Is social media part of your marketing toolbox?

Today, marketing is no longer viewed as a series of transactions between a company and its customers: it is about building meaningful, ongoing relationships. The fundamentals of relationship marketing are based on each party not only understanding the tangible benefits they receive from each other: it’s about creating strong emotional bonds between the brand and its user. Social media is all about building such bonds.

IBM was the first large enterprise to promote employee blogging and now has thousands of blogs related to every component of its business. H&R Block hosts a Facebook fan page to combine its social media activities, promote its brand and services, engage customers and offer tax advice. Some high-tech companies are even using social media for technical support and to convey messaging about new releases and security updates. The ways in which social media can be used to promote a business are limited only by your imagination.

However, social media is not the whole story. It is just one tool within a fully integrated marketing mix. The full suite of marketing tools goes beyond traditional advertising or direct mail to create a full spectrum of benefits:

1.  Raise Awareness (e.g., the traditional function of advertising)
2.  Provide Information and context (long copy print, and Web 1.0)
3.  Induce Action (direct response)
4.  Promote Engagement (Web 1.5)
5.  Establish Brand Advocacy (public relations, Web 2.0 and social media)

Naturally, this model oversimplifies the results you can expect from each tool. You can expect many cross-platform benefits: Good advertising can promote engagement and move product, just as social media can raise awareness and sell, too.

As always, it’s essential to understand and embrace new media and the invaluable new tools they provides … while remembering to bring your full marketing kit to your next planning meeting.

– Ken Tencer