Friday, 6 November 2009

What is social media marketing?

The term "social media marketing" is now the buzz word du jour, with social networking taking a temporary back seat. But what exactly is social media marketing and what can you do with it?

My abbreviated definition is this:

"The integration of social media channels into your marketing and customer communication mix"

Yep I know that sounds very marketing lovey but it makes sense if you take it bit by bit. Social media provide a channel to market, another communication option for you to talk to and with customers. The culture of marketing is changing thanks to the community aspect of social media - dialogue and engagement take precedent over push marketing (i.e. broadcasting messages without interaction). This offers an excellent communication channel. Therefore, I see social media marketing as the creation of, participation in and nurture of communication, wherever that communication takes place.

The wonderful thing (in my humble opinion) about social media marketing is that the impact, whilst you can influence via intelligent planning and execution, is in the hands of the community. They either like it or they don't - the word of mouth element is determined by influencers who can help spread your message like wild fire or send it to an early grave. The difference from other online marketing like email is that the global reach is far greater and the share of information quicker - and the expectation for engagement is higher.

For me, social media marketing requires an understanding of the new rules of engagement, an appreciation of netiquette (the etiquette of social networks). It goes beyond selling something to someone. It relies on building relationships and helping people to find the information they need, quickly. If done well, it builds brand loyalty and reputation. If poorly managed, it will lose your potential customers and damage your brand.

There is a good article from Jay Deragon on the impact of social media on marketing communication. I like it not for what it teaches me but for the way it is expressed - social media marketing involves people and, therefore, emotion.

In summary, social media marketing:
  • Integrates social media into your marketing mix
  • Provides a platform for customer engagement
  • Supports offline and online marketing programs
  • Enables brand and reputation monitoring
  • Supports your customer service framework

What is your definition of social media marketing?