Don’t Overlook the Importance of Social Media

By | June 30, 2009

There has been a lot of talk lately about whether or not Twitter and other social networks are great marketing tools or whether they are much ado about nothing. I’m on the side of those who think that social networks are an increasingly important part of the mix.

So here it is. If you’re not incorporating social media — at least in some form — in your own marketing, as well as taking it into consideration in the marketing of your clients, you’re blind spot is showing. 

In today’s MediaPost Search Insider, I clicked through to an interesting post about how Twitter and Facebook broke the news about the death of Michael Jackson, while the mainstream media was still scrambling and the mainstream search engines were oblivious. 

Loren Baker points to recent events to squash doubts that real-time social media keeps people more informed about breaking news than traditional news outlets — while search isn’t always up to the challenge. When the news broke that Michael Jackson had died from cardiac arrest after being rushed to the hospital, celebrity Twitter streams and Facebook users had the news. 

Google Search lagged in breaking news coverage — and Microsoft’s Bing “absolutely failed,” Baker writes. He provides screen shots of search results after the first reports of Jackson’s death: The first three listings in the query “michael Jackson ” on Bing returned information on concert tickets, Wikipedia, and Michael Jackson News — Yahoo Music, respectively. 

Sure, you can argue that, while social networks and blogs aren’t held to same journalistic standards as mainstream media and therefore can worry about reporting things quickly rather than reporting them right. However, that argument misses the point. Social networks got it first because they have become such a critical part of the social fabric. It’s just more evidence that we need to take them seriously. 

Social networking like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook have become part of the fabric of our culture. You can love them. You can hate them. But you can’t ignore them or dismiss them. As marketers (and unless you are a manufacturing only print business—and who is these days?— you are a marketer), we need to understand and incorporate these media as part of a broader multi-channel strategy. Anyone who writes them off as irrelevant is showing their marketing ignorance. 

I look at my own business as a microcosm of the larger issue. Gone are the days when trade magazine bylines alone established your industry credibility. My stature in this industry has become largely influenced by my activity on industry blogs and social networking sites. People contact me on a regular basis because of comments I’ve made on LinkedIn discussion boards. When people ask me for the URL to my blog, I give them my Twitter ID instead. 

The major brand marketers aren’t spending millions of dollars developing social networking strategies because it’s a waste of money. They are making the investment because this is where the eyeballs are, both business and consumer. If you want to know where the movers and shakers of this industry are, you can find them in the social networking world. If they aren’t there in person, they have people monitoring the social networks for them. There is a reason for it. 

When Twitter and Facebook get the Michael Jackson news first, it’s a wake-up call to the rest of us. If we’re not paying attention to social networks—if we’re not incorporating them into our own marketing strategies and the strategies of our clients—we’re making a huge marketing mistake.

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7 thoughts on “Don’t Overlook the Importance of Social Media

  1. Michael J

    Another take on this important development is not as marketers but as printers. As the communication ecology changes, there may be a new opportunity for print – the product – as opposed to a way that printers can use social media to market.

    My point is that printers have always been terrible self marketers and I fear that’s not going to change anytime soon. On the other hand, most printers have always seen word of mouth as the most reliable way to get new business. Only now are globals recognizing the same reality. The social media is better, faster, cheaper word of mouth.

    I have to believe that a viral marketing campaign could be much more effective once print has the speed and scale to respond in real time. At PacPrint they floated the printernet as a way of thinking about new print capabilities. It’s just new jargon to refer to distribute and print.

    Consider the effect of 5,000,000 postcards with 2d codes that link to a youtube commercial. I have to believe that GM, HP or any of the globals would jump at the chance, if it could be printed and distributed in a couple of days.

    50 PSPs printing 10,000 each gets you to 5,000,000 with no strain on anyone’s capacity. With distribute and print, it should be pretty easy to do that in a day or two.

  2. Dennis Karamol


    I have just opened a twitter account. I follow you because I picked up your info from one of the blogs. My feeling is that you write columns with information that is pertinent to your followers. Hoewver, being a print acct mgr and not a writer I grapple with what to offer on a twit post without sounding mundane or trite. After all we’re talking about a 140 charcters. any thoughts how to be effective other than linking to a web site?

  3. Bill Gallagher

    I find it more than just a little amusing that people involved in Social Media post about how great Social Media is, on (you guessed it) Social Media sites. It’s sort of like a preacher talking about how great church is to the choir. Of course everyone is going to agree, because we are all here and of like minds.

