Is SM Marketing, PR or Other?

The reason I leave a question in the title here is because I really don’t know. I had dinner with a former boss this weekend and after a long discussion about social media (because he did not know too much and wanted to learn), he posed a question about social media’s ability to draw NEW customers. It is very obvious that SM can build loyalty and survey the needs and feelings of existing customers, and evaluate trends, but is it bringing in unique customers? Should it?

My initial reaction was that SM does bring in new customers and it should…but then I thought about it.

Take Twitter for example – You follow the accounts you are interested in. If you do not know or already dislike a product, you will not follow their account. Therefore, you are not a likely candidate to be a new customer. Yes, customers will engage with brands they like, but will new people engage?

These comments get me leaning toward SM as a branch of PR. Create impressions, gain coverage, get your product out.* Kraft/DiGiorno (with the help of Weber Shandwick) has illustrated this idea. Their recent announcement about delivering pizzas to tweet-ups has gained a lot of attention. I consider the campaign PR, but it has generated social media buzz. So maybe the campaign is PR, and what they do with it next to gain new customers will be the responsibility of SM. Hopefully I will get the chance to ask Weber how they have viewed the campaign later this week.

Perhaps SM is an “other” that cannot exist without the family to which it is associated. This implies that SM needs its own specialists within agencies that have an understanding of Marketing and PR. I know a few of you are just as thankful for that comment as I am.

I apologize for the lack of answers here, I’m looking for your opinion. Where are you getting your budget from? Marketing? PR? Other? Will their soon be an SM budget for companies? Does your SM bring in unique customers? Is that even the goal?

* Understandably simplified. Sorry PR people.

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3 thoughts on “Is SM Marketing, PR or Other?

  1. I think Coca-Cola already has a new dept. devoted to SM. So I’m sure more will follow.

    I guess it would depend on the intent of the content producer.

    This is a good question, but does it need answer?
    Somethings defy categories. And should not be caged.
    Is Red Hot Chilli Peppers funk, punk, rap? Yes….and no…

  2. As usual, Scott, you’ve served up an interesting topic. I definitely agree with Mr. Hay that it depends on the intent of the content producer.

    In regard to whether or not SM can engage new customers, I’d look at this example that I’ve experienced.

    Add-2 is a Chicago rapper who started following me based on some tweets I sent to other Chicago rappers. I had no idea who he was, but I checked out his MySpace page after he started following me, and I was immediately sold. I downloaded his mixtape and will definitely buy any record he releases once he’s on a major label in the future. All because he came across me and engaged me. He didn’t push his mixtape on me or anything. Just made a few @replies and let me discover him on my own.

    I’m not saying every company will be like that. There are plenty of brands I’ll come across online that I have no interest in, but I’d say that, by being willing to engage me in social media, Add-2 earned a fervent supporter who has linked to his music multiple times and has shared his mixtape with various friends. And I’m in Sioux Falls. That’s in South Dakota. An underground rapper from Chicago ten years ago probably would have never even thought he would have people in South Dakota ever his name, let alone listen to his music.

    In that sense (and to finally answer your question), I would say SM has plenty of potential to bring in new customers. As long as it’s done the right way, companies have just as much potential to draw me in as an ad might have. In fact, probably more because they’ll be building the connection an ad can’t build.

    Hooray social media!

    • And as usual, Mike, you have provided a comment that I appreciate because you have brought me an example that is applicable in many situations.

      I know brands can achieve this same type of engagement with new customers (especially now, at the beginning). Add-2 obviously has more skills than just rapping because he has achieved a model that should not be ignored.

      As for SM drawing people in better than ads? Not even a contest. It is easy to see that people are ignoring Ads (DVR being a main reason) more and more these days. People do not want to hear a smooth message with flashy colors that simply says BUY THIS! People would rather engage with a transparent brand with a good product. It’s even better when the company is willing to listen and change based on feedback.

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