What is the value of social media? It’s been a question pondered at great length in white papers, blog posts, studies, reports and so on. Coca-Cola Senior Manger of Marketing Strategy and Insights Eric Schmidt added fuel to the fire when AdAge covered a study that found that online buzz had no measurable impact on short-term sales for Coca-Cola. Coke, a brand with more Facebook fans than any other brand, naturally caught marketers’ attention.
Coca-Cola’s Senior VP of Integrated Marketing Communications and Capabilities Wendy Clark had a few words to say defending Coke’s integration of social media. Clark explained social media still plays a critical part of an overarching effort made up of multiple types of media. She explained, “… no single medium is as strong as the combination of media.”
This was a case of Coca-Cola not being on the same page internally in terms of the study’s findings and what they represent, but that’s almost beside the point. There’s clearly a healthy appetite out there for defining the value of social media. Stories like this one allow too many businesses to feel like they’re in good company for not understanding what they’re getting out of their social media efforts.
It’s time to figure it out.
What Role Does Social Play?
One of the most basic questions a marketer should ask is, “What problem am I trying to solve?” With that question in mind, it’s a marketer’s job to find the solution or the right combination of solutions.
Social media requires a role. It needs specific objectives to aim for and KPIs to indicate progress toward achieving those objectives. We’re in an era in which everyone jumped into social media without a plan. They jumped on the bandwagon, and now, they’re left with social media presences with no defined purpose. Of course they don’t understand the value!
A cursory observation shows that Coke’s social media presence is primarily focused on branding and retaining the attention of current customers. Their approach is not one that will directly impact short-term sales. If that’s the goal, direct marketing and maybe couponing are better solutions to solve the short-term sales problem. You can’t grade something on a task you didn’t set it up to achieve. Match your social media tactics (and any tactic for that matter) to your objectives.
Social Needs a Job but Not Exist in a Silo
Social media marketing should be given a problem to solve, but it can’t solve larger business problems alone. No single tactic can do that. All tactics should be parts of a multi-faceted solution to achieve business objectives. As Clark points out, the combination of integrated media is where marketers find power to achieve business objectives.