    So lines like, “So here it is. If you’re not incorporating social media — at least in some form — in your own marketing, as well as taking it into consideration in the marketing of your clients, you’re blind spot is showing. ” really should be published in trade magazines, or in a newspaper article, but not on a blog or Social Media site. We get it, we got it, we’re here.

  4. Marion Williams-Bennett

    I completely agree that social media is and will become an increasingly important part of the marketing mix. But I would also suggest that there needs to be balance between social media and more mainstream communications.

    Heidi points out the Michael Jackson story, which is a great example. Through social media we hear about the death, etc. but can we confirm or truly believe the facts around it until it gets confirmed by a mainstream source?

    In marketing, the same is true. Marketers are rushing out to Twitter and LinkedIn in an effort to position themselves as part of the community, as a leader. But without validation from other credible mainstream sources like editors, customers, and analysts your position as a “trusted source” is far less credible. Will people make a buying decision based on what they learn purely from social media?

    Finally, I think marketers miss some of the true value of these social media conversation – the chance to simply listen. Listen to the concerns, trends and conversations that are occurring in these social media communities and use that data to develop your strategy.

  5. Noel Ward

    Let’s have a realtiy check here.
    The usefulness and impact of social media varies greatly with the medium and the topic. The rapid spread of Michael Jackson news via Twitter seems to me more reflective of pop culture than being indicative of the importance of social media as a serious communications medium. What other news —real news rather than entertainment and star-struck hero-worshipping— with actual facts included, has been spread quickly via Twitter?

    The effectiveness of social media is very much based on one’s “friends and followers,” the virtual entourage that’s essential to having information (and one’s every random thought) be widely and quickly disseminated. If you want to send a message, but don’t have the right group of followers/fans/friends, etc., then your message really won’t go all that far. So as with any media, knowing your audience and communicating with them effectively is critical. If you can carefully select those whom you “follow,” “friend,” or whatever, and use some care in how you communicate with them, then the messages and your chosen medium can be effective. But when you forward every RSS feed that hits your computer and share what you had for breakfast each day the value and relevancy of your message is lost because it becomes noise, like the TV ads you ignore or mute.

    Yes, social media is important, but at this stage of its development the best ways to use them as marketing tools are yet to be found. This does not mean they shouldn’t be used, and we should all keep trying to use them, trying things out. But they are not some magic bullet that you must use or fall hopelessly behind.

  6. Victor Curran

    Clients don’t have time for a leisurely lunch any more, and pared-down entertainment budgets don’t cover those trips to the ball park and the golf course that used to be a requirement for maintaining good customer relations. When customers don’t have the time, and printers don’t have the money, how do you stay close to your clients? You can call them every week or two, but 20 other printers are calling them, too, so that will probably just annoy them.
    LinkedIn, Facebook, and even Twitter are good ways to keep the lines of communication open. They’re free, and they’re respectful of your customers’ time (they don’t read your message until they’re ready). Best of all, the message isn’t “buy something from me,” it’s “”I’d like to share something with you.”
    Recently I learned that one of my clients had changed jobs–from his post on Facebook. Did I close a sale because I was the first to congratulate him? Not yet, but the ROI yardstick for social networking has to be the same as it was for the old-school ball games and rounds of golf–and the break-even point is a lot lower, since Tweeting costs a lot less than a night at Fenway Park.

  7. Mark Thompson

    We’ve just concluded several months of research and testing on the business uses for social media – specifically within print businesses. Our research aligned with similar research we’ve seen.

    Uses to consider for your business:

    Using social media as a marketing or public relations channel.

    Using social media to enhance and extend specific employee reputations (SME), thereby enhancing the company’s reputation.

    Using social media sites as a source of information about what customers, competitors and others think about your business.

    Monetizing Social Media For Business: How can social media sites be leveraged to provide revenue streams within the social media space targeting members for “in-space” transactions.

    The base line learning – for us – is that some printing companies are successfully using social media directly and indirectly to promote their businesses though ROI is difficult to measure. PPC Ads bought for social media space exposure are successful if the product is viewed as “socially relevant to the targeted buyer”. Passionate users rely almost exclusively on their SM space when looking for product information that leads to a purchase. There are examples of “in-space” transaction success – and failures.

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