Social media: Is it marketing or maundering?

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Social media has become table stakes in most professional marketing strategies. From small, privately-held companies to Fortune 100 corporations, every company without an overbearing legal department is doing it. And while successfully implemented social media efforts enable brands to extend their influence and take an active role in direct communications with customers and prospects, social media, unfortunately, has not and probably will not replace traditional means of marketing.

But professional marketers understand it's no longer about any one channel—it's about all of them used together like the different instruments in an orchestra, at different times and different levels for maximum overall effect.

What makes social media valuable? Although the alliteration in this blog's title is a fun play on words, most social media managers are not about generating volumes of idle chatter. They work hard developing highly focused and carefully expressed communications to achieve specific goals that fit within their company's broader and cohesive marketing canvas.

Today's effective social media manager not only has a background in marketing, they possess a knowledge of Web technologies from basic HTML to JavaScript. They are organized, online nearly 24/7, and have a passionate interest in assimilating, tracking and coordinating multiple conversations taking place on multiple sites at all hours of the day and night.

The conversation about social media's value, like any marketing channel's value, depends largely on the strategy and the practitioner. What is indisputable is that social media is a legitimate and key element of any integrated marketing strategy and, therefore, deserves a respected seat at the table.

Like any other marketing discipline, various indicators such as sales, customer engagement and, even internal culture, can be benchmarked and measured. Performance is quantified and calibrated by examining the data produced by campaigns, on and offline. And because it is a fluid and infinitely flexible medium, it can be adjusted and refined for optimal results.

Social media needs to play a role in a well-designed, integrated marketing communications effort. Every customer interaction either strengthens or weakens a brand. When so many of those interactions are taking place outside the realm and reach of traditional marketing, it would be the height of folly to belittle social media's ability to help manage brand value and refer to it as a lesser science.

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