Integrating Social Media into Your Marketing Strategy

digital marketing campaigns fail

social media marketing strategySocial media marketing strategy builds on marketing concepts critical for the success of your marketing efforts and integrating strategy into a cohesive whole. Marketing strategy is:

is a process that can allow an organization to concentrate its limited resources on the greatest opportunities to increase sales and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. A marketing strategy should be centered around the key concept that customer satisfaction is the main goal. (Wikipedia)

To achieve organizational goals, firms need to not only create customer satisfaction (or better, customer delight) but creating customer value.  Examples of elements a firm provides that increase customer value are tangibles, such as:

  • Product and service quality
  • Value pricing
  • Differentiated products and services (uniqueness)
  • Enhanced benefits, such as usability, functionality, etc.

In addition, when customers receive intangible elements in the exchange.  Intangible benefits include:

  • Feelings of belongingness or togetherness, such as being a valued member of a group or family
  • Feelings of comfort, such as safety, nostalgia, familiarity
  • Feelings of respect, such as having people look up to you
  • Feelings of specialness
  • Feelings of cultural identification, such as patriotism
  • Feelings of accomplishment

Importantly, consumers make product decisions based on both tangible and intangible aspects of the product or brand.

How social media creates customer value

Social media can be an excellent tool for creating customer value.

Social media can be an essential element supporting marketing strategy by using a consumer’s social network as a communication channel, to spread information about the brand’s characteristics, its quality, its value …  A consumer often trusts the opinions expressed by members of their social network more than commercial messages, such as those coming from commercials or public relations.  They also feel the views of members of their social network are valuable since they believe their friends are like them, and they will probably like the same things their friends do.

Social networks are also much better at creating value through increasing intangible elements essential for the consumer.  Hence, when a consumer goes to a restaurant recommended by their Facebook friend, they may not only be doing so because they value the opinion of their friend, but they may also be doing it to share experiences with their friend.  They may feel a sense of belonging to the group by sharing their experiences.  Going to the restaurant may make them feel part of this group of friends.

Social networks also create meaning for network members. This shared cultural meaning informs consumers as to appropriate behaviors, which encourages them to emulate their friends.

Implementing a social media marketing strategy to create customer value

Using social media to create value requires:

  • Engagement with consumers; consumers should be encouraged to share with the organization such that conversation is a two-way street rather than the firm “talking” at the customer as is common in advertising.
  • Information exchange;  not only must companies provide more information about their brands and their company in social networks, and they should be more open with members of their social network — making them feel like insiders.
  • Encouragement for social network sharing; companies need to seek out network members willing to share the company’s message with their network, not just receive the company’s message themselves.  It is especially vital that firms seek influential network members to share the company’s message.
  • Connection on multiple platforms; consumers may find specific platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. more valuable.  Firms should seek to engage customers across these multiple platforms to ensure their message reaches potential customers.
  • Integration of social media with other marketing efforts of the firm.

Social media marketing strategy

Social media is an increasingly widespread tactic to achieve marketing goals.  But, like a hammer, it’s only good at some things, and to be effective social media needs to be part of a broader marketing strategy that uses other tactics, as well.  Integrating these marketing tactics is termed Integrated Marketing Communications.  But, marketing strategy goes beyond simple communication strategies, such as social media marketing, advertising, and promotion. A marketing strategy combines these communication strategies with other marketing tools to reach organizational goals.

Today, we’ll focus on integrating social media marketing with other communication tactics, and in later posts, we’ll focus on building an overall marketing strategy combining various elements of the marketing mix.

Elements of Communication Strategy

Classically, we talk about:

  • Advertising – which consists of media, including social networks, broadcast media, internet marketing, and print media.
  • Promotion – consists of contests, coupons, discounts, promotional items, sponsorships, etc.
  • Public Relations – which is unpaid advertising through media.  Social media marketing might fit into this category, as well.
  • Personal Selling – which involves using trained sales agents to promote the firm’s products and services.

Because the preferred goal is to coordinate across these efforts, most communication strategies consist of combinations rather than individual elements.

This gives us our first important aspect of social media marketing.

Social media marketing is most effective when combined with other communications strategies, rather than being used in isolation.

For instance, using your print advertising to encourage fanning on Facebook would be an example of combining social media and other advertising.  However, this is not a particularly valuable way to combine social media with other elements to create an effective marketing strategy.

Integrating Social Media

The overriding principle of integrating social media into your marketing strategy is to use the right tool for the right task — like a hammer works a lot better to nail something than to turn a screw.  So, what does social media do well:

  • Build community and relationships
  • Build credibility and trust
  • Harness the power of word of mouth
  • Create awareness
  • Share information

Social media is not so good at:

  • Advertising
  • Public Relations
  • Sales, although that might be changing.

