Do You Have a Social Media Strategy?

Jack Prot

“So what’s with Twitter?” “What’s all this social media stuff all about anyway?” “I know I should be thinking about it, but I don’t know exactly what I should be doing about it.” I do a lot of speaking engagements about digital branding and social media, and I get asked about social media A LOT. Just last week, I facilitated a social media exploratory for a group of executives at LIMRA. The workshop allowed participants to consider opportunities that they might want to pursue in truly engaging with their consumer base in meaningful ways. It’s a lot more in-depth than the media hype that Facebook and Twitter are getting.

On Friday, April 17th, Oprah joined Twitter and sent her first tweet on national television. This was right about the same time that Ashton Kutcher got his millionth Twitter follower (beating out CNN), so she had Ashton on as a (remote) guest. The show represented a turning point for many social media proponents; they felt that social media had come of age and would now overtake “old-fashioned” (read “mainstream”) media alternatives as THE way to communicate.

While it’s true that there are benefits to Twitter, social media proponents need to understand that it is simply going to be added to the mix of media options available. I am not saying that Twitter will not be a game-changer. I believe that it will. But I don’t believe that it will take the place of traditional media … It will simply get folded into the mix.

I have been in marketing long enough to see the tremendous changes that have taken place over the past 20 years. At one point in my career, I had to make a case for senior management for why my marketing plan should include cable as a part of my media buy. Senior management argued, “Why on earth would we want to divert our TV dollars away from network TV?” I had built a whole presentation about how “It’s cost-effective, it reaches my core target audience, it stretches our TV ad dollars.” Anyone in marketing today would think that building such a presentation was absurd; of course you should have cable as a part of your TV mix. But back then, it was a struggle to convince others to this way of thinking! Today, I’m certain there are brand managers who contemplate why they shouldn’t just eliminate their network TV buy altogether!

The same evolution will happen with social media. While it is the newfangled thing for everyone to talk about, monitor and watch these days amongst marketers, I see a day in the future when social media will be yet another tool in a marketer’s tool belt just as “cable” is now just another line item in a marketer’s advertising budget. We will get to a day when marketers can’t imagine developing a campaign without at least considering how their brand, or new product or service offering might be expressed digitally across a range of social media options.

In the end, it all comes back to strategies for reaching your core target audience. If you are trying to reach the 18-34 year old, you better get a social media strategy in place, because as I noted in a recent blog post, according to a March 31/April 1 Harris Interactive research study, three-quarters of that audience have some sort of social media presence (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter). But if your target is the aging Baby Boomer, less than 25% have a social media presence and only 5% of all people are on Twitter.

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