Why Social Media Should Be a Key Ingredient in Your Marketing Mix

Why Social Media Should Be a Key Ingredient in Your Marketing Mix


Editor’s Note: This guest article, by Ivana Taylor, presents one side of the debate over whether social media is worthwhile to businesses. Ivana believes that business leaders with foresight need to fit social media in as one component of the marketing mix. But, for a different point of view as to why some are not drinking the social media Kool-aid, please be sure to read the other side of the story, also. — Anita Campbell, Editor

By Ivana Taylor

Let’s face it, when it comes to getting and keeping profitable customers there are only four basic components that we can manage:

  • Product (your offering — the unique combination of product, service and experience)
  • Price (the value that your customer perceives translated into money)
  • Distribution (putting your offering within arms reach of the customer)
  • Promotion (communicating your offering)

That’s all there is to the marketing mix.

And when we skillfully and creatively combine these ingredients in the perfect proportions, Voila! We have a tasty stew of happy customers, happy employees and enough profits to go around as well as to invest in the future.

Of course, it can’t be that easy, right? Some of us go wrong by becoming entrenched in traditional marketing strategies. And the rest of us go to the other extreme and become paralyzed by the overwhelming number of tools and Internet applications that seek to bring us together, yet separate us from real face-to-face contact.

Social media has been one of those magical and mysterious technical terms that seemingly everyone under 30 has been all a-twitter about. And those of us over 30 have been curious and more than a little suspicious about.

The challenge that traditional marketers have is in understanding how to use this new “ingredient” in their marketing mix. Is it like a “meat” or just a “spice?”


What Role Should Social Media Play?

If I had to put social media in just one category of the marketing mix, I would choose promotion, i.e., communication. That’s not to say it doesn’t play a role in the other components, just not as BIG a role.

Social media’s primary benefit to your communication strategy is its ability to build relationships and communities between individuals who share interests AND who would not be brought together otherwise except for those interests. If you play the role of bringing people together around a product, service or interest — you increase your credibility, build your brand and may, in time, increase your profitability by creating a loyal following.

5 Easy Ways to Spice Up Your Mix with Social Media

1. Develop a social media strategy YESTERDAY. Deciding to put together a social media strategy is like deciding to have the sex talk with your kids. Either YOU can be the one to explain, or you can leave it to TV, their friends – or the internet. It’s insane to ignore the movement to this kind of communication. But it’s wise to learn and make decisions about how to use it so it doesn’t use you.

2. Choose the critical few social media applications. No one says you have to use every single social media application that’s out there. Choose a few and choose carefully. Always ask yourself: Who is my ideal customer? What is important to them when they are buying what I’m selling? And which tool will help them connect with my business in an easy and relevant way?

Web strategy expert and Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang also recommends these additional questions: Are your target customers using social media to make their decisions? Which tools are they using and do they want to connect with each other?

3. Build your brand from the inside out. Think of social media as a giant digital billboard. Treat every post, every tweet and every comment as an opportunity to build your strength and build value around what you offer. Use your smart, knowledgeable and active employees to build your brand.

Forrester Research has taken what they’ve learned and published a book called Groundswell. The authors of the book Charlene Li and Josh Burnoff (both VPs and analysts for Forrester) are also active members of the social media community and have developed a dedicated fan base that will use their products and services.

To start, consider adding a blog to your traditional Web site. If you have employees who are interested in social media, ask them to contribute articles to your blog. Don’t forget to use your logo, company colors, a picture of yourself or any other branding vehicle. You can customize many of the social media tools to match your image. For tools like Twitter, use a photo of yourself in the profile and use your logo and company colors as a wallpaper when you customize your page.

4. Find the right place for social media in your strategy. Right now social media is a shiny new toy. The real work is in finding the right balance between social media and more traditional marketing tools like your printed materials. The ideal outcome is to have them all working together.

As a business owner, create a LinkedIn profile and use it as a place to connect to customers and collect testimonials. Once you feel comfortable with that, move into Facebook and either create or start a group that is focused on your industry, product or service.

If you really start having fun there, you might consider creating a Twitter profile and searching and creating a community or village of people in your industry. Put your Twitter ID on your business cards, have a space or page on your Web site with instructions on how to connect with your online communities. Create printed pieces that bring your online communities into the real world. Coordinate face-to-face events so that online communities can meet each other in person.

5. Go mobile. Many blog platforms offer mobile applications (like Typepad) that you can download to your phone. Twitter is designed to be mobile. This gives you the opportunity to report and communicate discretely in real time. If you are a salesperson, you can document a creative application of your product. If you are a business owner at a conference you can share links, experiences and feedback with your customers or communities. You can inform your customer community about product fixes and improvements or product launches and even new blog posts.

No matter how you slice it, if you want to be in business in the next 20 years, you’d better be using the tools that 20 year olds are using to decide who to buy from. People can and do have conversations about you, your company and your products and services. Don’t put your head in the sand and wait for the market to define you.