That’s why social media should be combined with other communication strategies to optimize its effectiveness. Here are some ways to integrate social media effectively with different marketing strategies.

  • Contests are particularly useful in social media because they encourage sharing among members of a social network.  Supporting these contests through traditional advertising and PR are also proven marketing strategies.  For instance, Dunkin Donuts is giving away a trip to Costa Rica or free coffee for a year to winners of their contests.  Key elements of this contest are that entries must be in the form of a video uploaded to their Facebook page and that Fans of Dunkin Donuts vote for the winner.  This encourages sharing and creates valuable content that drives more traffic to the site that firms can use in future advertising efforts.
  • Firms can upload product advertising to YouTube, where it might be picked up by individuals and shared on their social networks.  For instance, the “Axe Ball Spray” commercials have been viewed millions of times on YouTube.  These commercials have received thousands of comments and have been uploaded millions of times to Facebook profiles.
  • Firms support event marketing through Twitter hashtags. These tags allow attendees to share information about the event (before, during, and after) with their social networks.  DC Digital Capital Week used the hashtag #dcweek as a tool linking across its week-long functions at various venues.
  • Similarly, events can use LivingSocial or Groupon to gain attendance.  The additional advantage is that attendees are encouraged to share their participation on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.  If they get their friends also to attend the event, they can get their payments refunded.  A great incentive to share with their social networks.  Combining these social media with your advertising doubles your impact, but the integration is most effective if each advertising effort includes a reference to the other.
  • Blogging can be a great way to support your sales and marketing efforts.  For instance, I recently worked with a client who used their blog as a means to connect with prospects.  By sharing information of interest to these prospects and highlighting the efforts of these prospects, the client was able to establish “top of mind” recognition that encouraged prospects to request a sales presentation when they needed services provided by my client.

The downside of Facebook business marketing

Earlier today I posted a link on my Facebook profile, hoping to spark some discussion about using Facebook for business. Well, I got a little more than I bargained for — and from some unexpected quarters.

The take-home message from this link is simple: social media marketing is marketing!

That means social media is just one tactic for getting your message to your audience – your target market. Other tactics include traditional media, non-digital word of mouth, and promotion. But, that also leaves the three other P’s of marketing — product, pricing, and place (distribution). If you don’t pay attention to things like product quality, providing value for the price, and making products available where consumers want them, your marketing falls flat regardless of which strategies and channels you use.

I was hoping to strike up a dialogue among the academics and practitioners on my Facebook page about the importance of KNOWING marketing, not just technology as a “social media marketing” expert. Instead, I got a negative reaction against Facebook’s business marketing. Here’s my response to that complaint:

I’m not disagreeing with you. If done right, social media shouldn’t be such an invasion of your social media conversations. Social media flow as naturally as other forms of word of mouth — which we, as consumers, find valuable and not something we want to avoid, as you can see below.

digital influence on purchase decisions
Image courtesy of Digital Marketing Community

Yet, with recent changes to their algorithm in an effort to increase revenue, Facebook (and other social media platforms) favor paid posts over organic content. That means users see a lot more advertising now than at any time in the past. And, some businesses are much more facile when it comes to creating native advertising that’s less intrusive than others.

Hence, I’m just saying that many of these companies using Facebook are NOT doing it right – that’s why users feel the way they do. And don’t forget, social media is bigger than Facebook, it includes blogs, Twitter, etc. As part of my current research project, I spoke with a company that is getting great results from their social media marketing — of course, they’re not using Facebook but mostly blogging. Their blog focuses on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and highlights responsibility among companies it hopes to attract as customers. They engage these companies (as well as others) in the dialogue and invite them to contribute to the blog. This was a successful strategy that generated new clients. Another informant discussed book marketing through social media marketing. This was very successful for them because they crowdsource elements of emerging books, build trusting relationships with prospective readers, and offer free elements, such as free chapters, etc. A similar tactic worked for a “friend” using social media marketing as a major element in marketing her “art”.

However, companies placing Facebook ads are interfering with the conversation and threatening the future of the medium. Already we see users leaving Facebook (especially younger users) in favor of platforms such as Snapchat that don’t allow advertising. Others simply spend less time on the platform because they don’t find as much value as before. I would deem these as failures of companies to use the platform in the best way possible, which hurts both the company’s performance and the Facebook platform.

It’s kind of the difference between product placement and push advertising. They are both advertising, but one is more likely to generate natural attitude change through generating WOM and creating positive associations that build the brand image. Push advertising is viewed less favorably and isn’t as good at accomplishing this goal.


I’ve laid out some key benefits of using Facebook business marketing in support of your brand to support growth and performance. Yet, using the platform the wrong way generates problems not only for your company but for the future of Facebook as a business marketing tool.

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