Wow, the marketing communication landscape has changed with the dominance of social media marketing, which is growing dramatically and use is expected to quadruple by 2015. Social networks like Facebook with 750 Million users, Twitter, with 200 Million users, and even newbie Google Plus, which gained over 30 million users in less than a month compels firms pay attention.
This growth in social media usage creates its own cottage industry of professional, gurus, and even traditional agencies who compete to guide business practice and generate revenue from firms participating in social media marketing.
While we could argue about the value of all these social media gurus and the advice they dispense, a bigger discussion is how social media fits into other communication efforts undertaken by the firm — including advertising, public relations, or corporate branding.
Now, here’s the rub — is everyone out there saying the same thing about the firm and supporting the same branding? If not, communication damages the brand rather than supporting it. Moreover, it’s a waste of money. When everyone is out there saying different things about the brand, disaster may ensue. The cure is to integrate marketing communication across every aspect of communication whether verbal or non-verbal or whether through social or traditional media.
Some problems integrating marketing communication are structural — often different departments or different agencies create and disseminate communication. A PR department (firm) creates public relations, several departments or workgroups may control advertising for various brands, and social media may be controlled by technology managers rather than marketing folks.
Not only do you have multiple inconsistent voices, but you likely have folks who don’t talk to each other — and may not even respect each other’s efforts. Most notably, folks working in traditional media have little respect for those they see as playing around on Facebook all day while those working in social media feel those in traditional media are totally out of touch and old.
Surmounting these problems is challenging, but possible with cross-functional teams or managers overseeing the entire process. A bigger problem is firms who don’t understand the importance of integration.
Elements of Integrated Marketing Communication
Everything a firm does is a form of communication — the colors, images, words, and content. So, how do you integrate marketing communications in the era of social media?
- Logo – certainly, the minimum is to use the same logo throughout the company communications. Business cards, stationary, websites, and social media should all have the same logo. Limitations in social media argue for modified logos, allowing firms to use the same logo across implementations. Think about the little favicons as you create logos appropriate for electronic communication.
- Color schemes — branding with color is very strong. The logo, website, printed materials, and everything the firm produces should echo the same color scheme. This includes colors for storefronts, signage, and uniforms in the retail setting.
Starbucks is a good example of a firm that uses color very effectively. The green is carried through from the aprons worn by partners, the cups, signage, website, Facebook page … everything has the same color.
- Images – don’t use one spokes person in print advertising, then someone else for in-store signage, and other on the website. And, here’s where many problems occur because the technology folks doing the website may not find the same images useful.
- Wording – sometimes different messages exist across traditional and social media and these differences are harder to find than different images, logos, and color schemes. Inherent differences in tone between different types of media sometimes dictate these differences. For instance, social media is often more open, supportive, and customized than traditional media. To the extent possible, the tone of these conversations should be consistent.