Social Media: A Channel/Tactic, Not A Strategy

How many of us as marketers and at agencies have spent the last few years building up our presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest …?

We finally received a reprieve earlier last month.

A presentation at the Advertising Research Federation’s Re:think 2013 from Coca-Cola indicated that social media buzz had no measurable impact on short-term sales for the carbonated beverage, but online display ads worked as well as TV.

Although I haven’t rushed to give up on Twitter or Facebook, what I read about Coca-Cola's research supports something I have long felt: It’s the Content, Stupid.



In our rush to dive into everything social, we may have lost sight of the fact that social isn’t a strategy but a new and exciting set of channels/distribution paths that enable real-time dissemination of -- and engagement with -- the content we create to market our brands.

I too drank the social media Kool-Aid.

In 2006, I offered all of my BtoB-focused ad technology clients to start corporate blogs for/with them. Fortunately, no one took me up on my offer, because none of these organizations were in the position to produce a continuous stream of relevant and engaging content to support a blog.

Successful marketing in social media is the same as successful marketing through any other channel -- the ability to engage prospects with marketing communications that will move them toward purchase.

What sets social media apart as a channel are the following opportunities:

Engagement:    No other marketing channel enables marketers and prospects to engage so easily and across so many different platforms as shown by the Old Spice marketing team behind ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ campaign.

Real-time:       Few (if any) other marketing channels give us the opportunity to reach out to prospects as immediately as with social media, as the folks marketing Oreo showed us during the Super Bowl.

Inexpensive:    We can establish a presence in any social media platform for free, which is $4 million less than the cost of a 30-second spot in the Super Bowl.

But with each of these social media opportunities come risks.

Engagement is always a risk because we don’t know how our prospects will respond. In the days when engagement resulted in a call to a 1-800 telephone number, the risk was minimal. But today, when consumers can hijack your hashtag en masse to Tweet about a negative experience with your brand in seconds, risk is something that must be considered with social media.

Before planning a social media campaign, the team should run an Engagement Analysis to determine the real risks and opportunities of the campaign. Is this something that our prospects want? Need? Are interested in engaging with? Will it provide them with real value -- or are they just "liking" it to get a discount?

Just because we can engage with our prospects in real-time doesn’t mean we should. We can spend hours trying to plan potential real-time engagements, but they will lack the spontaneity and serendipity of a real, real-time engagement, and our prospects will probably see through it.

Establishing a presence in social media is free, but successful social media implementation by a team that "gets" your brand, your prospects and social media costs real money. It’s not enough to hire a social media guru. It’s more important to hire people who understand your prospects and know your brand.

Social media has created some exciting and productive opportunities to engage with prospects that were not possible a few short years ago. But before you start to plan your next social media campaign, ask yourself: is your content compelling, engaging and relevant to your prospects?



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