He Said, She Said – Confusion on Social Media vs Social Marketing

I’ve learned a lot about social media over the last several years but one thing that really sticks out for me now is the confusion between social media and social marketing. Part of this problem stems from the multitude of people using social media that equate it to the ability to use social media effectively in marketing. This confusion may be one of the biggest misnomers in business today. Your ability to chat on Twitter, create a video or “friend” all the most influential bloggers does not mean you’re good at social marketing.

Part of the problem is that suddenly, just about everyone claims to know social media – or more specifically, how to do execute social media in marketing. A lot of “one hit wonders” – someone who struck gold with a video that went viral, or a firm that had early success with one client (usually, a major brand name) – are claiming to be the “gurus” but aren’t necessarily delivering consistent and whole strategies for a variety of clients or businesses. Take, for example, Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz’s wedding video – aka, “The wedding dance video.”

I’ve read plenty of blog posts where people are touting this as “a great example of marketers taking advantage of video and social media.” But that’s not wholly accurate. No marketers planned this as a campaign – it happened to be a video of a couple at their wedding that was incredibly entertaining, accumulating more than 10 million views on YouTube in less than one week. Then the marketers took notice, as written about by Google: “The rights holders for the song in the video – “Forever” by Chris Brown – used these tools to claim and monetize the song, as well as to start running Click-to-Buy links over the video, giving viewers the opportunity to purchase the music track on Amazon and iTunes. As a result, the rights holders were able to capitalize on the massive wave of popularity generated by “JK Wedding Entrance Dance.’” And that’s fantastic. But the truth is, it was happenstance – and yes, the marketers caught on in time, in order to increase sales. But I wouldn’t say that they “used the video for promotion,” rather, it happened organically. It wasn’t a planned “viral video” (because you don’t create “viral videos” – you create great video that you can plan a viral marketing campaign around) by brilliant marketers. And this video doesn’t make Jill and Kevin, Chris Brown or the rights owners brilliant marketers.

The truth is, while social media isn’t as radical as some may claim it to be, it has presented an entirely new way of thinking and interacting – especially for businesses – and for the most part, we’re all on a pretty level playing field. What will shake out in the next year or so is the “social media expert” moniker – we’ll see who is really developing ongoing and persistently smart and effective social marketing strategies, vs those one hit wonders or “I can set up a Facebook fan page for you” consultants.

It’s been interesting watching the explosive growth of social media’s popularity, especially for marketers. When we first introduced Twitter to clients over two years ago – suggesting its use as part of marketing, PR, customer service and sales strategies – we were one of the first PR firms that had established a corporate entity on the now-explosive microblogging service. In fact, we were part of the early discussions around whether or not corporations should be on Twitter at all (and maybe a little too ahead of our time, but that’s another blog post). Luckily, our stance was yes. What’s really interesting in that post, by the way, is reading the comments and comparing the attitudes then to now.

Today, what we’re finding is that our counsel isn’t needed to convince clients that social media is important. Rather, it’s to help clients understand the definition of social marketing vs the “social media” buzz-worthy moniker. I’ve been interviewed several times over the last couple of months about social media for business. In almost every interview the question arises: “What’s the first thing a company should do when thinking about social media for business?” My answer is always – “Know your business goals. Be clear on what you are trying to accomplish first.” It’s surprising how many businesses just want to jump in feet first now that social media for business is all the rage. But the bottom line is, whatever you do with social marketing should tie back to your business goals – whether it’s increased awareness, definitive thought leadership, sales, better customer service, leads, business development, partnerships, etc.

Know your business goals. Recognize the difference between social media and social marketing and beware of “social media experts” that don’t bother to ask about your business goals. If they don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish as a business, all the greatest videos, Tweets or Facebook fan numbers will be a moot point.