Defining Social Media Marketing

What does it mean to do "social media marketing"? In talking with various brands and agencies, there are extremely wide-ranging thoughts on what tactics, goals and, most important, resources should be allocated to social media. Let's settle the debate: All marketing is social media marketing.

Most people agree that all media is meant to be social, and that sooner or later all effective media will incorporate more social elements into its creation and distribution. The same logic applies even more so to marketing. All effective marketing activities, from advertising to PR to CRM, will incorporate social media functionality, and the performance of all marketing will be better tracked through social media monitoring. Perhaps that's why there's so much confusion from one company to the next on the role of social media in their organization. Social media is not its own discipline in marketing, as much as a new skill set required for every other marketing discipline.



So when the debate comes up on whether social media is bought, earned or owned media, the answer is simply "yes." While it seems easy for most brands to understand how social media augments and extends their CRM, PR and communications practices, most struggle with properly incorporating the benefits of social technologies into their paid advertising efforts. Too often money is wasted when marketers buy advertising without incorporating social elements and without monitoring the social activities resulting from a paid campaign. Even more often, marketers miss opportunities to execute compelling campaigns by isolating "social media" with its own initiative rather than focusing on how social the larger paid media effort should be.

The first step is to realize that all digital advertising is already social media advertising. Every digital advertising campaign should be designed and trafficked to maximize consumer interaction and can be measured by resulting social activities (liking, sharing, commenting), because these are metrics that extend campaign ROI and can indicate how impactful the actual campaign was.

A media company could build a digital presence without social media elements, but it would be a terrible digital presence. In the same vein, a digital marketing campaign can be executed without social media elements, but it would be a terrible digital marketing campaign. Even television ads are ending in calls to connect on Facebook -- but I think you can expect your digital dollars to do a little better.

It was to address the challenge of understanding exactly how to standardize social media advertising practices that I agreed to join the board of the Social Media Advertising Consortium (if your company does any marketing, I highly recommend getting involved). The question of how to best incorporate social elements, practices and technologies into paid advertising efforts will define winners and losers in  digital marketing for the next two years and the entire marketing industry over the next decade. Seems like a subject worth discussing to me.

What do you think? Drop a comment below, and follow more of the discussion (and some whining about training for a marathon -- I hate running) on Twitter at

8 comments about "Defining Social Media Marketing ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Michael Quintos from Digital Ad Agency, July 27, 2010 at 2:48 p.m.


    I couldn't agree more. We just published a case study on social media and how traditional ad buys are required.

  2. John Ellett from nFusion Group, July 27, 2010 at 2:58 p.m.

    Joe, you nailed the big issue for most marketers. Because social media marketing is a pervasive set of activities, not an isolated set like PPC, it is very difficult for one person or one department to be in charge. Instead, it requires a transformation of thinking and significant new skills building for the entire marketing team. It also requires new corporate guidelines for more decentralized interaction. These are not easy to impact quickly or consistently which is why there is such a mixed level of adoption.


  3. Greg Alvarez from iMeil, July 27, 2010 at 6:17 p.m.

    The big problem is assuming that facebook, twitter and all those social nets out there are what transform a marketing campaign into a "marketing social campaign" one.

    There are a lot of SMBs that think that just joining one social net they are now acting as and developing "social marketing".

    Just imagine that you request your government (local or federal) to be "social"... and as a response, they move most of activities and help to certain social nets, is this right?

    There is a big difference between "social" and "reach" and "coverage".

  4. Tom Troja from Social Sympony, July 28, 2010 at 7:21 a.m.

    "Social media is not its own discipline in marketing, as much as a new skill set required for every other marketing discipline."

    Right On Joe. The trick will be building these social core strengths across orginizations. First they have to admit to themselves and recognize they need them... keep banging this drum.

  5. Jonathan Hall from American Pop, July 28, 2010 at 12:48 p.m.

    Social Media is baffling to some, that's for sure. Many of the definitions for social media in the marketing context has to go back to the basics of how people communicate with each other. For example, if people are passionate about something they talk about it. This simple fact is so relevant to social media. In many cases, Social Media PR is treated as Marketing, in my experience, because it is so consumer focused. If done right, it results in consumers spreading the word to other consumers and bypasses the traditional media influencers.

  6. Caroline Palmer from LP & G, July 28, 2010 at 2:29 p.m.

    so smart! anyone that believes that social media alone will help their business needs to go back to school.

  7. Mark allen Roberts from Out of the Box Solutions, LLC, July 28, 2010 at 8:49 p.m.

    Business leaders look at "social" marketing in the same light as marketing in general....they know they need to do it...but most are not sure what drives results.

    Social Marketing is not a cure all but a complement to your integrated efforts to have conversations with your current and potential buyers.

    Be Leary of "SMORES" ..Social Media Whores who are convinced all you need today is social I discuss in my blog : and click on #15.

    Mark Allen Roberts

  8. Eric Steckel from Turnpike Digital, July 29, 2010 at 1:20 p.m.

    Thanks for this concise statement of what most marketers know to be true. The successful will use Social Media as a way to improve not only their Marketing and Advertising, but all of their communications, be it PR, crisis management or customer care.

    Good luck with the Marathon training. I grudgingly enjoy running but I think my days of 26.2 are behind me.

Next story loading loading..