Has social media really become a standalone marketing tool?
As a marketing communications integrator, I look to define and evaluate the added strength that converged, combined, and integrated media channels bring to the marketing table.
After many tests, I still find social media to be a developing communications medium and one that needs to be viewed as a media tool—a channel rather than a standalone strategy.
In my search to determine if social media is truly social or whether it has become saleable media – or both, I have found many on both sides of the argument. The argument becomes more complex when you attempt to determine whether social media is a channel or a strategy.
My journey has brought me in touch with Yves Salama, consultant and principal at Teem'd, an innovator in the channel offering of social media.
Teem'd: A contraction of team, teeming with ideas and teaming up
Yves, via Teem'd assist companies, is in the process of organising and deploying social media teams in direct collaboration with the marketing teams and is supportive of the channel over strategy argument.
The tactical goal is to develop social media capability and extend it from silo-based marketing groups to include the integration of communications, public relations, customer support (CRM), business units, and regional groups, while staying on message and moving toward goals.
Is social meant to be social media and not saleable media?
My understanding of social is that it should be an interaction between like-minded or like-interested people, groups, and brands—true circle of marketing life.
Social needs to be shared, commented upon, responded to; the basis of social is that it also needs to be democratic, allowing all to participate at a level that is personally defined and shared.
The core mission of Teem'd is to provide this balance. How? By making it easier to communicate with fans, friends, stakeholders, and audience up and down the sales funnel via an integrated (strategic) social media program.
- Organisations are already busy communicating with all:
- Stakeholders and employees: C-suite, PR, HR, communication
- Suppliers and partners: product management, operations
- Customers: customer support, service, sales
- Prospects: sales, marketing
These organisations use tools that Yves calls "the marketing front line." The problem is a front line is doomed if the background (the back office, the supply line, the process of supporting the front line) is non-existent or weak.
Teem'd, as do some others, offers the chain of command, the supply line to keep the front line feed on target, supported, and, when needed, replaced with a fresh (new message) front line.
The concept of the front line also means that social is the first avenue of "contact" or touching the target feeding the messaging.
Using email, phone, ads, articles, interviews, press releases, websites, social media, and conferences to get the word out—I would include legacy media, new media, and emerging media as part of the highly targeted integrated marketing mix—the front line becomes truly a brand pivot point ready to "attack" the needed targeted market or markets.
In Teem‘d's view each department (brand) has the know-how to address its own audience but does not know the many complex and contrasting issues of related markets.
It's difficult to transfer these skills, data, and knowledge to a social media manager.
Sooner or later, these managers find themselves in a game of broken telephone, and the message eventually published on social media is not the one initially expressed by everybody on the marketing front line. In short, a failed effort occurs, and an attack is not integrated and is nearly always doomed.
Is the front line leading or following?
The challenge: How to make the marketing frontline also the frontline developed for the overall marketing and communications plan on social and related media.
I see the problem as a view of social media regarded as a channel and not a strategy. Yves states, and I agree, "Social media engages—we can like, share, comment and respond."
All social media tools have that in common. But the audience on Facebook is different from that on LinkedIn. As in nearly all social media, there is overlap, but as they say "not so much."
Soon the brand drowns with too much information. Interpreting outcomes eats up time, justifying new tools and metrics
B2C will do better in the first, B2B in the second; but the need is to present the target and brand better across all media, enabling via targeted integration a successful effort.
Yves continues: "The different channels are only part of the same overall marketing strategy. The challenge is to make sure they are aligned and integrated into a set of clear business objectives."
Is the current use of social much like astrology and magic?
Social media continues to evolve, fast—perhaps too fast—and with little (it seems) supervision. Just when we get the hang of posting on Facebook or Twitter, they add images and video.
The metrics are becoming more nuanced (magic) and detailed with little definition (astrology). We started out with a number of fans and followers (our audience or reach), then added impressions, locations, and demographics (their engagement).
And we're getting better with more details -- eight retweets, four favorites, six mentions, 12 clicks, among the 24-34 and 35-44, between men and women, etc. Comparing this week to last becomes difficult.
Today’s post drew 12 clicks compared to 24 last week—but more men than women, etc. but how valuable is this data, this reporting?
The social media landscape is also changing
Audiences continue to grow—creating a more competitive and complex landscape.
New competing channels are emerging: Instagram, instant messaging, Snapchat, - what is next? Brands develop new strategies: User-generated content, including context influencer blogs and personalities.
Soon the brand is drowning with too much information and interpreting outcomes eats up more time, justifying new tools and metrics, which justifies newer tools and metrics.
Overlaying that data on top of the awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and purchase funnel requires a data analyst (astrologer), then a data scientist (magician). We keep changing the baseline and methodology.
The danger is that it gets too complicated, and we forget to relate performance to sales, which is the ultimate goal of marketing and the final outcome of the magic of marketing.
No matter how you see social media—as magical, effective, or ineffective, the course that is being steered by the magicians at Facebook and others is defining the metrics to the betterment of social media not to the betterment of the brand. Perhaps a tool such as Teem'd can be the brand’s alchemist that can turn any media into gold.
All media is saleable in the end game.
The issues involve how to connect the consumer’s interpretation to the original purpose of the media. Has social been sold as a social interactive tool that was never intended to be a selling base or was social designed from the outset to be social and a sales tools at the same time?
Teem'd, in my opinion, allows you to control your use of social media, either as a channel (more positive) or as a strategy (less effective).
Over the next six articles I will be focusing on the glue – companies that offer services, support and products that adhere the various media with each other and also provide the critical need of any adhesive, to keep the connection connected under stress.
Send me your recommendations and I will contact firms that you fell meet the criteria of being called marketing glue.
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