What Social Media Can Learn From Traditional Marketing

Nescafe AdvertI recently got into a debate with someone about the benefits of social media. This person (who I won’t name because I think they were being an idiot) maintained that the biggest benefit to social media was getting links for SEO, and I have to admit my heart just sank. There is no denying that social media is great for building links, but it’s a side effect of a marketing technique that is far broader reaching and can have a much bigger impact for businesses that do it well.

Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the attitude of an individual, but something that is quite widespread in SEO, and it’s not only social media that is met with this attitude of irrelevance, quite often traditional marketing methods are met with similar derision. One of the reasons for this is, I think, is the ability to track ROI so accurately for SEO, we are held accountable in a way that our offline marketing counterparts aren’t, but social media means that we are going to have to learn to accept that the SEO way isn’t the only way, and for that we have to look backwards.

Until the internet, widespread pull marketing didn’t really exist (the yellow pages is perhaps as close as it came), TV, DM, Print, they’re all push marketing methods, working to gain brand awareness, and maintain a steady stream of marketing & advertising so that when someone was ready to buy, your business was at the front of their mind.  When you stop and think about it, social media is far more aligned with this than it is with SEO, but SEO’s are the ones in the position, and with the expertise to take advantage of it.

So what can we take from the decades of learning that traditional marketing offers us

Reporting Results

When traditional marketers track the results of a TV campaign, they don’t look at which ad slot generated the most sales, they can’t, what they look at instead is what uplift the campaign as a whole had on total sales. They may be able to get some additional data from a unique phone number or URL on the ad, but that will only give them a limited view of the overall impact of the campaign. In social media we can track a lot more data than this, looking at weather sales had a social media touchpoint, seeing which mentions had the biggest impact on visitors and more, but fundamentally a consumer may never click through on social media, but the persistent presence of a brand can increase click throughs through other channels, look at overall traffic uplift as well as direct referrals for more meaningful results.

Great Concepts Deliver Great Results

I doubt any advertising agency has ever walked into a pitch with the following “we’re going to talk to people through TV advertising, then we’re going to ask viewers how they feel about you”, yet we quite often hear “engage users through social media and monitor sentiment”. It’s the same idea, and equally useless. When you think about the TV campaigns you remember, they’re usually interesting, funny or shocking concepts, they’re always unique and can have a huge impact on sales for the businesses lucky enough to develop those campaigns.

If you’re going to develop a social media campaign, remember that you need a reason for people to engage, and you need to innovate, there are as many ideas possible for social media as there are for TV ads, we just need to get better at finding them (or work closely with an advertising agency, having done this a lot recently I can honestly say that creative advertising agencies are brimming with ideas they would love you to execute)

Plan for the long term

Most Marketing teams will have a plan, not for this month or next, but for the next 12 if not 18 months. They will plan campaigns and marketing outreach around key times in their business cycle, maximising their opportunities and accordingly their ROI. Social media should be equally well planned out, what are the opportunities in your market place, will that exciting idea you’ve had work better 6 months down the line. Online marketers are used to being able to do everything quickly, and see results equally quickly, but biding your time can have far greater results for your campaigns.

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11 Responses to “What Social Media Can Learn From Traditional Marketing”

  1. Dawn says:

    “a consumer may never click through on social media, but the persistent presence of a brand can increase click throughs through other channels,”

    Please could you clarify what you mean by this in terms of social media?

    Surely, someone is not going to ‘follow’ or even find a company using social media unless they already know and like the company. And probably not even then – following a company is like asking for spam.

    Thus surely social media does not bring new business for most companies. At most it can help keep hold of existing clients (and I am dubious of that). If you disagree, please give an example of an average sized company where it works well.

    Being on the web is not a “persistent presence” as their social media needs promoting as much as the main site if people are to discover it. Otherwise it is just a big waste of time and money.

  2. What I meant by that statement is that if today, I see one of the SEO chicks RT something about brand x, then in 3 months time I do a search and brand x is position 2, the chances of me clicking through to that (then recognised) brand are increased. If I see all 4 of the other SEO chicks RT something from that brand over that three month period, my recognition, and perception of them as a reputable company are increased further still.

    As for giving you an example of a company where social media has brought on new custom, I will use the same example I always use, Millies Fresh & Organic in Leeds, @milliesleeds , not only are they using social media very effectively, but I became a customer through seeing them on social media, and can personally think of at least three friends who have become customers through my engaging with them on social media (and that’s just the ones I know about). Now that is a small brand using social media very well, on the other end of the scale is compare the meerkat who have developed a large scale campaign which is generating huge volumes of new business for them, the key is in building the right campaign for the brand in question.

    Social media is perfectly capable of bringing on new customers, if used in that way, or it can be a tool for encouraging repeat custom and generating brand loyalty.

