by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded
There has been a request for my thoughts on advertising and social media, similar to the previous blog (Advertising vs Public Relations). I will admit that my experience in social media isn’t as deep as in other areas, but then again, social media hasn’t been around that long either. Another disclaimer is that I don’t have it figured out. And, because social media is fairly new, I don’t think anyone else has. What I can offer is what I currently see as the strengths and weakness of social media and how to incorporate it into your overall marketing strategy.
1. Social media is the new public relations
In today’s marketing world, social media is the new battleground for public relations. Because of the grassroots nature of the medium and it’s so democratized, PR is well suited to leverage this tactic. At it’s core, the principles are the same, just in a different form. Social media is about open conversation and influencing via one-on-one conversions. Though the conversion happens quickly, it’s still individuals talking to individuals.
2. You risk being hijacked
Its strength is also your greatest weakness. Your brand can, and sometimes, will be hijacked whether you like it or not. Social media allows anyone to say anything about your brand and company, even if it’s misguided or completely false. This forces you to commit to staffing surfers and writers to communicate your brand and key messages on social sites critical to your business. If the false information catches on or if your brand is being taken somewhere you don’t want it to go, you are forced to increase advertising and marketing spend to retake your brand and establish your key messages. (Of course, if you invested enough in advertising and marketing in the first place, you can lower the risk of hijacking.)
3. Love is not all you need
Some claim that social media is all you need because the world is “always on”. In fact, I know there are companies who have started their business to service exclusively in the “social media marketing” arena. To me that’s a too thin-a-slice of marketing to carry very much weight on its own, especially in the minds of most CMOs. There are small niches that do well, but my problem with these niche social media companies, is they often give seminars on if you blog, participate in social sites, tweet, etc. that you can build your brand to critical mass. You don’t need advertising or “old school” marketing. Of course, some of their heroes are brands that GIVE away their product/platform/service and most are struggling to find out how to make money or just break even. The same marketing physics apply, you can’t live on just advertising or public relations, and you can’t live on just social media.
4. Social media allows you to learn
This is one of it’s greatest strengths. You get to hear, first hand, what is the real perception of your brand and how well your key messages communicating. It gives you great feedback on how your marketing is doing. If you’re reading and hearing bad buzz in the social media world, you can strategize on how to adjust your marketing to address these perceptions. It also forces you to be nimble and quick to act. (see my blog on “Marketing strategies in the new economy”)
5. Social media carries authenticity
Done correctly, social media buys you street cred with your audience. You have the opportunity to turn negatives into positives by being real, showing that you listen, and that you actually acted on their feedback. You also get confirmation when a key message hits the target. What others are saying carries a lot of weight. If you can be perceived that you are engaging in honest, open conversation, you can become a trusted source within the social networks that are important to your brand.
Integrating social media into your mix is important. It’s a whole new frontier that still needs to be experimented with and lessons gleaned. In our agency, social media falls under the domain of public relations. This group is best suited to participate in this arena. So, as a result, social media becomes part of the tactics that is part of the overall public relations strategy. The feedback coming from this arena gives advertising a great guide on next steps or if there is a problem or if we’ve nailed it. Social media is not the be-all-end-all. It’s another tool to leverage to present your brand in the best light possible.