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The unintegrated world of social media marketing

The accompanying infographic — based on statistics cited in our book “Marketing in the Round” — illustrates the fractured world of communication in corporate America. The corporate-marketing world still operates in silos of public relations, advertising, and interactive and direct marketing. As the newest discipline in the fold, social media accentuate this continuing situation.

Most chief marketing officers acknowledge social media’s importance but attempt isolated social media campaigns on Facebook and Twitter. Many marketers find social media ineffective and frustrate themselves with unintegrated attempts at making them work. Integrating social into the larger mix of marketing to achieve overarching corporate objectives can yield results.

We have seen many examples of social media’s independent success, the building of groundswells of loyal customers. Consider the niche marketing of Etsy, the restoration of Dell’s brand and the rise of media mogul Arianna Huffington.

While incredibly impressive, companies seek to copycat them. Instead, the marketing round demonstrates how they should integrate social into the larger mix. There are other strategic approaches beyond a groundswell that social media can support as part of a larger, multichannel effort.

Here are three primary types of campaigns with which social media can help.

Direct: The marketing channel that produces the most return on investment, direct marketing can be bulwarked by social media. Direct is also used internally to recruit and to increase employee morale. But what better way to be direct than to have a one-on-one conversation with stakeholders online? Methods to go direct with social are widespread.

Here are a few examples.

  • Create a channel for customer-service response on a large social network such as Twitter (pioneered by @ComcastCares, @NetSolCares and extending to many consumer brands).
  • Recruit employees directly through social media (examples: Sodexo and KPMG UK).
  • Interact and incentivize the most loyal customers in online communities (Starbucks and LEGO).

Top down: PR works best when a company has a position of authority in the marketplace. By using events, speaking engagements, media relations and strategically placed advertisements, companies can launch far-reaching product initiatives. Social media can support and play an increasingly larger role in significant campaign launches.

Some common support tactics:

  • Influencer and blogger relations (Cisco Systems and Nikon).
  • Content marketing on a large social network such as YouTube (Dollar Shave Club and Blendtec).
  • Initiatives for customer-generated content (Ford Motor’s Fiesta and Doritos).

Flanking techniques: Many companies and organizations serve within regulated sectors and feel as though their hands are tied when it comes to social media. They rely on niche advertising, trickle-up media relations, guerrilla marketing and events to find and compel customers.

But social media form a wide-ranging tool set, and there are many creative ways to interact with and influence customers.

  • Create or participate in private communities on LinkedIn and other networks (BIO and GovLoop).
  • Release relevant and tangential data through blogging, infographics, social networks and other methods (Booz Allen Hamilton and American Red Cross).
  • Release relevant and entertaining content to garner attention from an unengaged audience (Chrysler and Old Spice).

These approaches embody some of the ways companies think about their general marketing and PR campaigns. Certainly, there are many more social media tactics that can be deployed to support them. Imagination and creativity can create fantastic opportunities.

Social media tactics supporting these approaches should be selected in conjunction with other disciplines to achieve larger, measurable performance indicators for the overall marketing department. This kind of focus brings social out of the world of follower counts and “reach” and into the world of achieving real marketing objectives.

Moving forward, the question for social media marketers isn’t “What is my social media strategy?” Rather, it is “How can social be weaved into larger marketing campaigns and support the organization’s overarching goals?”

Geoff Livingston is an author and a marketing strategist. He serves as vice president of strategic partnerships at Razoo. A former journalist, Livingston continues to write and most recently co-wrote “Marketing in the Round” and wrote the social media primer “Welcome to the Fifth Estate.”

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago firm for integrated marketing communication. She also founded Spin Sucks Pro, a professional-development website for PR and marketing professionals, and co-authored “Marketing in the Round,” which shows how to get more value from integrating all marketing and communication channels.