Social Media: Just One Tool

I read a great post by Beth Harte today. You must go read, “Is social media the same as marketing?” over at her blog, “The Harte of Marketing”.

In summary, Beth takes on the term “social media marketing”.  Here is an excerpt:

“Here’s the reason why the term social media marketing is not working for me: social media is about sharing and discussing information. It’s communications, not marketing. And yes, of course, companies can indirectly market themselves through communications; we’ve been doing it for eons (at least one-way). But a good communicator does not always make a good marketer nor does a good marketer always make a good communicator. They are two different disciplines.”

After reading her very thorough post and the discussion going on in the comments, my thought process, which I left as a comment on her blog, is currently at this point:

“I agree that social media is another tool to be used as appropriate for a business marketing communication plan.

I wonder, though, how many people in large companies get caught up in selling social media as the new marketing just to get a foot in the door with leadership? This is assuming that leadership is not as knowledgeable or is nervous about entering the world of social media. And this question would be appropriate for internal communications as well.

Example: They make their pitch, persuade leadership, make promises they cannot know if they can keep or not, just to be able to check social media off their list. Do they then get caught up in the hype of their own pitch and forget there is more to a successful strategy and plan than “just” social media?”

This is real trap for communicators. Let’s use internal communicators as an example. As with just about any audience, employees need to be treated with respect, and that includes how they are communicated to as well as what is communicated to them. Internal communicators are faced with the daunting task of making this happen while assuring leadership stays credible and is comfortable with the honest messaging.

As we look at how to then distribute the messages, we open our toolbox and compare our communication tools with the proven vehicles our audiences respond to. And we are no different than any other communicator. We are excited about what technology can do with our messages (you know, the shiny object syndrome), and want to roll out these very cool tools.

However, if we forget that we already have proven vehicles that our audience responds to, we risk losing A LOT. Our audience, our credibility – oh, the list can go on and on.

Social media is but one tool in our toolbox. Internal communicators, in some instances, do have to wear several hats, including an internal marketing hat, which means that even if we are not strong in both disciplines, we still have plan and implement in both disciplines. BUT, no matter what, we have to ensure we are communicating effectively.

My caution is that if you have the opportunity to introduce a social media tool into your internal communications plan, pursue it. But do your research first and don’t promise that the tool you introduce is the end-all, be-all. You will have to prove that it is working, as an effective communication and marketing tool. Make it a part of your plan, NOT your  plan.

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Susan Cellura is a marketing communications professional with over 20 years of experience. She is a dynamic communications professional and enthusiastic team-builder, with a progressive history of success in designing and implementing communications programs for global organizations. A strategic thinker with the ability to understand the needs of multiple audiences and deliver solutions, Susan is a results-oriented problem-solver with exceptional interpersonal and negotiation abilities. Having worked in a variety of global industries, she has grown business communications in her current position via a strong mixture of strategic resources, including social media.

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