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One Fish, Two Fish* or Why Social Media Is Not a Complete Answer

  |  July 27, 2011   |  Comments

Fishing in the social media watering hole? Here's some food for thought.

The right social play is top of mind for everyone from Joe's pizza shop to Google and all the marketers in between as the consumers you want to reach spend more and more of their time in social media. If you want to reach targeted groups of consumers the smart move is to fish where the fish are, right?

That's certainly true, in part, but you need to consider the population makeup, the expectations and behaviors of those fish in that particular watering hole before you set your line, especially if you are thinking of settling down in that one spot and no other. Suppose you want to reach red fish and your goal is some measurable conversion event? The social media watering hole will not return acceptable results in many plausible situations, like:

  • The watering hole you are at has a small percentage of red fish, or
  • Red fish tend to be loners, or
  • There is a predominance of red fish but the hole is really small or is sparsely populated, or
  • There is a mix of red and blue fish but in this hole the blue fish call the shots while the red fish hide, or
  • You brought blue fish bait which the red fish won't touch, or
  • The red fish are there to get sun or socialize but they tend to do their eating in another spot, or
  • You arrived at dawn but red fish tend to arrive in the evening hours, or
  • This watering hole is in an inconvenient location and they charge an entry fee, or
  • The red fish are biting but you can't reel them in or have not brought a basket or bucket to get them home, or
  • The red fish are really on their way to another watering hole where they do bite and you can reel them in

Business and marketing goals for social media programs are as diverse as any other channel and the red fish are not all alike even if you have them defined down to a science. Some red fish are ready to buy and some are early in their research while some do no research at all. Some will ask their friends for advice and reviews and some will search for credentialed advice or published wisdom. Some respond to some kinds of information or stimuli that have no impact on others. Some spend time on social channels while others spurn them and those that do spend time on social channels choose different properties, modes of interacting and even identities.

It is impossible to pin all your success on one channel or tactic, no matter how effective or sexy it is in the media right now. Your red fish are probably spending a lot of time in social media but they also search and text and view videos and read articles and emails and download utilities and play games and shop online among the myriad of different activities that fish and people engage in through digital mediums.

Like all marketing channels, social media is effective in some situations and not in others. It is a rare when it can stand alone to reach, motivate, engage, and convert customers without the support of other digital and offline tactics. Even if social media stands center stage in your marketing strategy you will need to address how users get to your social sites and how you will continue to interact with them in appropriate context and cadence after they leave the social environment. You will need to understand the full digital opportunity including all the possible touch points and conversion points where your fish meet your brand.

It's plain to see that I have zero experience in fishing but I am a big Dr. Seuss fan and a fan, as well of smart, effective, full-circle thinking in marketing planning. Use social media for the effective channel that it can be for some audiences and some objectives but don't assume it is the answer to all your marketing challenges on its own.

*Credit to Dr. Seuss

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Robin Neifield

Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.

Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.

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