Social Media is a Tactic Not a Tool

Advertising, Branding, Online Marketing, Social Media Jan 29, 2013 No Comments

Where the Heck Does This Social Media Thing Fit In?

Social media activities should be viewed as tactics that enhance a brand’s overall marketing efforts, not as a new tool replacing traditional methods of promotion. While social media has forever changed the landscape of marketing, beware the thousands of self-proclaimed social media experts, gurus, and authorities offering up opinion on using social media as a substitute for traditional marketing tools.

Has Social Media Replaced Advertising?

The short answer is no. Shouting advertisements at your customer base on social media platforms just doesn’t work. No one in the Twitterverse or on Facebook wants to be bombarded by direct advertising messages couched in 140 character tweets or wall-clogging updates.

For most businesses large or small, advertising continues to be the primary method to effectively generate awareness for your brand. This is not going to change. Social media hasn’t, nor will it, replace traditional advertising, whether your “tradition” is print or digital.

However It Has Made It Better

To be fair, social media platforms have fundamentally changed the way that brands advertise. Social media has made advertising more effective by providing better audience targeting, increasing overall advertising impressions and ad effectiveness. Social media platforms integrate analytics and measurement tools that help marketers adjust campaigns based on the message that works best. As a tactic, social media will not replace advertising, so next year’s budgets should still include marketing dollars for traditional advertising as well as social. Where the ad dollars are spent — outdoor, print, digital, etc. – will depend more on the nature of your business, not on your social media activities.

Social Media Has Forever Changed Public Relations

Back when Edward Bernays started the Public Relations industry, industry professionals carefully crafted and controlled messages in an effort to influence consumer perception, generally via unpaid methods like media placements. PR spinmakers of the past could maintain a stranglehold grip on a message, but in the social media enabled world PR is a new beast altogether.

PR firms have had to refine their efforts, accepting that brand messages are no longer controlled by agents of the brand, but rather are heavily influenced by consumers using platforms like Yelp!, Google Places, and Facebook. As a result, social media tactics are crucial to the tool of public relations. In order to control the message, PR mavens and social community managers must build relationships with a brand’s consumer base where that base congregates on the web, in order to have an impact on how a brand is perceived.

Social Media is Great for Sales Incentives

After Public Relations, offering sales incentives is likely the next best fit for your social media activities. There are social media venues where sales promotions are effective, including both Facebook and Foursquare. Facebook is rife with examples of B2C brand marketing that develops and nurtures a brand-loyal following open to receiving special promos. Coupon sharing and product deals remain some of the most prolific Facebook updates, and have proven success to quickly and efficiently grow a qualified consumer fanbase.

The Power of Social Proofing and Foursquare

And since everyone wants to be the mayor of something or other on Foursquare, the platform offers a unique way to connect with your customers. Relying heavily on the concept of Social Proofing, Foursquare works on a very basic premise — that people are more inclined to support one product or business over another when that product or business is supported by the masses.

By using geolocation tools, Foursquare allows users to scan nearby businesses, viewing exactly how many others (both friends and strangers) have “checked-in” to each business, thus psychologically influencing their choice to patronize one business over another based on sheer numbers of supporters — social proofing. When faced with the option, wouldn’t you choose the full restaurant over the empty one next door? We are creatures of habit, easily influenced by the habits of others. And, Foursquare brilliantly makes use of this phenomenon.

The Bad Marriage of Social Media and Personal Selling

Social media platforms have not historically been good venues for direct or personal selling. However, social media tactics are quite effective when developing general brand awareness, extending customer service activities and overall networking; ideally leading to direct sales. Of course, depending on your business, some social media platforms are more effective than others for such activities. B2C businesses will likely find a better fit with Facebook and Twitter over LinkedIn. Whereas LinkedIn is the #1 tool for B2B networking activities.

Whatever the platform, your activities should focus on developing community. To decide which is best for your particular business, you should probably find an integrated agency that understands that social media activities are tactics, and not tools, that can help you connect with your audience wherever they may be on the web.

Social Media is a Tactic, Not a Tool

We view social media activities as extremely effective tactics that must be part of your arsenal in order for your marketing efforts to be successful. This view won’t make us popular with social media-only agencies, but we strongly believe that social media tactics should be utilized to connect with your audience and reinforce your brand’s promotional elements across your marketing mix. Social media is not meant as a replacement for other activities, but rather a necessary and valuable enhancement to those activities.

After the Social Media Honeymoon

As we move beyond the honeymoon phase with social media, agencies and professional marketers who rely solely on social media as a tool will either cease to exist or will find it necessary to adjust their focus. If you’re working with a strictly social media agency, you’ll likely be looking for a new agency next year.


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