Not all marketing is direct marketing

The past week saw the latest battle in what is proving to be the most attritional of wars. The two tribes? Those that believe that social media needs to pay its way and those that say such concerns misrepresent the channel’s virtues.

Russell Parsons

Triggering the latest spat, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s social media benchmark study found many marketers are still fumbling in the dark trying to find economic justification for investment that they can take to their cheque signing finance directors.

In equal numbers, social media’s cheerleaders were quick to point out in response that trying to quantify its worth misses the point of social media. It is about engagement and brand building and not metrics, they say.

More marketers than did not reported Twitter, Facebook, Linked in and YouTube was inefficient. More than three-quarters said that social media offered little or no value when acquiring new customers.

But does this really matter? Social media has been the cause of enough head scratching to render all marketers follically challenged. But really, enough already.

If social media is being used as a direct marketing tool then it should be subject to the same checks and balances any other marketing with a direct call to action is. If it is not, and brands are simply wanting to be “part of the conversation” and “where their customers are” (attributed to countless marketing executives), then it is unfair to judge activity by the same standards.

I was not there at the birth of television, radio or print advertising, but wager that the level of scrutiny that social media is under outweighs what those mediums were subject to.

As a marketing tool, social media is in its nascent stage. Analytics are being developed and will no doubt do so to measure its true value to marketers. The marketing industry should be wary, however, of suffocating what is and will be a fantastic tool to directly communicate and sell to consumers by insisting that it must conform to all direct marketing basics right now. It still needs time to grow.

Sometimes, all marketing is not direct marketing.

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