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Why you can’t think of social media as a marketing check box

I know what’s stated in the headline is preaching to the choir for many of you out there. Here we are in mid-2012 and companies are devoting more resources and attention to social media as part of marketing, which is great but from where I sit, I see them thinking about it mostly as a checkbox item.

As a strategic communications consultants, our existence is based on providing value to clients in marketing leadership. There’s a slew of ways we do this and this post won’t go into the details on all of those.

But given that marketing’s existence is predicated on generating demand — or leads — for sales organizations, in order to earn and keep a seat at the table, the value we provide should be based on directly supporting our clients’ demand gen goals.

Don’t Be A Silo

Clients expect us to push them with ideas and new thinking. One way is to push to get an invite to their regular marketing campaigns and program planning discussions. Or to get on the distribution list for campaign plans and status updates. This is where the rubber meets the lead gen road.

Then we’re in a position to recommend specific ideas that directly support these campaigns. Are there PR tactics baked into those plans? What is the extent to which social media is being considered relative to the campaign goals?

From my experience, many times they are not. Most campaign plans contain tried and true tactics like email marketing to a prospect list from a SalesForce database, sponsored white papers through third-party media companies, landing pages and traditional media buying.

In one campaign plan I saw recently, social media was a checkbox item whereby a campaign promotion would be published automatically to social channels via a capability in SalesForce. And there were no PR considerations.

This presents a terrific opportunity for us to recommend several additional tactics that directly support the campaign and complement the tactics already planned:

  • Develop blog posts related to the content being offered through the campaign to give qualified subscribers useful information with a call-to-action to download the offered content.
  • Write social channel posts tailored for each network (i.e. don’t write once and auto-post everywhere else as Scott Stratten vents about above) and the followers of those channels. After all, those networks represent an entirely new prospect database.
  • Include links to the landing page with appropriately crafted calls-to-action in press releases to take advantage of the distribution via wire services.
  • Ensure that all content is search-optimized for the right target keywords to help the landing page and related content rank high on Google.
  • Generate tagged URLs with specific tracking codes to use on the different channels to correlate conversions with the traffic source, including PR and social.

This is essential to making sure that PR doesn’t operate in a silo, and getting to the “Marketing in the Round” nirvana that Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston write about in their recently released book.

This is one example and there are plenty of other ways to think about how social media and PR should directly support campaigns. I’ll cover others in the future.

In the meantime, the comments are yours. How are you thinking about and approaching this?