I read with interest Mark Ritson’s article in Marketing Week, rebuking his client for big budget spend on social media and pointing out that Facebook, Twitter and the like only reach a small percentage of a companies stakeholders (largely of course depending on who those stakeholders were). It was wonderfully refreshing to see a Marketing professional that doesn’t blindly jump on the social media bandwagon, but instead recognises that its merits need to be weighed up against a companies individual marketing requirements.
Refreshing though it might have been, I do feel that Ritson also missed the point – social media should not be about mass marketing and reaching out to millions of consumers in the way that advertising or direct marketing might. Rather, it is about a targeted approach, providing useful and interesting content to the digital generation on platforms that they already actively engage with. It allows the opportunity for engagement and collaboration with companies and brands, but it does not enforce this.
If companies ignore this opportunities they neglect to even open the door to engagement and collaboration.
Ritson is also right that it does not need to command a major chunk of marketing budget, but the investment with social media is largely time and that does need to be realistically accounted for.
Social media should be integrated into the wider marketing mix, not necessarily as a predominant element (though again that is dependent on the company) but as another string to the bow, and this in itself emphasises the need for strategy.
This does not have to include an arduous process of months of consultation and a 100 page report before social media strategies can be implemented (by which point things will have moved on anyway) but it should include a thorough analysis of what a company hopes to gain from social media, how this can best be achieved and a realistic exploration of the platforms available to implement this.