Social Media's Role In A Media Plan

What role should social media play in a marketer's media plan? It's funny that something with the word "media" in its name isn't a shoe-in as a line item on most media plans. But the truth is that social media pulls more commonly from the "experimental" budgets (re: leftover or test) rather than the main "planned" media budget.

The even funnier thing is that this is both shocking and not surprising. It's shocking, given the reach and depth of connection social media offers, yet not surprising because no one has unlocked social media in a way that demonstrates return on marketing objectives, such as reasonable expected range of outcome at for set amount of resource allocation. If you are a brand or an agency, there is not much more you can do but test various methods and watch longingly as your potential brand advocates and customers participate in a media category without you. But it's not the end of the world, as long as your competitors don't figure out how to benefit from social media in a scalable manner before you.



Balancing the attractiveness of the social media opportunity and the cost-benefit analysis of current social media advertising methods leaves us back at the start. What role should social media play in your media plan? I will be moderating this topic at OMMA Social next week. And I can't believe my luck, as I am looking forward to finding at least a couple of answers, given the amazing panel I will be leading. The panel is titled "Media Plans: Additive or Core Ingredient? Putting Social Media in the Mix" ( consists of: Joe Marchese, president, (who I hear is very funny and good-looking) Augustine Fou, SVP, digital strategist, MRM Worldwide Greg Verdino, Chief Strategy Officer, Crayon David Berkowitz, director of emerging media and client s trategy, 360i Rich Gagnon, Chief Media Officer, Draft FCB Adam J. Broitman, director of emerging and creative strategy, Morpheus Media.

Since I will be moderating, I thought I would get a couple of my thoughts out now. No surprise, I think social media should be a core component of your marketing mix. But test first. Social media marketing should have to pass the same test any other business relationship would. Allocate a reasonable budget to various social media marketing initiatives and analyze the results.

Once you find results that are favorable, or even comparable to your other online or offline marketing activities, look to scale those efforts, and continue to monitor return. The cost of monitoring your return this closely might throw off your ROI in the short run, but as you scale your efforts, testing results will become a smaller component of cost.

A lot of marketers would claim to be doing this, but they are not. What is more common is allocating far less budget to social media and looking at it more like buying a lottery ticket. Meaning: they're pinning their hopes on something going viral (aka winning the lottery) and if it doesn't, at least the expense wasn't too high.

Every marketer looks at social media and wants "The Blair Witch Project" (low budget, cultural phenomenon). Instead, they end up with a string of social media tests that seem to suggest they can't drive ROI from social media marketing. Let me be clear: There is no such thing as "free media," free media is just media you achieve by spending your time and money on developing assets that reduce the amount of money you had to spend to "buy media."

Throwing money at social media doesn't work, either. Achieving success in social media requires commitments longer than many campaigns are scheduled to run. So don't spread your social media budget over some artificial timeline created by your media plan, but regard it as an "always on" component. You can always scale up and down at appropriate times, given business cycles or product releases. But keeping a consistent presence can allow you to reap the full benefits of social media.

I would love to get your ideas about what specific questions to ask the panel. We will not be discussing the theory of social media, but rather actionable practices for developing asocial media presences with measurable results. What question would you ask this panel?

P.S. I gave in and started twittering...I am going to commit to it for a while and try to tweet at least twice a day. Feel free to find me at: @ joemarchese.

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