Social Media Marketing Lesson #1 - It's Only One Component

When you have been involved with social media marketing for years before it had that moniker, you learn several important lessons about what works best and what to avoid, and you try and pass those on to the next client and the one after that.

In the late 1990s I learned that communities for health care could derive as much involvement and interest from children as from their parents; this is even more true now. In online retail applications, I've long advocated emulating as many social aspects of the in-person customer experience to help foster the same affinity for the virtual experience. For a non-profit, we learned together how online communities and forums could actually foster greater internal process management, leading to significant productivity improvements - it can get very interesting when you look at Web publishing first and other systems second. In developing a brand strategy for a pureplay online service, I had to convince the client that the best application for social commerce in the world matters little if the user interface is poor or, more importantly, the value proposition is too hard to explain. In e-commerce applications more recently, I have hammered home to clients the relationship of offline experiences to feelings toward online brands, and how the positive effect excellent online relationship-building activities can generate will quickly be erased by a bad offline encounter.

These all underscore perhaps the most important lesson to learn about social media marketing, if you do not already know it. It is that social media marketing is only one of the many marketing touch points that affect a customer's or prospect's relationship with a brand. Any sound strategy for social media marketing should be integrated with traditional offline and online marketing communications to create as seamless of an experience as possible. Everything must work together, including every widget, community, blog, wiki, or other Web 2.0 technology being leveraged. They need to work in synch with your print ads, television, Website, environmental, and every other component of taking your messages and experiences out in the marketplace. Then you can begin to look at your forays into social media marketing the right way, as simply part of an integrated strategy to promulgate your brand and what it has to offer.