For marketers, social media represents a big change. And as in any big change, reactions tend to be a bit bipolar: I see some of my fellow marketers digging in their heels, clinging tightly to traditional strategies and hoping that the social media frenzy will die down. Others have become evangelists, declaring social media the be all and end all. Neither approach will lead to smart marketing decisions, now or in the future.
First to the nay sayers: social media is here to stay. Gartner recently forecast revenues to hit $16.9 billion in 2012, a 40 percent jump from last year. More than half of that is from advertising. Gartner puts the value proposition clearly: social media sites offer access to a large pool of engaged users who spend considerable time on these sites. This increases the potential for smart targeting, better click-through rates (CTRs) and ultimately, customer acquisition and sales.
And now the cheerleaders: just as TV didn’t replace radio and automated teller machines didn’t do away with banks tellers, the rest of the traditional marketing world is not simply going to vanish because of social media. Broadcast media, online search, print media–not to mention live events, one-on-one sales engagements, etc. are all going to play a role. As Gartner notes, while there is plenty of growth left to go in social media, there are also signs of maturation in terms of new subscribers and usage patterns. That means rising competition among existing social media players and new social media players as well as traditional media/channels. Expect an ongoing, fragmented free-for-all.
The upshot of all of this is that for the near and long term, most marketers are going to be juggling investments between social media and traditional marketing venues/channels. In fact, I would argue that the smartest (and healthiest) approach is to mix, match and integrate based on the different strengths of the platforms and how they connect to your immediate objectives.
For example, because social media is great at spreading a message, but not so good at controlling the message, adapt how you take advantage of it:
Look for different ways to integrate social media with other kinds of marketing and also with itself (i.e., Twitter should be integrated with YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.) It’s easy to make the mistake that there is just one social media platform. In fact there are already many and they will keep proliferating. Instead of obsessing on one or the other, look for ways to get them all working together:
Although social media is constantly growing and evolving, it will not replace traditional marketing efforts. Today’s best marketers are the ones who learned how to integrate them together into a marketing strategy to achieve a set of established goals.
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