Technology has increased the pace of change and provided new options to engage us. Social Media falls into that category…but why all the buzz?

The growth of social media as a communication platform has caused many companies to jump in, wanting to gain immediate benefit from this new strategy. But social media is not a strategy; it’s a tactic with enormous buzz.

Many companies have pushed ahead without considering their current marketing strategies, the ways in which social media differs from traditional marketing tactics, or the enabling support required for effective social media relationships.

For the purpose of this blog, I’ve made some assumptions…
Amongst other things, your business plan has a defined marketing strategy that addresses your competitive environment. You have identified a clear positioning for your product or service, which includes unique attributes that are relevant to your target group. You have identified traditional marketing tactics and key messages to deliver to your target group as part of the business strategy. If you don’t have a robust business plan, please consider creating one first.

Social media without an effective marketing strategy is not very productive; marketing without an effective social media component is antiquated. As you think about the available tools to achieve your corporate or brand objectives, start thinking of social media as complementary to traditional marketing.  The integration of new and traditional marketing should work in tandem to deliver your goals.

To better understand the challenge of integration, consider a few of the differences between traditional marketing and social media tactics.

Delivery platform – Social media is person-to-person (P2P), rather than B2B or B2C. Traditional marketing is one-way, fixed in time, and unalterable. Social media is an ongoing two-way communication, and fluid with unlimited real time commentary.

Content – With social media you can’t just talk about your company or brands, you need to create and deliver content that’s valuable to your network, while still supportive of your positioning.

Control – Traditional marketing is about control of the message and imagery, while social media invites freedom of expression and sharing regarding the brand. This real-world openness is something new for most companies. While the communication is now P2P and lightening fast, brands need to be true to their positioning to ensure authenticity.

Metrics – Marketers have invested enormous resources over the years to understand the correlations between traditional marketing spend and sales. Since social media is about building relationships, metrics may seem to be warm and fuzzy… # of Retweets, Comments, or Likes. These measures of engagement will inevitably evolve over time. Additionally, there may be many robust social media metrics available, depending on the application.

Integration Considerations

The successful integration of traditional marketing and social media hinges upon a solid understanding of the role each plays in attracting, connecting, and converting potential prospects. Some considerations as you move forward….

  1. Start with the understanding that consumers are active on social media to hang out. This is a relationship venue, not a setting for promotion – speak. Consumers are unlikely to respond to social media ads, and more likely to engage and share relevant content with friends.
  2. Develop useful content to enhance the chances for interest and social sharing. Provide customer reviews, pertinent product information, and invite interaction through posting a question or asking for input. Ultimately, your objective is the same as it is with traditional media…. to connect their lives with your products. Be consistent with your overall brand or corporate messaging, but with delivery adapted to the media.
  3. Make sure you keep your content fresh and relevant. For example, if you see customer complaints, resolve the issue and blog about how you quickly addressed it. If your product or service is seasonal, comment on how you see the start of the season, and why.
  4. Learn through continuous experimentation. Some social media platforms will be a better fit with your company or brand than others. Keep the dialogue going and ask for feedback to ensure the right messages get out.
  5. While we may have been led to believe social media is cheap and easy to execute, you’ll need to allocate resources to execute your social media plan. These will include people to engage (Tweet/ Blog/ Post) on behalf of your business, as well as training and technology.
  6. Continue customer relationships initiated through social media with traditional forms of marketing where you can more readily convert these relationships to sales. In a B2B environment, this may rely heavily on email or personal selling, while B2C situations may include media and promotion techniques. Again, be consistent with your positioning while recognizing the execution differences between media.

The Value of Integration

The real benefit of integration is in consistent communication of your positioning, while building customer loyalty and strong relationships over time. Get the overall marketing strategy in place first, and then determine the tactics to be deployed. Social media can be a non threatening part of the relationship process, while traditional media can work in tandem to more fully address needs as prospects evolve through the purchase funnel.