Where Does Marketing Fit Into Social Media?

Marketers have been admonished both for trying too hard and not trying hard enough to incorporate blogs and other social media into their marketing plans. The key to succeeding, experts say, is to come at social media with a different kind of perspective.

“The issue is straightforward, in that consumers want to have a dialogue about products they’ve purchased, or experiences they’ve had, but not all of those dialogues are going to be positive,” Mark Kingdon, CEO of Organic, told ClickZ News. “A brand has to understand that, and decide to what extent they want to engage consumers in a dialogue like this.”

This challenge of giving up control of the brand message scares many brand owners away from participating in social media. Kingdon believes this is a mistake.

“Those conversations are taking place already. If you’re not ready to join in, you at least need to have a mechanism in place to listen to what people are saying about you,” he said.

But marketers must approach that dialogue with a self-confident attitude, Kingdon said. “It’s like a woman thinking about wearing a bikini to the beach,” he continued. “She can either be secure in her self-image before exposing it to the world, or be in good shape.”

For those marketers who are ready to move beyond listening, but are not yet prepared to blog themselves, advertising is a valid option, if approached with the right expectations, according to Joseph Jaffe, marketing consultant and author of Life After the 30-second Spot.

“When a marketer comes to a blogger talking about advertising, it’s important to be clear and manage expectations,” Jaffe told ClickZ News. “It’s not about quantitative reach anymore. It’s about qualitative reach, reaching the best people for your message.”

A marketer’s attitude when approaching bloggers is equally as important, Jaffe added.

“The whole marketing communications process has always been completely linear. The conversation is now circular — it’s a merry-go-round that’s always going on. Marketers need to figure out how to jump on and be part of the experience, but they’re usually struggling to stop the ride, or wait until it stops before getting on,” Jaffe said.

Marketers shouldn’t look at blogs as just another Web site where they can push their messages to an audience, Jaffe said. Because blog readers are often very Web-savvy, they will see through overt advertising.

Instead, Jaffe recommends approaching bloggers with the idea of sponsoring their blogs, to support their voice and thought leadership. The sponsor’s generosity and support will be noted by both the blogger and the audience, which will help the company more than ads, he contends.

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