strategy or package of measures?

Basis of a social media strategy

Individual posts about social media strategy

External resources on strategy

For your questions

Strategy is a vast and complex field. This is especially true on social media.

  • If you have any questions about this, I would be pleased and I will try to answer them as best as I can. You can reach me via the contact form on this website, by email or via LinkedIn.
  • If you want to delve deeper into the topic and take your social media strategy skills to a new level, I recommend my course on social media strategy development with pbsm.

To the strategy course

Here you can find further information about the pbsm.strategy course.