    I would say that if you are following a company and they spam you, then that company is spamming, not engaging people through social media, just as SEO companies who spam are spamming and not doing SEO. And yes you are right, social media requires promotion, and a competent social media strategist will design that promotion as part of their campaign, outreach is just as important as content.

  3. Dawn says:

    “I see one of the SEO chicks RT something about brand x, then in 3 months time I do a search and brand x is position 2, the chances of me clicking through to that (then recognised) brand are increased.”

    Surely, the company’s social media can be missed out of that equation, though?

    If a friend, for example, says that they have had a nice lunch at a café, they are going to say that regardless of whether or not the café has a Twitter feed to link. That’s not Social Media, it’s word-of-mouth, and suggests that a company should just concentrate on being great at what they do and that side of the marketing will handle itself for free thanks to the nature of social media.

    The internet is great for flagging up good quality and interesting stuff, and attempts to fake interest in something usually nose-dive or get flamed. This is great as it hopefully will make it more difficult to advertise crap.

    By “spam”, I was just meaning anything posted with the purpose of advertising. I assume companies who have been told that they need to be on Twitter etc. will be using it with the subtext of “buy our product” on all their posts, rather than to socialise because they’d like to meet like-minded or interesting people as Twitter is designed for. They are posting as a company, not as a human being. They are certainly unlikely to post anything too political or contentious, say, through fear of putting off customers, thus their posts will become bland inanity. (although I might be underestimating the amount of people who like bland inanity)

    Certainly, the company you mention follow 1500 people (and are followed by half that amount), which suggests they are searching for a keyword such as “leeds” and following anyone who sounds like they may use them in the hope they’ll get a re-follow… which is hardly in the spirit of being friendly. You could simply not keep up with a twitter feed with that many people on it. Likewise, if anyone follows me and they follow that many people, I just think “spammer” and block them, which hardly gives a company a good reputation.

    (As for Compare the Meercat, I think it is a damning indication of the dumbing down of society if people can be entertained by one poor pun and Borat-plagiarising xenophobia, but that’s an aside!)

    “And yes you are right, social media requires promotion, and a competent social media strategist will design that promotion as part of their campaign”

    I fail to see why jobs like “social media strategist” exist. It is all marketing. Content and medium should be separate. A good marketer should have all-round knowledge and use the appropriate medium for the appropriate job. If people are experts in only one area, then surely that is often going to be a case of trying to force ideas into the wrong medium.

  4. Scott Polk says:

    “I fail to see why jobs like “social media strategist” exist. It is all marketing.”

    Even though you are correct that it is all marketing … “all-round knowledge” of all forms of marketing would make you very below par … specialties exist for a reason, because someone is better than the masses at a particular skill set.

  5. Dawn says:

    Scott –

    “specialties exist for a reason, because someone is better than the masses at a particular skill set.”

    What skills do you think someone needs to be a “social media strategist” that someone with an all-round knowledge of marketing would not have?

    There’s technically certainly not a lot to learn to understand the concepts of social media as far as I can see. Books on the subject are, what? 200 pages or so long? Am I missing something?

  6. Alex Craven says:

    @ Dawn

    reading your comments I sense an unlerlying cynicsm about social media as a valid marketing medium the rest of the debate seems to drop into detail aimed at supporting that overall view.

    I’m not going to try to convince you of the merits of social media to businesses but a couple of excellent recent examples (as you asked) are the announcement by dominos this week http://www.nma.co.uk/news/social-media-boosts-dominos-pizzas-online-sales-by-614/3015700.article and Starbucks announcing they drove 1m additional people into their stores via social media.

    You raise points about ‘finding’ the social media assets of a business and that people will only ever follow you if they already know you.. again I beg to differ.. consider the following…

    1. A consumer researches a purchase starting with Google, they identify several potential suppliers and then google those suppliers brand names, in the search results they will find the social media assets of those suppliers and we know from experience that these receive clicks from exactly this process.

    2. Many companies are running social media campaigns that are aimed at growning follwers, often using prizes to motivate the viral spread of the competition, entrance relying upon following the business, this is a well proven method of reaching consumers who arent aware of your brand and gettign them to follow you. It is also a good way of getting your existing customers to follow you.

    3. A key target for businesses should be to ge as many of their exisiting customers to follw their social media assets, this gives a never seen before chance to involve your customers in the evolution of your brand.. this is worth a huge amount to businesses in both growth and retention

    4. following a company is only like asking for Spam if the company doenst understnad how to use social media effectively. An engaging social media presence is led by the content that existing or potential customers will find engaging or useful, this is eactly why people will connect to your social media assets, engage with you in conversation and help you to virally spread your brand message to their ‘friends’

    5. A huge part of social media marketing is about ‘word of mouth’ and no you cant ‘miss the term social media out’ as it is this ‘new’ medium which is enabling word of mouth marking to reach never before seen levels of beneift, with the potiential for powerful messages about brands to be spread globally within minutes or hours to millions of people. It is precisely this workd of mouth element that makes social media so exciting, on the flip side it is also why brands are rightly cautious about it as negative word of mouth mesages are equally (if not more so) spread in minutes to millions.

