Marketers are always looking for the next new thing when it comes to finding ways of getting their message out. And for good reason. After all, the field was transformed throughout the 20th century by technological innovations in media, from radio to the Internet. These days, the latest thing is social media marketing, and marketers are still working out how to best use it to their advantage.
Social media marketing is an excellent tool for branding in the business-to-consumer market. It is an effective way to maintain a connection between a company and its customers. However, like all marketing tools, SMM works better for reaching some goals than others, and works best as a part of a larger marketing campaign. One of the more prominent forms of branding today is getting your customer base to personally identify themselves with your product or service. For example, every time you see a car with one of those Apple stickers on it, you’re seeing branding at work. That person is saying, “not only do I love my Mac, I consider it a part of my own identity. Hello, I’m a Mac.”
This is the kind of thing SMM excels at. Since Facebook has opened its doors to commercial websites, just about every major company has established a presence there. Even before the corporate presence, people would willingly answer polls with questions such as, “Do you prefer Coke or Pepsi?” But with the corporate presence firmly in place, people seek out the companies they like and add themselves to their fan lists.
The result is exactly the same as that Apple sticker on the car. “Hello, I’m a Coke drinker.” In some ways, social media marketing is the next evolution in word-of-mouth advertising. It persuades a company’s customers to become its advertisers. This is why social media marketing is such an effective branding tool in the B2C market. It’s public, or semi-public, and allows a person to list a wide range of products and companies with which they identify personally, and without cluttering up their cars with a bunch of stickers.
But while SMM is remarkably effective at promoting a bond between company and consumer, it is not a replacement for a thoroughly thought-out marketing campaign. There are some tasks for which direct mail is much better suited.
For example, customers have indicated in studies conducted over the last few years that they prefer to receive coupons and notices of special offers through the mail over competing media, including the Internet. And with recent advances in data management, direct mail provides the opportunity for focusing such special offers tightly on those customers most likely to respond.
This relatively new capability for customization in direct mail also allows it to better integrate with other media as part of a marketing campaign. It’s not just the data used to generate mailing lists that is noteworthy, but the ability to tailor the data on the mail piece itself for individual customers. Such customized mailings can drive sales, or in turn can contain PURLs intended to drive customers back to a company’s website to open up communication between company and consumer.
The key here is integration, not competition. No one marketing technique can cover all of your bases. Success depends on using different techniques for their strengths, and designing the campaign so that those separate approaches support and compliment each other. Just as the invention of television did not spell the end of the radio spot, SMM is not a replacement for the marketing media that came before it.