Temper Enthusiasm, Embrace Possibilities

The idea of social media marketing usually triggers one of two reactions from marketers just getting into the space.

First, there are the evangelists who believe social media is the answer to the business’ prayers. “Engaging with consumers” and “establishing a dialogue” will take the business to the next level. The challenge here is that social media is weight down with unreasonable expectations.

Then there are the skeptics. They’ve heard the pundits, seen the case studies and have read the trades, but something,holds them back from believing social media is truly worth the investment. Instead, they’re acting because they feel they have to, which leads to a lack of real support needed for social media to succeed for the business.

Both mindsets are correct… and wrong. Social media can and should play a critical role in overall marketing efforts, but the benefits of social media marketing can be exaggerated. Expectations should be strategic, not hyperbolic.

Social Doesn’t Solve Everything

Social media isn’t the answer to each marketer’s challenge. There are some things social media will never be good at. For example, driving mass awareness may be an objective for an established social brand that has built up a community of advocates it can easily mobilize. However, brands just getting started in the space can’t expect to start a “social campaign” and expect high awareness. Other forms of media like television will be far more successful.

Brands need to first understand where they stand right now in terms of their social media efforts. Expectations should be set based on where the brand is, not where others who have been in the space for a significant amount of time are.

In the words of Mitch Joel, “Everything is ‘With’ Not ‘Instead Of.’” Social media doesn’t replace anything that’s already out there. Instead, it has the ability to make other marketing components better, and they have the ability to make social media work harder for the business.

Set Objectives and Execute for Success

Social media does things very well that no other form of media can accomplish at such scale. Social media allows brands to improve their online reputations, connect with customers on a more ongoing basis, optimize customer service, impact a brand’s online share of voice and so on. Social media can’t be beaten in its ability to drive the speed and velocity of online word of mouth.

Both the evangelists and the skeptics need to understand what social can and can’t do by giving a social media plan clear, achievable objectives that are best achieved through social media and measuring their efforts against the objectives. This allows each group to understand what social media will achieve and what it will not.

Skeptic or vocal evangelist, all parties should strike a balance by tempering enthusiasm while embracing the possibilities.