Integrating Social Media Into Your Marketing Plan

John Hope-JohnstoneSocial media does not stand alone as a marketing tool. To reach the consumer you must use all the marketing tools you can afford to be heard above all the noise. Advertising, Promotion, Direct Sales, Public Relations, Brand Management etc., all are particular channels used to reach the consumer’s brain. Social media is a sub-channel of Public Relations.

I call social media a “sub-channel” because it falls under the heading of Public Relations. Under Public Relations there should be a sub-heading entitled “communications plan”. In this section you might address the various touch points where your business comes into contact with the consumer and helps to define the message you are going to present. It is within the communications plan that “social media and social networking” must reside.

If your “communications plan” doesn’t exist right now, it might be a good idea to go and speak to the people that talk to you customers: Your sales team or your customer support team. Find out what they are hearing from your consumers and turn that into your communications plan. If you don’t have either of these departments then head on out and speak to the customers directly. Once you have developed the outline of a good communications plan and know the messages you want to deliver, then you are ready to integrate social media.

I define Public Relations in my book “How to Market Tourism in the 21st Century” as being “the development of social, political and market capital through third party endorsements. The value of PR lies in capturing and reproducing it, so it lives forever!”

In the same book I define the seven “publics” of public relations as being:

1)    Press Relations

2)    Employee Relations

3)    Community Relations

4)    Educator Relations

5)    Consumer Relations

6)    Stakeholder Relations

7)    Management Relations

Social media and social networking still have as their key task to influence these seven publics although today we tend to speak more about “communities of common interest”. In the past these might have been also called “niche” markets. The only difference is that today there are millions more thanks to search.

Think of social networking as simply ordinary networking on steroids. Your CEO networks in his/her own way with the board and with the financial backers of the organization as well as many other groups. The VP of Sales belongs to civic clubs and professional organizations and various other entities where he/she can meet the consumer in a social setting. Social networking using social media is exactly the same as going to a Rotary lunch it is a part of the public relations tool of marketing.

In general, you have to consider social media as a commitment to creating content, communication, and interaction that keep your customers top of mind. It encourages them to reach out to you and each other.

For the Public Relations part of your marketing plan, ask yourself how each piece of outbound communication might create more inbound dialogue from your customers, buzz only exists if it is repeated three times. Is your email campaign opening the door to people joining your online community? Are your press releases telling a story about customer experience and encouraging people to find you online? Are your tweets gaining re-tweets and driving people to your Web site. Stop thinking in terms of start and end dates, and rather how to keep the cycle of communication feeding upon itself, outbound to inbound and back again.

At the end of this road is the goal of how many people are being driven to your Web site, which is the holy grail of the online marketing efforts.

As I have written in my post “How to Measure Social Media” that the key of social media is to drive people to your point of online sale which is your Web site. This can be gauged through any good analytic program on your Web site.

It sickens me when I hear management state “we are going to cut back on marketing because times are tough, and we will go with social media because it’s cheap” Or even more stupid; “We should really tack on some social media stuff to this campaign.” For many companies it is a big surprise to learn that implementing social media takes careful planning, dedication, and long term commitment. It’s not something you can just slap on the tail end of a marketing plan when the budget gets cut. Yes, the tools themselves might be less expensive but that can be an illusion, but done properly, social media requires a deep investment of time and personnel.

Marketing plans should be built on the backs of sound business goals, not social networking goals. If you look at social media as a tool to drive people to your Web site and place it properly under the heading of Public Relations then your marketing plan will be efficient, effective and will produce the results you desire from social media.



  1. There’s so much misinformation out there that people don’t really know what is and is not. It’s refreshing to see people that know what they’re talking about. You have an Informed commentary seems to be a rare commodity these days. Keep it coming.Blog Marketing

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