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Social media is only one part of the puzzle

September 15, 2010

Today it seems everyone has their quick fixes and short-lists of what you need to be successful in any social media. Every day I see dozens of articles and blogs with opinions of the 3, 4 or 5 things you need to do to succeed in certain social media environments (all opinions valid by the way).

What I don’t notice however are many people reminding us that as cool and fun as this social media thing is, it’s really still only one part of the equation for organisations to be successful in communicating their messages to a large or to a very specific audience.

Self proclaimed social media experts are a dime a dozen at the moment; This is fair enough because the medium itself allows people to learn and to express their opinion like never before. Many of the social media gurus I see however don’t seem to have too much knowledge of other media, and how to effectively integrate social media use into a much more expansive and strategic media and marketing plan.

These extreme social media advocates are often the same people that think that good content and journalism is out the door in the coming years, to be replaced by citizen journalism – much like this post on Mashable recently. Ultimately though, few individuals or organisations have the resources to properly produce good quality professional and high impact journalism – could operate a 60 Minutes investigation using your mobile phone and a blog?

Let’s not forget however, that despite the ongoing decline of newspaper circulations, the increasing diversification of both free and pay TV channels available, and the ongoing challenges for radio, that at the end of the day, consumers still use all of those things with enormous regularity. What is happening however, is that those users are combining this usage with online activity as well. Heck, I even heard this morning that General Motors is building a car that lets you update Facebook while you drive!

What social media has enabled consumers to do is to have a voice. It’s opened up two way communication on a large scale. Marketing to consumers via this channel still doesn’t replace the powerful emotive effect a well produced, creative and well timed TV Commercial may have (watched a beer ad lately?), or the high impact a full colour print ad may have if done correctly.

MOST importantly, any student of marketing or media buying will remind you that effective communication of a message takes repetition, timing and it helps if the receiver is seeing / hearing that message across multiple channels. Seeing an ad on TV, hearing it on radio, seeing an online banner and then engaging with it via Twitter is enormously more effective (in my opinion) than simply checking a Facebook page, Twittering a few comments and perhaps adding a geo-location ‘check-in’. The integration of communication channels is paramount to getting the message through.

Even in my everyday role, where I am communicating with teams of sales staff, we have an Intranet, an eDM newsletter, individual team meetings, Manager briefings, and still sometimes the message still doesn’t get through. What would happen if we only had an Intranet?

As excited as I am about the prospect of social media helping businesses effectively communicate with their customers, the voice of reason inside me says to remember that integrating you communication across all channels – traditional and new – will be more effective than getting on the social media bandwagon.

Think twice before you throw all your efforts into solving just one piece of the puzzle.

Deliriant Isti Romani – These Romans Are Crazy!

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