It Takes More Than Social Media

I think of quality social marketing as being a skilled socialite. The ability to start a conversation, comment and contribute thoughtfully separates the “life of the party” from everyone else. Social media is attractive to marketers for its low-cost approach to reaching and conversing with fragmented audiences, but it's time we move the strategy of digital marketing into its rightful place: alongside other important marketing tools, so that a conversation can become a call to action. Isn't real integration what we've being trying to achieve for decades? Social media can be the glue for your campaign, but needs to be utilized the right way in order to be effective.

The goal with social media should be to use your social platform as one of many components in a much larger campaign message. Investing time in trying to chase the trending topic is a dangerous game for marketers when it comes to social media. Magnifying the trend in chasing social media started at this year’s Super Bowl with a cookie brand and a single, topical picture. Oreo tweeted and posted the “blackout” picture, with the simple line “you can still dunk in the dark,” and saw roaring success. 

While the Oreo picture received massive amounts of chatter and glowing praise from the press (15,000 retweets and Facebook “likes” within a few hours), the jury is still out on whether the move translated into sales. Let us not forget that Oreo had a television spot during the Super Bowl (which came at a hefty price), and Oreo also tried the same social strategy during the Grammys and the Oscars, but received far less fanfare and press. It is worth noting that during the Super Bowl, Tide and Calvin Klein attempted similar “real-time” messages, with little or no press in comparison to Oreo. Yet, that “grab-the-moment” Oreo tweet still received positive reactions from a plethora of publications, maybe even overshadowing the television spot. Perhaps, the real reason Oreo was so successful is that it was ready with its creative team and the decision makers and then was willing to talk about “how they worked together” in the immediacy of the situation. Going the extra mile during the Super Bowl weekend – now, that’s a topic for party conversation.

It is hard to ignore the elephant-in-the-room question, “What exactly are marketers chasing with social media?,” particularly, when there is so little data to show that these efforts affect sales. A recent AdAge study showed that beverage giant Coca-Cola found little to no correlation between its online buzz and increased sales metrics. Coke later posted an article from its VP of integrated marketing, Wendy Clark, which stated that its campaigns are a “combination of owned, earned, shared and paid media connections – with social playing a crucial role at the heart of our activations,” according to the article on

I concur with Ms. Clark's statement. Social is only one of the many important tools in your marketing toolbox. The focus should be on crafting a well-thought-out, creative marketing campaign, with social media serving as one of many components of your platform. Social media provides the opportunity for a multi-channel approach and a more integrated campaign. A recent Nielsen study shows that nearly 90% of all brands are using some type of integrated model for their campaigns in 2013, proving social marketing is necessary to reach your audience.  Social is in print, television and on site at events; it’s important for the campaign, and a tool that can help connect the message across multiple platforms. But, that message should be yours and engaging enough to spark action. 

The Oreo blackout picture, albeit successful, shows just how much farther marketers still have to go in harnessing the power of social marketing. For marketers, the social media strategy should relate to your activation, creative and all other aspects of your marketing campaign. The possibilities of what brands can do with social marketing are only growing, but brands need to realize that it is only one of the many tools needed to become the life of the party.

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