Integrating social media into your marketing mix

You must never see social media marketing efforts as an end in themselves

Social media offers an amazing array of opportunities for the marketer who knows how to use them to full effect. Social media isn’t an end in itself, however, and it is best used to complement other marketing strategies rather than used as a sole marketing priority. An effective integration strategy recognises the relationship between social media and traditional marketing efforts, establishes realistic strategies for implementation, understands the limitations of social media and produces measurable results.

How does social media relate to traditional marketing

Whether you’re talking about “older” social media, for example blogging, or today’s hottest networking tools such as Facebook, you need to establish a clear relationship between the social media you use and your traditional marketing efforts. A blog, for example, is a great way to get attention from your customers. Once you have a potential customer’s attention, however, it’s time to funnel them into your existing marketing model.

Think about this in the context of your Facebook page. Your Facebook page, then, should contain the bare essentials of your marketing message and provide incentive for your potential customers to visit your own Web site, walk through the doors of your business, or call and order a product. Driving fans to your Facebook page will do little for you if you can’t then convert those fans into customers.

You must never see social media marketing efforts as an end in themselves.

Realistic social media marketing strategies

There are a number of social media marketing models out there that are just simply ridiculous. They rely on developing your potential client pool via misdirection and technological tricks. They aim your social media efforts at a target demographic, but it’s not the demographic you want: it is people who fall for the particular approach.

A wonderful example of what kind of strategy to avoid is a Twitter reciprocal follower strategy. Under this strategy, you follow as many people as you can on Twitter, focusing your efforts on users who tend to automatically follow anyone who follows them. This kind of shotgun approach is nearly useless, as the one common identifying characteristic has nothing to do with your product or target market.

Instead, your social media marketing strategies need to follow the same guiding principles as your other marketing efforts. Keep your social media efforts narrowly focused on your target market, and try to utilise social media in a way that reflects your business' overall approach to getting new customers.

You need to recognise social media for what it is: a vehicle by which you can open a dialogue with your potential client base.

What social media cannot do

Despite what you may have heard, social media isn’t always the best area to focus your marketing efforts. Social media has its limitations.

For example, it’s extremely difficult to make any headway in social media without some brand recognition to start with. Yes, you can utilise social media to increase brand recognition, but simply having a Facebook page isn’t going to draw in fans. Social media can’t promote itself.

Social media also can’t insure your customers are retained. You can use social media as a vehicle for customer retention efforts, to be sure, but if your customers aren’t happy with your product and your customer service, no amount of blogging coming through their RSS feed is going to make them feel better about it.

Measuring your results

Like any other marketing effort, you need to be able to assess the effectiveness of your social media marketing efforts. There are two components to this measurement: internal and external metrics.

Internal metrics include things like how many followers you have on Twitter or fans on Facebook. Internal metrics, by themselves, don’t tell you whether or not a campaign is working. What they tell you is, very simply, how much attention you’re drawing.

That’s why you need to be able to measure the effectiveness of your social media marketing efforts outside of the social media realm. You need to look at traffic to your own website, direct customer contacts and, most significantly, sales. If your product blog has a negligible effect on sales, it doesn’t matter how many subscribers you have.

Social media can indeed mix well with traditional marketing efforts. You just need to keep social media in their place and focus on integration if you want to see measurable success.

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IDG Online Staff

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