Digital marketing, in particular social media, is often set against direct marketing as if marketers have to make a choice between what many see as the old and the new. But far from it being a case of never the twain, there is more common ground between the two channels than their respective cheerleaders would sometimes have you believe.
The effectiveness or otherwise of social media has been debated since the likes of Facebook and its ilk first entered the popular lexicon.
Marketers were initially reluctant of using the channel as a promotional tool through fear that they would be seen as encroaching on territory where they did not belong.
This notion, however, was quickly dispatched and replaced with a cold light of day reality: Our customers are there, we should be too. A realisation that inevitably led to questions of accountability – does it pay? does it matter?
There is still a considerable number of marketers out there that are tip-toeing around the issue, fearful of scaring customers. It is about listening, learning but absolutely not selling, they would argue.
This thought, of course, would place social media as the very antithesis of direct marketing. But even if you do take position that social media should not be sullied by sales, the two channels can and should develop a symbiotic relationship.
The amount of customer data generated on Facebook should be manna from heaven for direct marketers. Attitudes, intentions, purchase intent and behavioral economic data can be gleaned, crunched and used by other channels without alienating a sceptical public.
And if a company does turn to social media has a direct selling tool, there is also evidence that they will do so with increasing return.
Gartner has forecast that half of online sales will come from social media and mobile applications by 2015. The research company found that ecommerce managers in industries as varied as travel, retail and consumer electronics intend to make greater use of location-based services to push personalised content, and drive sales.
It is time to stop thinking tribally. The two channels are two sides of the same coin. They are not locked in mortal combat. If social is not being used as a direct marketing tool, it can certainly be used as a means to improve the effectiveness of channels that are.