The Discipline of Social Media Marketing
Over the past few weeks, a number of people have posted about where social marketing "fits" in the organizational structure of a company, what sort of outside service agency is best positioned to help companies with their social media marketing efforts and how do we define expertise in this new field. Among them, and apologies if I leave anyone off: Todd Defren, Dave Fleet, Susan Getgood (that's me), Josh Hallet, Kami Huyse, Geoff Livingston, and Jeremy Pepper.
Is PR the rightful functional "owner" of social media? Or should it be marketing or advertising that gets the ball? Perhaps social media marketing is just a subset of word-of-mouth marketing? With everybody and his brother now hanging out their shingles as blogging experts and social media gurus, how does a company determine who has the expertise and experience to help it navigate these waters?
The functional lines between our marketing disciplines of PR, direct marketing and advertising are blurring. Social media marketing requires a blending of marketing and PR/communications skills. BTW, this line is blurring everywhere but it is more readily and immediately apparent in the social media world than offline. But it is offline too. Remember that online social networks are reflections of the interests and affiliations we have "in real life." Computer networks simply speed up the effect.
The other line that is blurring beyond recognition is the line between seller and buyer, journalist and audience. Now more than ever, we have multiple roles, sometimes almost simultaneously. A mommy blogger is a customer of a consumer products company, but at the same time, she might be a mompreneur with her own small or medium sized business. Journalists are bloggers; bloggers are journalists. Again, a reflection of similar real-world shifts, amplified by the Internet. We all gets lots of spam.
Whether social media marketing is a new marketing discipline, or simply a tectonic shift in Marketing with a capital M, I do not know. What I do know is that in order for it to thrive, for companies to be able to detect the real experts from the sham, for individuals to develop their skills to meet the new imperatives, we need to understand that it is a discipline. Not a project. Not an extension of PR or advertising or web marketing. Not something you can learn in a week from reading Naked Conversations and Boing-Boing.
You need a solid grounding in marketing and public relations. The social media component isn't separable from the marketing plan. Everything still needs to track back to the plan, the objectives, the business goals. It isn't enough to know HOW to do something. You need to know WHY. Real experience in the field helps. Extensive coursework or an undergraduate degree in psychology or sociology is very useful. Some philosophy too. A soupcon of "renaissance person" such as a second language and familiarity with great literature doesn't hurt.
Most of all, we need credibility for this new discipline. Provided in part surely by our ongoing practice. The good examples. But that alone isn't enough.
We need the supporting academic research. That is what gives any discipline its "legs." Without it, social media marketing is tactics. Campaigns. Maybe strategies. But not a legitimate discipline or profession in the long term.
As practitioners, we need the information and insights from the research that will be presented at the Symposium, and that is reason enough to attend. More importantly, we need to support research organizations like SNCR because they provide part of the academic base. Can't attend, but wish you could? Send someone in your stead -- a junior colleague, a friend. No one to send? Make a supplemental donation to SNCR in support of the Symposium.
It can't happen without you.
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