Managing Social Media Marketing

Monday Morning Marketing Memo #256

Date: November 28, 2011

Numerous reports are showing that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) in major  organizations are feeling overwhelmed these days trying to cope with the escalating rise of social media marketing.

I suspect most small business owners (SBOs) are feeling the same way, or worse, especially those who are effectively their own chief marketing officers.

There is no doubt that social media marketing is becoming more relevant and influential as a marketing communications channel, much like advertising, public relations, and direct marketing did previously.

Again, we see history repeating itself. In the early days of direct marketing, many organizations created direct marketing divisions separate from their existing marketing departments, only to integrate these over time. The same trend is occurring today, as social media marketing teams are created external or adjacent to the core marketing department.

However, like these other marketing activities, social media marketing is not a strategy or strategic initiative upon itself.  If there is no linkage to strategic marketing principles and the organization’s overriding marketing strategy, social media marketing becomes a loose activity that eats up resources without providing enhanced strategic marketing returns.

The question now becomes, as it did before for these other marketing activities, how do you integrate social media marketing into your marketing strategy?

Where’s the strategy?

This topic is being grappled with in organizations large and small. Interestingly, results of the 2011 Chief Marketer Social Marketing Survey in the USA show that the main objective of social media marketing is to drive traffic to websites. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents named this as one of their top three goals for social marketing in 2011. That’s a strategy?

In fact, the next five top goals were to generate leads or sales (48%), address brand fans (47%), more targeted messaging (29%), monitor brand reputation (27%), and mass total followers (26%).

Other than generating leads or sales, these are not marketing strategies. These are marketing activities, no different from advertising, promotions, trade shows, or public relations. Increasing Facebook or Twitter followers is not a strategic goal; increasing customer retention and keeping good customers is.

Unfortunately, this mistaken approach toward social media marketing by large organizations is being replicated by too many small business owners, who are often persuaded by social media “experts” that the way to success is to bombard customers and prospects with self-promoting messages through Facebook, meaningless Twitter messages and keyword stuffing of website pages.

These efforts are going to turn social media marketing into wasted morass, much like previous zealots turned the very valid concept of direct marketing into junk mail and email spam.

Who’s the leader?

I also scoff at criticisms of CEOs who are not engaged in social media. Yes, their organizations need to be involved, but they do not need to lead these efforts. Asking the CEO to be the public face on the company’s Twitter account is akin to asking them to write all of the organization’s press releases.

No CEO or small business owner needs to do personally these things. They are to be delegated, either internally or outscourced externally. Of course, a CEO needs to be aware and understand social media marketing and its nuances. As does any small business owner who ventures into this arena. But they need not be actively engaged in social media, just as they do not need to have the skills to draft a well-worded press release or write an attention grabbing advertisement.

Of course, delegation does not mean abdication. CEOs and SBOs need to set guidelines for their organizations’ social media marketing efforts, and to be in the approval cycle for major campaigns and efforts, especially when negative press or increased customer disenchantment is prominent. Otherwise, a social media marketing campaign can quickly backfire, as Qantas learned last week with its #QantasLuxury campaign on Twitter.

In fact, Qantas is rapidly becoming a case study in how NOT to conduct social media marketing. The company was bashed across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media outlets last month when it grounded its entire fleet without warning. And last week the #QantasLuxury promotion was turned into a joke and media circus by Twitter users who used it to publicly toss condemnation and ridicule at Qantas.

Integration is key

As I said above, there is no doubt that social media marketing is becoming more relevant and influential as a marketing communications channel.

The key to success is to integrate strategic marketing disciplines and principles with social media marketing techniques and best practices.

Someone whose only background is in social media marketing execution cannot provide the strategic marketing principles and oversight required for success.

Likewise, those schooled and experienced only in marketing strategy development, branding, marketing communications, advertising and/or promotions will not understand the nuances and potential landmines of social media marketing (ala Qantas).

It takes a person, or a team, with these combined skills to improve market share, brand performance and customer loyalty, three of the most important objectives of any marketing strategy.

Whether you are a CMO, CEO or SBO, when you have these elements in place, you will no longer feel overwhelmed by the continued evolution of social media marketing.

Note: this article originally appeared in the November 28, 2011 Monday Morning Marketing Memo written by marketing strategist Steven Howard.