Why There's No Such Thing as Social Marketing

A co-founder of a social marketing company explains how integrated social marketing has become in consumers' lives, and what that means for your marketing overall.
Co-Founder / CMO, Offerpop
July 31, 2013

All marketing is social.

This might sound surprising coming from the co-founder of a social marketing company, but there’s no such thing as “social marketing.” Don't get me wrong, it’s not that social marketing isn’t important; it’s that all marketing is social marketing. Nothing that we do as marketers is outside the reach of social media. In the past, in the prehistoric days of social networks—I’m talking five or six years ago—companies could treat social as a distinct entity. Today, social is the glue that extends across all areas of marketing and connects them.

Don’t believe me? Try counting how many times you see this symbol in a day: #. 

More than any other emblem of social media, the hashtag has come to symbolize the ubiquity social now has in every corner of our lives. It’s not just that Facebook finally added hashtags; it’s that hashtags are in ads, magazines, billboards, TV and movie premieres. They’ve become useful shorthand that helps us find and sort through all the chatter.

But even when assigning a hashtag to something, strategy must prevail. If I’m promoting a blockbuster film, for example, and I know that whichever hashtag I choose will end up not only on Twitter feeds but also on billboards, I’m going to want all members of my team partaking in the discussion rather than just the small group of social media experts I would’ve consulted in the past. 

The impact social has goes much further than just adding hashtags too. It's changing the conversation. Consider the ascent of social TV: On The Voice, NBC’s hit singing competition, judges’ tweets run on the bottom of the screen, engaging the audience on a different level. Other TV programs let users directly affect the content on the screen, like Hawaii 5-0 did when it let viewers pick the ending of the episode in real time. When content becomes dialogue, marketing must adapt, focusing less on one-sided manipulation and more on fostering a lively conversation.

And like every good conversation, it requires a bit of effort from all involved. Advertisers and marketers alike must move from shouting to listening. By engaging consumers directly, you can acquire a tremendous amount of data about precisely what your consumers want, an insight guaranteed to make your job easier and more rewarding. 

True, for this to happen, marketers will have to relinquish a little control in order to allow their target audience to have its say. Consumers quickly will grow accustomed to understanding their role as engaged and active partners in the process. Most likely, this will mean that consumers will grow far more agile, abandoning traditional and consistent loyalties to a small number of brands in favor of a greater number of more nimble interactions with more brands. 

Rather than condemn social marketing to its own small corner of the marketing team, it’s time we reshape the way we do business and take the integrated approach. If we don’t, we’ll be sure to hear about it from our customers.

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Photo: Getty Images