Will Social Media marketing be outdated in just a few years?

A recent survey revealed that advertising and marketing executives ranked “Social Media” as the most annoying industry buzzword.[1] I believe that this is probably caused by a lack of understanding of how Social Media fit in the company and in its media efforts towards customers. In fact, I believe that many organisations (including those specialized in communications) have lost track of what media look like nowadays.

It’s time to zoom out

Although there is still a lot to be learnt about Social Media and its implications for users like consumers and businesses, it seems that Social Media are starting to mature. Recent statistics indicate that 91% of all Dutch under 25 has been active on Hyves, Facebook or Twitter.[2] More and more businesses are joining the party, but the results of their efforts vary a lot.

Of course, the fact that media is changing is not new, but modern communication technologies seem to speed up the process. So maybe it’s time to zoom out a bit, take a step back and look at the communication landscape as it is nowadays.

On one side there are companies trying to sell their products and services. On the other side there is the target market. In order to have communication between them we need a way of transporting messages and that is what media do. This may seem obvious, but it is striking to see how often this is overlooked. Media often isn’t looked at as a way of communicating, but purely as marketing.

Owned, Paid and Earned media

So how should we look at media? Forrester wrote about three types of media which incorporate the entire spectrum of communication between organisations and consumers.[3] It distinguishes between:

  • Owned Media. Incorporates all channels an organisation controls. Examples include the company website and Twitter account.
  • Paid Media. Incorporates all media efforts that the organisation must pay for such as advertising. Examples include display ads and paid search.
  • Earned Media. This is when consumers start talking about the company. As consumers start their own channel they control the media effort. Examples include viral marketing and buzz marketing.

Organisations should not focus on a single media effort, but combine a well balanced mix of owned and paid media to leverage earned media. Social Media is easily mistaken to be an equivalent of earned media, but it is not. By focussing solely on Social Media as a way to get people talking about the organisation, traditional media are not getting enough priority. As a result, consumers are handed all the means to talk about the organisation, but they have nothing to talk about. Owned media and paid media are necessary to stimulate awareness about the organisation and their current products or services. Then your customers will have something to talk about and you’ll have something to talk about with them.




Image thanks to MCT

Why Social Media marketing will be outdated

I believe that any form of media should not be used completely independent of other forms of media. It should always be part of a larger media strategy. In fact, media should be an integral part of a larger communication strategy. This is why we think the concept of companies that only have a specialization in Social Media or Social Media marketing will be outdated in a few years.

Hand them a topic

The customers you’ll meet online through Social Media are not very different from the ones who will see your advertisements. If you want to earn their trust enough to have them talk about you, handing them just a conversation is not enough, hand them a topic too!

1 http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/has-social-media-gone-stale-the-creative-group-survey-reveals-the-most-overused-catchphrases-among-advertising-and-marketing-professionals-113448184.html consulted on 18-01-2011
2 http://www.dutchcowboys.nl/socialmedia/21341 consulted on 18-01-2011
3 http://blogs.forrester.com/interactive_marketing/2009/12/defining-earned-owned-and-paid-media.html consulted on  21-01-2011