You Say Social, I Say Tomato…But Let’s Not Call the Whole Thing Off

The first step in developing a successful new media marketing strategy comprised of social media, group buying, mobile, and local is to know what you are talking about. This does not mean becoming an expert in all four areas, but rather getting clarity on what specifically your organization will do with these tools to achieve your marketing goals. This may sound simple, but given the pace of change in the digital landscape this is a significant, crucial exercise.

Social media (Facebook and Twitter), group buying (Groupon), mobile (AdMob), and local (Foursquare) are all emerging digital tools in the marketer’s arsenal. But with integration being an important aspect of any profitable campaign, it can be difficult to concisely categorize this promising “fab four.”

Here are some examples:

  • With 500 million users, Facebook is the king of social media. But according to Mobile Marketing Watch, 200 million users access Facebook pages through a mobile device. Is this social, mobile, or “mo-cial”?
  • Google reported recently that its mobile revenue was approaching $1 billion. But is this generated by ads served into mobile platforms through AdMob or people clicking on Google searches from their Android phones? If the latter, are advertisers unwittingly paying for mobile advertising while sending users to Web pages that render poorly in smartphone browsers?
  • Local space leader Foursquare is turning to mobile phones as the link between local businesses, the individual, and the individual’s network of friends. Is this local, mobile, social, or all of the above?
  • Google’s attempted acquisition of Groupon showed it is strategically positioning itself to become a local search force. But since many users access Groupon through social networks and mobile devices, is this local, mobile, or social?

From these examples, it’s clear just how blurry the definitions of social, group buying, mobile, and local advertising can be. Given the multiple overlapping evolutions taking place, understanding what you are trying to accomplish and how the specific marketing tool you choose will help you reach these goals is essential for success.

Given the sheer volume of change taking place, a strategy that begins with the biggest opportunity seems smart. According to Forrester Research estimates, social media marketing will be the largest of the emerging media types, reaching more than $3 billion by 2014. So it stands to reason that social is a sound jumping-off point.

In addition to its market estimates, Forrester has also done a good job segmenting the different types of social media into three distinct types: owned, paid, and earned. Knowing what you are talking about with social media means understanding the differences between these three.

  • Owned represents media that the advertisers own and control, such as blogs or packaging. Advertisers can put whatever messaging they want on owned media with minimal incremental cost. However, if the media is interactive, like a blog, advertisers should recognize that they will invite a conversation with consumers which cannot be controlled. Maintaining productive conversations with your customers and prospects is key to successful owned media.
  • Paid social media consists of good old-fashioned ad placements in social platforms. This tool is excellent for reaching new customers. The real trick with paid social is targeting to ensure the contextual appropriateness of content. Hawaiian Tropic may be comfortable advertising on the “Chillin Naked After A Shower Because Your [sic] Too Lazy To Get Dressed” Facebook group. Citibank may not.
  • Earned media consists of a piece of content carrying a marketing message going viral. This kind of advertising creates massive word of mouth buzz for a brand with minimal costs. The challenge with earned media is that it is hit driven. Every marketing manager would like to have the most popular video on YouTube or most-liked Facebook fan page, but getting this kind of attention, no matter how clever your idea, is unpredictable. This exposure is driven by the user community; therefore, it cannot be planned.

Emerging digital media types represent huge opportunities for advertisers, but they are in the early stages. What we all mean by social, group buying, mobile, and local is still getting worked out. Despite the loose definitions, there is good reason for excitement. They are proven to drive highly profitable marketing programs. If you are excited to get started with these advancing digital tools, begin by picking the biggest opportunity – social media – then break down the specific techniques you might deploy.

Knowing what you are talking about, what you want to say, and how you want to say it before you start the conversation will avoid the emerging media tower of Babel. In the end, the fab four’s ability to drive revenue and deliver results makes social, group buying, mobile, and local all worth talking about.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.