How to Treat Social Media Marketing Differently than Brand Marketing
Because of the power of peer influence, social media marketing is increasingly approached differently from brand and direct-response marketing. The differences stem from the fact that the philosophical approach, strategies, and execution tactics of SMM are more community and socially oriented.
Social media marketing is fundamentally about engaging with expert, referent, and positional influencers and strategically leveraging social media in all its forms to meet marketing and business objectives. As a result, you need to understand how social media marketing fits into the context of brand and direct response marketing.
SMM in the context of brand marketing
Brand marketing focuses on building equity around a brand, its personality, and attributes. Customers purchase products based on the brand promise. Through various forms of advertising and communications, the brand promise is brought alive to generate awareness, build excitement, and get specific products included in a consideration set.
Mass media channels are typically used to build awareness for the brand, reposition it with more powerful attributes, or ultimately sell products. This will always be central to marketing efforts. All brands require significant effort to penetrate a market and generate desire.
SMM complements brand marketing in some key ways:
SMM places extra emphasis on peer-to-peer marketing and allows for peer-to-peer decision-making in a digital context.
The focus is on understanding how consumers are interacting with each other on social platforms versus how they’re interacting with the brand. Consumers are asked to do the marketing for the brand by layering their own voices and perspectives on top. The result is the socialization of a message in a way that’s relevant to their world.
SMM rarely uses mass media, whether television, print, or radio.
Interactive channels that allow for the socialization and redistribution of a message are more important. But the brand cannot be simply pushed through the channels. Instead, invite consumers in the channels to experience the brand and make it their own.
SMM is about becoming part of all media streams, across all channels, where consumers are responding to and discussing the brand messages.
In many cases, they’re self-organizing these conversations on the fly. In other instances, they gravitate toward existing community hubs where the conversations are already taking place. These conversations can also take place on your own corporate website.
Because of this, messaging, advertising campaigns, and even the products themselves don’t define successful brands as much as the communities that surround them do. A brand supported by a large and influential community becomes more successful than one with a weak, disparate, and disjointed community.
SMM in the context of direct-response marketing
Direct-response marketing is designed to solicit a specific, measurable response from specific individuals. Unlike brand marketing, with direct response, for every dollar invested, you see a traceable return. The measurable relationship is established between you and the consumer.
Some of the core attributes around direct response include a call to action, an offer and delivery of enough information to elicit a response, and guidance on how to respond.
Television infomercials, which encourage consumers to call a number or visit a website, and direct mail offers, which invite consumers to purchase a product or send a reply, are the most common forms of direct-response marketing. Online advertising campaigns that are designed to drive clicks and purchases on brand websites are the most common online equivalent.
SMM complements direct response but historically has lacked some of the measurability found in direct response. Social media marketing isn’t typically geared toward a specific individual with the goal of soliciting a specific, measurable response.
With SMM, communities of consumers are targeted with the goal of enticing them to positively influence one another and other people within their networks of online relationships. The goals are to convert consumers into potential marketers for the brand and provide them with the tools and mechanisms to further influence others.
SMM isn’t as measurable as direct-response marketing is, although that is changing fast. Tracking how social influencers work is difficult; when a consumer shows brand affinity or makes a purchasing decision, it’s hard to tell which factors or influencers impacted those choices most directly.
In that sense, SMM is more akin to brand marketing, where the measurability is weak and needs to be based on feedback similar to that collected in attitudinal surveys. It’s easy to track expert influencers online using social media measurement tools, but that’s just part of the equation. Often, the social influencers who sway purchasing decisions aren’t the most public and noticeable brand advocates.
Another factor to consider with SMM is that the call to action can’t be too heavy-handed. As a result, some would argue that SMM is much more about social influence and much less about marketing. Social campaigns that blatantly push the call to action generally fail because they lack credibility, don’t provide value to the consumer and appear calculated. For this reason, you can’t always easily recognize or measure your successful SMM campaigns.
Tying social media marketing with brand marketing and direct response
Social media marketing, which is about harnessing and categorizing the local spheres of influence, complements brand marketing and direct response with its focus on reaching social influencers across a variety of channels and platforms at every stage of the marketing funnel. This is done so that influencers socialize the message in their own communities and conduct the marketing for the brand.
Not all social influencers have platforms to project strong opinions; some are more anonymous, localized, and less recognizable. That’s the bad news. The good news is that influencers obviously like to influence and have a meaningful and integral role to play in marketing online or offline.
Social media marketing resembles relationship marketing in that both focus on the relationship, not just the point of sale, and are more personal in nature. The difference is that relationship marketing focuses on establishing deeper, longer-term relationships with customers over a lifetime, whereas social media marketing relies on customers marketing the brand.