One of the things I’m seeing now as the buzz on social media marketing and measurement is increasing in volume (not quite a vuvuzula levels but close) is that people (marketers in particular) are treating social media as a new distinct marketing channel. Of course we’ve seen some companies run single-channel social media campaigns, but the medium wasn’t “designed” that way, and only a few hip B2C brands can actually pull that off.
I see five primary reasons why social media is so disruptive to marketing departments, and difficult to get a grip on for so many companies - both large and small:
- Social media is not a distinct marketing channel unto itself (below)
- Social media is constantly changing
- The marketing department is no longer in charge of messaging
- Social media requires entire businesses to become more transparent and truly authentic
- It is both less and more measurable than any broadcast advertising
There are plenty of articles out there on the tactics of social media, social media suicide, and the top things that marketers need to not do when trying to leverage social media, but these are symptomatic of these big picture problems.
I’ll cover each of these big picture items in subsequent posts, starting here with #1:
Social Media is NOT A Marketing Channel Unto Itself
It’s an Extension of All Channels and Departments
Social media is a direct conversation with the public. It is an extension of the entire business and it complements every other channel and every other department. This is a huge distinction from traditional media, email, outdoor, print, etc. It’s all about two way communication, not defined one-way messaging.
I just read this MediaPost article recapping a survey that found that most companies that are ‘doing’ social media don’t have a social media strategy. Having a strategy where social media efforts compliment other integrated marketing efforts through direct conversation is just as much of a plan as running a distinct social media campaign. In fact, that is probably better for most companies. But, I’m not that nuance was captured in this survey.
Social media should alert people to things the company is doing, from promotions, to product, to customer support, to partnerships. It’s the voice of the company, and it doesn’t require a ton of money to use effectively. Even worse - it requires internal coordination and communication! It’s much harder for companies to agree on a single voice than it is for them to spend gobs of money to overcome public perception or competitive pressures.
The first thing that marketers should do is educate their company that using social media means that whoever’s in charge of the social media team needs to know what’s going on – company-wide. In that way, it’s very much like PR, but the information has to flow at both the macro (company to customer) and micro level (customer service rep to customer).
Getting this information to the social media group in a timely manner is critical so discussion that compliment print, coupon, banner ad promotions can be timed effectively. Customer service information can be incorporated intelligently into conversations. So that special social media-only promotions can be run in conjunction with campaigns of any sort. So customer raves can be posted. And so that any backlash, criticism or crisis control can be effectively discussed, without backlash or additional controversy.
To set an example for the company on communicating effectively, marketers should plan a social media component into every campaign (no matter how small the campaign or component) until it becomes second nature. The CMO should also ensure that someone in each channel has a direct line of communication to a centralized social media team, again providing a clear example of how he's like this function to work with other departments.
Social Media is changing the landscape of the company, and it starts with the marketing team. More to come...