Social media is a marketing decision

Social media is a polarising force among marketers.  Self-proclaimed gurus, and even business publications like the Harvard Business Review, spew out provocative pronouncements like “Traditional marketing is dead”, “Advertising is dead” and “Advertising agencies just don’t get social media.”

Antagonists respond that social media doesn’t sell and demand “Show me the ROI”.  I doubt that there has ever been as controversial an addition to the marketing manager’s arsenal.

Experienced marketers have long understood the need for an integrated marketing campaign.  The benefits of supporting a print campaign with a frequency medium like radio advertising, or an electronic campaign with something you can touch and feel, are well understood.  Even Google uses direct mail to promote their Google Ads!  Adding social media into your marketing mix is the same thing.

Brand managers are inundated with proposals touting the “ideal” marketing opportunity.  Lithe, leggy promoters on street corners, displays in supermarkets, branded barriers on sports fields, skywriting, scratch and sniff, samples and celebrity spokesmen,  Gatefolds, advertorials, split pages, QR codes, publicity and promotional gifts.  The options are almost endless.

And it is the responsibility of the brand manager or marketing manager to evaluate each opportunity based on the brand strategy and the full range of options and resources available, asking themselves:

  • Is this right for my brand?
  • Does it reach the right market?
  • Does it align with my brand values?
  • Is the environment suitable for my brand image?
  • Will this add value to my campaign or distract from it?
  • Should it replace some other activity that might no longer be as suitable?
  • Will I spread my resources too thinly if I include this?
  • Will this opportunity dissipate my budget and make it less productive, or add value?

And the same process should certainly apply to an evaluation of social media for your particular marketing environment.  It is, after all, just another marketing vehicle.

Suggesting that traditional advertising is dead is disrespectful and smacks of ignorance of the marketing process.  But dismissing social media as a waste of time, or suitable only for teenagers, is just as prejudiced.

I’d argue that every business needs some kind of online presence, and social media is an accessible great way to achieve this.  But you don’t need to be on every social media network.  Each has their own particular strengths and the choice of which to use is entirely dependent on your business.

Pinterest is the fastest growing social media site internationally, and is the second biggest social media network used by South Africans, accounting for almost 15% of social media engagement in South Africa.  It’s still far behind Facebook, which accounts for 60%, but if your business is associated with, for example, décor, food or weddings, Pinterest is ideal for you.

On the other hand, if you’re marketing a legal firm or consulting engineers, you’d do better to choose LinkedIn.  It has only about 1% of the social media market in South Africa, but if you’re in the business of B2B marketing, this is where you’ll make contact with the right people.

Social media is not just a flash in the pan. It’s certainly different from traditional advertising, but it’s a valuable marketing tool and a great way for professional marketers to engage with their target market.

Related articles:
Warning, your expertise could wreck your content marketing campaign
How a small ad agency reached page one on Google Search (And how you can too!)



  1. Pat Pughe-Parry on September 26, 2013 at 11:42

    Great article Ann, though I think the title should be Social Media is a Business Decision rather than a marketing decision. Company execs can no longer just network on the golf course & hide behind PAs, Marketing and PR depts. Too many companies also expect their web designers to manage their Social Media due to a basic lack of tech knowhow and most of these folk haven’t a clue about marketing. SM provides great opportunities for everyone in the company to build the brand but must be in a structured way.

    • Ann Druce on September 26, 2013 at 19:28

      Yes, we need to distinguish between people who are technically competent, creatively talented and strategically minded. Of course there are some people who are all three, but most of us are stronger in one area than another, and it doesn’t make sense to leave your marketing to someone who is technically brilliant, but not so strong on marketing strategy.

  2. Garth James on April 5, 2013 at 11:25

    I am glad that you mentioned marketing to consulting engineers! Linked In, I agree, may be the answer, but what I notice is that people Link In to make contact and then nothing really happens except for the occasional e-mail but I think it is developing and growing. I notice Professional Groups are working to an extent but they get killed off by some members doing hard selling instead of subtle technical marketing. I have seen full on sparring going on between aggressive “marketers” and designers. Facebook does not fit the consulting engineer or contractor profile but Twitter might for the younger engineers (not teenagers!). We feel that to go the social media route to market our brands and products a full time marketing apprentice would have to be employed to monitor and run the process. One also runs the danger of dealing with “domestic” tweets that may “trivialise” our market drive! We know we have to participate sooner rather than later. Keep the debate alive Ann!

    • Ann Druce on April 8, 2013 at 09:10

      You are so right, and I plan to write on the pointlessness of joining any club and not using their facilties. Watch this space!

      And the quality of groups certainly varies, and it takes an active moderation team to keep out the hard sell and the spam. The choice of groups is key, and sometimes finding the right groups is a process that can take time (and resource.)

  3. Charlene Erasmus on April 3, 2013 at 17:20

    Well put Ann. The quicker brands start integrating their social media activity into their marketing strat and realise it’s not a ‘flash in the pan’ effort, the quicker they’ll start seeing that ROI!

  4. Alma on April 3, 2013 at 10:45

    Excellent points, Ann.

  5. Ginny on April 2, 2013 at 13:39

    Lots of marketers could do with this reminder…

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