Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Guest Post: Social Media Marketing is Swiss Cheese

Posted by Guest Writer - November 24, 2009

By Hugh Burnham, Co-CEO, Gutenberg Communications

The Internet has become overrun with trends, tips, and how-tos for social media marketing. If one were to spend a lifetime absorbed in social media marketing content, one would emerge a mindless zombie repeating buzzwords like engagement, two-way communications, and customer-centric conversation, but still hopelessly lost.

The dribble comes from the armies of organizations and individuals looking to capitalize on rising social media marketing budgets by positioning themselves as experts, though they aren't actually doing it, for themselves or their clients. If your PR agency says they do social media, but you're not sure if they actually do, you're probably right to be wary.

And so the emerging industry of social media marketing is like Swiss cheese. It's held together by a porous structure of substance, but filled with pockets of emptiness. And while old school media is shrinking, the social media marketing industry is growing faster than newspapers can go bankrupt. Corporations have turned to PR for social media marketing; giving the public relations industry an opportunity to grow - not shrink - in size and prestige, if it can seize a leadership role in social media.

But we won't win the role of social media marketers as Swiss cheese. Don't be fooled, there's plenty of other departments that can pick up the social media baton after we've dropped the ball.

Everyone is aware that engagement, conversations, and multidirectional public conversations are inherit properties of social media, by definition.

Much more progress can be made if we talk about social media marketing in a way that's actionable and maps into planning, execution, and reporting. In other words, lets talk about social media marketing for the sake of doing it, not just for the sake of talking about it.

For example, we could categorize social media marketing into publishing, listening, and response.

Publishing is all about content. Whether it's a blog, twitter feed, or YouTube channel, you need to determine who is going to create what content, how often, and where to publish it. Don't forget it needs to be interesting.

Marketing is used to describe how you get an audience for your content. Almost every touch point stakeholders have with the company should ask them to join you online. Add in a touch of SEO, sprinkle in occasional viral content, and get three handfuls of online interaction and you'll have an audience in no-time.

Listening and response is a bit self-explanatory. Monitor the channels (like YouTube, LinkedIn, or Twitter) that are important to you, and the targets on those channels (individual influences), then respond to the content they publish when appropriate.

Companies tend to focus only on the negative things people are saying about their company online then implement a social media strategy primarily for PR and crisis management and tend to neglect the positive conversations. The key is listening. Listening can win companies more business and leads.

If we want to do less talking and more doing, we need to change the way we talk about social media marketing.

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