The Importance (and Limitations) of Social Media

Social media can keep you in touch with customers, clients, industry professionals who can share a lot to help your marketing campaign… but is it really indespensable?

I’ve been doing social media marketing for years now, and I can tell you it is very important, for all of the reasons listed above, and it will only get more prominent. But there are a lot of SMM (social media marketing) evangelists out there, almost all of whom overstate its importance. Having a sound marketing plan is far more important, but you don’t hear a lot of people speaking to that. (And I’ll admit, it might be because that’s so obvious.)

Why are there so many “Social Media Experts” on Twitter? I think because they actually sell SMM services. Twitter will always be a place where we marketers meet to voice our own expertise so we can get jobs. I think the reason there’s such a sizable bubble in social media is that the news media recognizes that there is something new brewing on line, and they want to be on top of it – not just network news or the even more illustrious E! Network – but Wall Street Journal and Business Week.

I think this gives managers a false impression of how important social media is – though it is important. You can do a lot with social media. But it still isn’t so huge you can divert money from your media budget to your SMM budget. The reason is that while you can get a lot of people to hear you, the sites aren’t philosophically geared towards getting people to convert once they see your posts. It makes more sense to think of it as an element of public relations, and to have your PR people bone up on what they need to do to communicate with local media and other people of importance that way, since it is such a great way to create messaging.

But that just isn’t as sexy as saying, “the greatest communications development since the semaphore flag.” No one wants to insert that unforgiving “but” when talking about what social media marketing can do. So I will: Social media marketing is a great way to get your message to people who are willing to hear what you have to say, BUT, don’t expect to have scads of sales to close immediately after you post a link on Linkedin.

Stay tuned, read about how others are succeeding there, and yes, get yourself on Twitter and Facebook and Linkedin so you’re in the game. At the end of the day, social media is something you need to be doing yourself – because it is only a tactic. And a truism of advertising agencies is that no one knows a client’s business better than they do.