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.