There seems to be some diverging opinions out there regarding the role of social media as a mechanism to drive business growth. I think everyone would agree that it has enabled a whole new era of opportunity for businesses to reach a broader audience and engage with current and potential customers in a more meaningful way.
Social Media is tool, like public relations or advertising, to communicate a message to the intended audience. As such it should be done within the context of a strategic framework in order to be effective in building a brand.
Where I think marketers get in to trouble in managing social media is they don’t see themselves as brand or customer advocates but rather program managers. This disconnect seems to be a function of a shift from “strategic” to a more “tactical” business management approach for companies. Increased competition, deteriorating economic factors and technological changes have shortened the time horizon for return on investment for companies.
Managing social media in isolation of the marketing function is a recipe for disaster. To be effective in building a brand ALL communication elements need to be tightly coordinated to ensure there is a consistent message being delivered. Allowing a group that is not tightly aligned with the marketing function to manage and control a key customer facing tool, like social media, can dilute overall brand building effectiveness.
Strong brands have a tightly aligned and consistent message across all aspects of the business. Having different functions in an organization, that aren’t aligned with the brand promise, communicating with customers can easily send conflicting messages to the market and dilute marketing effectiveness.
It takes discipline and a long term perspective to extract the maximum value from tools like social media. Build your marketing plan and simply carve out a section on Internet Marketing or SMM and outline your strategy & tactics. This way you’ll know whether it supports your brand/business strategy or not.