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Social Media: Marketing vs. Communication

Social Media, is it marketing or communication?

Yes marketing can be considered a type of communication, but more specifically do you view social media as an avenue for promotion and selling or a medium for conversation via a brand and an individual or a brand and large number of people?  Can it be both at the same time?

Social media can be tricky to grasp in that it isn’t always clearly defined.
The edges are rough, often very rough.

No one department or segment of business has complete ownership of nor complete reliance on social media and much like how a telephone can be used to make an outgoing sales call or to receive an incoming customer service inquiry, social media as a tool covers a gauntlet of opportunities and can fulfill a variety of business objectives. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so alluring, yet still so difficult to quantify and measure.

If the organization I’m working with creates a product information video and puts it up on YouTube, one could easily classify that activity under the umbrella of marketing. If however after the video is posted a troubling number of viewers begin leaving negative feedback via the comments, should the video and marketing effort be considered a failure? What if the video uncovers opportunities for direct response?  What if valuable customer feedback can be gathered in the process?

Is marketing contradictory to the honest use of social media?

Here’s the big question in all of this, if social media is meant to establish a level of transparency and authenticity behind a brand, are we in the wrong as marketing professionals to be using it for the ultimate objective of increasing the bottom line.

Yes… and no

The problem is that social media is all too often taken advantage of and used from the wrong perspective. Social media isn’t a sell sell sell sell all of the time type of arrangement. In fact I’d argue that more often than not that social media is the ultimate soft sell. It defies logic at times. Imagine a door to door sales person who instead of walking up and knocking on doors and pitching his product decided to hang out in a room and shoot the breeze with other people all day and only mention his product if and only if the opportunity presented itself in accordance to the conversation at hand.

Marketing takes precedence, it’s what keeps the lights on and gets expenses paid, however social media is not end all be all from a marketing standpoint. Think of social media an add-on to already established objectives. It can be highly beneficial when used with poise, but it shouldn’t make or break a business. Social media is used for communication; sometimes that communication includes marketing and at other times it takes on the form of customer service and customer retention (both of which can also spill over into the realm of marketing).

Some additional thoughts via Chris Pirillo

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