    Finally I think you are posing good questions and answering these challenging opinions is what gets people like me and Sarah out of bed in the morning.. its exactly the same conversation I had with marketing directors when the internet kicked off, when SEO hit the marketing radar and I’m sure (I hope) will be followed by other challenges as technology moves on.

    However if you’d really like to get answers to your questions I dont think you will suceed on the blog comments.. why not come and meet us for a coffee?

  7. Dawn says:


    The thing is that the big brands like Starbucks and Domino can afford to give away stuff – both their campaigns seem to be based around this.

    There is also the question of whether it gains them repeat business. Starbucks is ultimately a bit crap. Personally, I’d claim my free pastry and then go to a proper cafe. Do enough people think “you know, that was a brilliant pastry” and make the effort to come back again?

    There is also the issue that if you type “starbucks twitter” – the second article is about their poor ethics and sabotaging their social media campaign!

    All this aside, the campaign would work as a real-world street campaign or a TV campaign. It is not something unique to social media, so it does not seem to involve a specialist skill.

    I’d personally have far more trust in someone with experience and qualifications in marketing to do my on-line work over a Social Media Expert who (correct me if I’m wrong) generally come from an SEO background.

    Can you define specific skills you believe a SME should have?

  8. Dawn says:

    Just looking into the Starbucks thing.

    They have 954341 followers, and 17133 stores. This means they have about 55 followers per store, which really isn’t many when you think of the sheer profile and marketing budget the company has, and the sheer amount of customers they have.

    If that is all they could get, I don’t see how a small company could compete unless they have their own inspired unique marketing ideas (and SMEs are going to save up any great ideas for larger clients, I’d assume, rather than to help a small business – so they’d have to do most of it themselves anyway)

  9. I think the big question here Dawn is, would someone with a marketing background actually do your TV or street campaign, or would implementation of those things actually fall to design, copywriting, advertising & media buying agencies? Marketing professionals consistently use specialists to implement their campaigns, and social media is no different.

    In terms of specialist skills, how about expertise in using analytics in order to effectively track the campaigns, experience of what communications work well online compared to offline, understanding of the impact social media can have on SEO, awareness of the impact that a facebook page can have over a facebook group & vice versa, understanding of which social networks will yield the best results for demographic targeting. In many respects social media is like PR, it’s about knowing what will get picked up, where to get it published and who to talk to to get it there. It is quite obvious that there are a lot of marketing professionals who are not comfortable enough in this space to implement campaigns without the assistance of a specialist agency or consultant, equally there are many who are, and that’s fine.

    In terms of the backgrounds that people in social media have, they are varied, I have met social media specialists from SEO, marketing & PR backgrounds, which isn’t surprising as social media crosses all of those disciplines. I think the reason that so many social media specialists are from an SEO background is nothing more than the fact that SEO’s were using many of these techniques for link building, which led them to understand the wider marketing implications and help their clients capitalise on them.

  10. Alex Craven says:

    @ dawn

    The differnece is that unlike a TV campaign, Starbucks and Dominos now have a 1-2-1 relationship with everone who took part in the offer, they can access a huge amount of information about them via facebook’s open graph (demographics on steriods) and if they look after those people, provide them with interesting content, offers etc then yes they have every chance of converting them into repeat customers and even better to turn them into brand advocates (believe it or not most people do actually like starbucks) who sell the starbucks experience to their friends via their social media interactions.

    I think it is important not to discount this just because you dont like the particular brand cited.. im sure if i met you we’d find a brand you do like that is using social media sucessfully (Our local bakery / coffee shop is making a good attempt for instance)

    WRT to ‘social media’ experts and marketing experience, then actually I think that is exactly the point of Sarah’s post, she is pointing out that a lot of SEO’s are a bit derisory of ‘traditional’ marketing and this is to their discredit.. I personally am a traditionally qualified marketeer and find this background invaluable in all aspects of our digital service provision.

    I’d also quesiton whether there are any real social media experts, this is still very new and as agencies we’re only as experienced as our clients have lets us be.. we’ve all (clients and agencies) a lot to learn yet..!

    WRT specific skills an SME needs then it depends on what you do and who you do it for.. its important to state that for some SME’s social media isnt really all that relevant, particularly in B2B environments where the client doesnt use social media themselves.

  11. Badtoilet says:

    I don’t see that any small to medium business can make any significant revenue from twitter.
    Myself I have not used twitter like this to follow brands Perhaps I miss the point about twitter. I do usd twitter for news on subjects that interest me but it’s the odd edge case where it is something of interest. A regular web search is far better.

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