Sunday, March 28, 2010

Social Media’s Role as the Great Energizer

Is social media marketing a replacement for traditional communications tactics?

It’s a question I often receive during a new business presentation. That’s because the return on investment for a social media initiative is typically more measurable and comprehensive than advertising, direct marketing, event promotion and public relations.

While many consultants focus on the community-building, awareness creation and brand positioning of social media, I view that as merely the natural outcome of participation in online communities and social networks. It’s almost an unintended consequence.

Rather, social media emerges as a true driver of the business when its success benchmarks are closely entwined with the objectives of the sales team – lead generation, cultivation of prospect relationships and deal capture.

For corporate executives measured on the top-line revenue growth and profitability of the organization (and that is most everyone), the lure of social media can be compelling.

Which brings me back to the question: has social media made other channels of communication obsolete?

Absolutely not. While there may be a business case to shift budget and spend to social, and more Web and digitally-oriented programs, I never suggest that a company jettison its commitment to traditional forms of marketing promotion.

In fact, social media can often serve as an energizer of these tactics by helping an organization realize additional benefit and return from ad campaigns, trade show participation and direct mail.

Let’s look at a recent example.

Earlier this month, Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) participated in the Satellite 2010 conference in Washington, DC. We’ve been a regular at this annual fete for international satellite companies for nearly a decade, typically walking the show floor to chat up clients and prospects.

This year I presented a challenge to my colleague Jeff Majka who leads Strategic’s marketing and business development efforts: on a tight budget and timeline, how do you best develop tactical social media activities for a specific event and align them with measurable goals in lead generation and prospect relationship building?

His solution included us playing the role of a journalist and market influencer. We developed and published content specifically for the conference in partnership with companies we identified as prospective clients. The effort was low-cost, quickly implemented, measurable, and executed with both marketing and sales resources.


Anonymous said...

hey marc -- i liked your post until the end where you say that your solution was playing the role of a journalist. I can't tell you how many trades shows i've been to where someone plays the role of a journalist upon first approaching us, then turns out they're not. It comes across too much like a bait and switch or play to play unless you make it clear up front. If i were a prospective client you reached out to at the show thinking you were interested in my company for the "news value" then read this post, I might think you were being a bit disingenuous.

Marc Hausman said...

@anonymous - you raise an excellent point about transparency. It's something we talked about quite a bit prior to the Satellite Conference.

In no way did we ever misrepresent who we were and our motivation for an interview. We focused on ensuring the experience would be mutually rewarding. Check out the blog when you have a moment:

The content is strong and each post was tagged with a set of key words request by our target prospect.

Davina K. Brewer said...

Marc, ITA that social media marketing does not replace the other "traditional" strategies. It's a tool, another club in the bag that when used correctly as you say, can really improve your game and energize an existing marketing program.

The biggest takeaway here: strategy and objectives. If the goals of the program are leads, prospects and sales, then develop your campaign that way. DON'T pitch and sell via social media like you'd use the old channels; that's a quick fail. Do the work, use SM tools to make connections and develop relationships that give you those leads. FWIW.

Anonymous said...

An interesting read

I agree with Davina who says SM is 'another club in the bag' however it is an extremely powerful and versatile club that have positive and negative effects on the business.

But I also feel that in the long run, SM will replace traditional communications channels and mass market one-size- fits-all tactics used with those channels. It may not be twitter or FB etc but as the desire for personalised products and immediacy grows, SM will ensure companies are able to communicate and offer value based on individual needs for value.

As McKinsey recently pointed out, 'traditional marketers spend about 60 percent of their budgets on “working media” (or paid placement), 20 percent on creating content, and the balance on employees and agencies. Digital channels, with their social nature, reverse these economics, focusing on a smaller core of engaged people who can spread positive impressions, or simply share information, with a broader audience. Active digital marketers tend to devote about 30 percent of their marketing budgets to paid media and 50 percent to content. Customers do more of the heavy lifting as they decide what to look at, play with content, and forward it to their online communities.'

What companies cannot ignore is not only the opportunity to communicate directly with individual clients, something they've craved for decades, but also the substantial cost savings available if they make the migration to SM.