Marketing Myopia: Blinded by Social Media?

As the buzz about social media reaches a crescendo, I can’t help but wonder if some marketers are missing the boat with customers who aren’t fully on board with social.

Granted, not every marketing campaign includes social media, but when a topic is so hot there’s a movie about it (The Social Network), there is an awful lot of pressure to get in the game.

If marketers – especially those working with smaller businesses that don’t have the luxury of a full marketing team – are setting their sites on social media, where does that leave all the customers that aren’t on social networks? Are traditional marketing methods falling by the wayside?

Personally, I’m a big believer in integrated marketing. I started my career in marketing communications, and trumpeted the benefits of integrated communications programs when it really wasn’t cool. But cool or not, it worked. And it still works.

From my point of view, it’s essential for marketers to integrate traditional and online communications in a way that embraces customers of all mindsets – social media or not. Marketing is about creating connections, regardless of the venue.

This is not just a generational thing. You never can tell who has embraced the social world, and I’m constantly surprised. Just this morning, I was talking with an older friend, a woman in her 60’s who told me, “I always love reading your Facebook posts.” A few hours later, my husband (who is much younger) confessed that, “I haven’t spent more than 90 seconds on Facebook in my entire life.”

So how does a marketer who is pressed for time and faced with limited resources find the equilibrium between the next big thing and old school marketing? It starts with knowing your customers. But as I mentioned above, no matter how good your data models, there will always be surprises when customers don’t do what you anticipate.

Whatever the data says, assume you need to address a slightly larger audience, and expand your reach. If your demographics and experience suggest that your customers are ready adopters of social media, by all means, go for it. But keep an element of offline promotion with direct mail, print advertising, or live events, to reach those prospects that prefer to dwell in the real world.

If your data shows that only a small percentage of your customers are active in social media, keep encouraging them, and continue to build your online community. At the same time, focus on engaging your customers offline, or online with more traditional online tools like email.

Talk to customers regularly, through informal interactions, gathering comments and soliciting feedback. If your market is large, try surveys of prospects and customers to learn about their preferred communication methods. Use what you learn to adapt your marketing programs, and evolve as needed. Track your results, comparing things like conversions rates from social campaigns versus traditional media, and see what works best for your business.

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