Social media debate will continue until it enters the DM fold

Russell Parsons

Marketing Week.co.uk has become the conduit for those wishing to comment on the marketing merits of social media these past few weeks with the equally committed cheerleaders and detractors quick to point out the failings in each other’s arguments.

A relative avalanche of comments have been posted on the site by the case for and against. Direct marketing has often been placed in one corner of the ring, to social media’s other.

Traditional direct marketing with its emphasis on accountability versus social media’s nebulous engagement objective. Is it a choice between old and new media, and never the twain shall meet?

No, of course, it is not but how to use social media, does it pay and whether the spend on it can be accounted for by sales remains the key question for marketers at present. In other words, can it become more like direct marketing?

Its defenders have been quick to stress that this is not the point, you have to be where the conversations are, and, more importantly, where your customers are. Social media, at present, is that location. What to do next continues to be the defining question for all marketers in the digital age.

Is it enough to be there? To be part of the conversation? To have a fantastically creative platform that engages with customers?

No, suggests a new report from Fournaise Marketing Group, which found that response to marketing campaigns worldwide were down a fifth in the past year. The report concludes that marketers are focusing too much on “creativity” and new media, rather than taking a “pragmatic approach” and focusing on the customer benefits and competitive strengths of their products. The very things that direct marketing is renowned for.

Social media is in its infancy. Marketers are still getting their heads around where it all fits in to the marketing mix. The debates rage about it because everyone knows it is here to stay. The big question, and one which continues to puzzle marketers, is how it can become more like direct marketing.

Until that is answered, expect the arguments to get increasingly loud.

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