Social media strategy is critical to the success of any social media effort. Not having a strategy is like playing baseball without the bases (envision people running everywhere...not a pretty site).

I've seen a multitude of social media and online marketing strategies die for the following reasons:

Lack of support from the executive team. They fail to understand why they can't talk about themselves all the time. They don't "get" the idea of social media. The contractor ends up producing mediocre content and information online and through social media, and continues to think that social media doesn't work.

Lack of setting success criteria. This happens more often than you think. Ever hear the "we want to do a blog" request? The response to that request is "Why?" You'd be surprised how many times contractors have no idea what the strategy is behind the information on their website, blog or Facebook pages. Result: the execution fails.

Lack of talent. Social media takes new skills. Combine a content strategist, a journalist and a marketer, a salesperson, a touch of Walt Whitman and you're halfway there. Just because we can doesn't mean we should, with the talent we have. Hire outside experts to help you. Just because the administrative person in your company has a computer in front of them doesn't necessarily mean they should be writing on your blog or Twitter page.

Lack of consistency. Creating a social media plan is a promise to your customers that you are going to deliver information that helps them solve their pain points. Starting the plan, and then stopping is like sewing up a wound halfway. Painful. HVAC and plumbing contractors from around the world have blogs where the most recent posts are from March of this year or even 2008. Ouch!

Lack of integration. There is no such thing a just a blog, just a Facebook page or just a Twitter account. These things work as part of an online marketing system, which works inside of your entire marketing program. Remember, social media is like butter. It's tough to eat by itself, but it makes lots of things taste better. Social media by itself (in a vacuum) is destined to fail.

Lack of effective outsourcing. Outsource effectively or be effectively outsource. More contractors are outsourcing the content creation for their blogs and social media pages. This makes sense if the business is not going to dedicate time and expertise to creating content on a consistent basis. Outside expertise is mandatory for truly great content (which fuels social media). Find them, use them, make them part of your team.

Lack of a call to action. What do you want people to do when they engage with your content through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? If you don't know, how do you know what success looks like?

Yes, strategy is critical to any social media marketing plan, but execution is and will always be king.

Click here for a free educational webinar on Why Contractors Should Consider Blogging.

Joe Pulizzi is CEO of SocialTract , a blogging/social media service for HVACR contractors. Joe is also co-author of Get Content Get Customers, which details how companies can publish content to drive revenues. SocialTract is a division of Z Squared Media, LLC . Joe can be reached at joe@socialtract.com . For speaking needs - http://joepulizzi.com.