PNP Revisited: Why Social Media Engagement is Not Marketing

race car

by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl)

About a year ago at the CBIs Social Media Tools conference, Zoe Digital Consultings Zoe Dunn spoke with us about social media and marketing… and the difference between them. Heres what what she had to say about that (with slight paraphrase for clarity):

Theres a discrepancy about whether social media should be a marketing vehicle or a communications vehicle. Its really a channel, not a strategy. Its a delivery mechanism for your message, and generally that falls into the communications, because its a two-way dialogue – but not necessarily marketing, because its not driving a consumer toward an action, which is what marketing would be doing. Some other industries are definitely using it in that way, but the pharmaceutical industry is basically leveraging it to gain an understanding of who their consumers are, to create a dialogue, or increase the amount of information thats out there. Its not a strategy for how to going to market our brand; its a channel to deliver of those communications.

Zoe started her pharma marketing career in direct-response advertising about 15 years ago. Legendary founding father of the advertising industry David Ogilvy would have approved: he believed that was necessary to anyones success in advertising. And perhaps thats why Zoe has such a clear grasp of the important distinctions at play here.

When we revisit some of our posts, we do so because times have changed and they need a reboot, a correction. Sometimes, however, its because we dont think people have learned those lessons yet any better than they had the first time we talked about them. This is one of those times:

Zoes right: Social media is not a strategy.

Social media is (“are, really) a collection of channels or vehicles that deliver messages. What those messages say is what a strategy should tell you.

But this is something a lot of people have been forgetting for several years now. They get all hyped up by the abilities that these new channels offer – which are amazing! – and forget that a strategy is bigger than that.

Since we mentioned “vehicle before, lets think about it in terms of a metaphor.

A racing teams strategy cant just be “have the coolest car, can it? Of course not. Their strategy has to take into account who the team drivers are, how they interact with each other, what other teams will be in the race, what theyre likely to do, how to counteract that, what the weather will be that theyll be racing in, and a hundred other things.

Our competitions are no different. We need a strategy, and while we absolutely have to have a great car in order to succeed, it wont do it by itself.

Our thanks to Zoe for reminding us of that very important distinction – so necessary to teach people a year ago, and so necessary to remember today.



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