Image: Shutterstock


Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

22 Reactions
  1. Ivana,

    As I said in my post you both make good points. I agree with you it is a form of communication, however the time invested for a small business must be weighed up against other tools and the ROI.

    Since I wrote that post and reread your article I wondered if a forum on a company’s website is deemed social media. If they are then I can see the benefit to learn more about your customers’ needs and desires and form a closer relationship with them.

    It would be good to see some case studies whether small businesses using this form of media actually increased in sales and profit.

  2. Susan – I think that the term “social media” is the new name for what all of us call relationship building. A forum is a vehicle for communication, which, in turn builds relationship. After reading John’s piece and writing my own, I’ve come to a place where I think that core principles don’t change. The tools and vehicles we use to express them change.

    We’re in the midst of developing and learning how to effectively use those tools. Some of us get on early, especially if our business, clients or industry warrant it. And others wait until things standardize and settle down.

    Through this process I’ve learned that I’m not for or against social media. My focus has remained firm in doing the right things to profit from your uniqueness and get and keep customers that love you. Once that is clear, then the social media decision is infinitely easier.

  3. I think social media is a good way to bring new traffic and make new contacts. Expecting to become the “next big thing” by using social media is a bit of a fantasy. Social media can produce limited results but every little bit helps. I find the sites touch & go. One minute you’re hot, the next you’re not. I know it all depends on the content you provide to these sites, but you also depend on people clicking thru. That can’t always be counted on and can become extremely frustrating.

  4. Ivana,
    I totally agree with what you said in the last paragragh.

  5. oksijen kesme makinası

    thanks for article

  6. I agree that if you use social media consistantly, you may see real benefits. I think this option for marketing will only grow as time goes on, so it may be smart to jump on it now. I do agree with Ivana that if your business wants to reach a younger audience then you need to be where the action is.

  7. Great point. Going mobile is HUGE. Mobile is so much more present than the web…

    I think video combined with mobile will be SUPER huge too.

  8. Social media is a magnet for hype because it embodies the specifically Western desire to create democracy everywhere. Blogs, wikis, Twitter, and other “flattening” tools transfer power from IT to users, giving social media practitioners the special fervor of those fighting for their own version of peace, justice, and all-around goodness.

    The democratization of power, whether in society or inside an organization, brings strong passions; social media advocacy is no exception.

    Some people think that all of a sudden, business leaders (Advertisers) will forget everything they know, accept that structures can and will be subverted but that it will all be OK because people will naturally want to collaborate to get things done. This is a fundamentally incorrect assumption.

  9. Fractal Analytics

    With the emergence of new media i.e. Internet, viral marketing, event marketing, sports marketing, product placement, cell phones etc, there has been a substantial effect of traditional media i.e. the television. Thus, a significant amount of marketing spend has shifted to the new media. But with so many marketing channels to advertise, managers need to optimize the combination of marketing and advertising investments in order to increase sales and overall improve marketing ROI. With the help of Marketing Mix Modeling, one can measure potential value of all these factors and hence identify the right marketing investment channel.

  10. Hi Fractal! You bring up a wonderful and important point. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. And measuring return is a critical component. What I like about what you said was this idea of shifting. I think it’s critical to understand what’s shifted to where and why. We might even choose to do something that goes “against the numbers” and it’s important to understand the why behind your decisions. Thanks for that insightful addition to the discussion.

  11. Of course use social media but the question is how and why? It all starts with identifying your target market and then determining which social media will assist in this endeavor. If your target market is software for self-employed professionals such as doctors and lawyers, does it really make sense to spin your wheels building a business presence through twitter or facebook? I think not. Linkedin? Yeah, the professionals are there. If your target market is 18-25 year olds … then forget Linkedin and forge ahead with facebook / myspace. There are differences between other varieties of social media as well, for example: digg v. reddit. Investigate the community to see if it meshes with your target.

  12. Hi Joe – Amen to that! I couldn’t have said it better myself! I’m always saying that identifying your ideal customer and what’s important to them is the most critical step of the process. Once you’ve done that – then all the other marketing activity decisions are a breeze. I would go so far as to say that if your ideal customer doesn’t use technology (or like technology) then leave it alone. So Ditto on everything you said – and then some.

  13. They’ve adapted to using online social networks to identify passive candidates in the last few years and it’s serving them well. If you know anything about recruiting, you know that identifying passive candidates is the holy grail. The theory goes that if someone is looking, they’re probably not the best candidate you can find. That’s certainly not always the case, of course. Nonetheless, many recruiting firms say they can find “passive candidates” and that’s their big selling point.

    john cliff
    Social Media Marketing

  14. I appreciate hearing both sides to using social media. The main focus has to be on your target consumer. It would not make sense to connect in a group that does not have similar interests or potential to use your services. As a private investigator, I have the opportunity to interact with clients from all walks of life. When I first decided to utilize social media, I was a bit overwhelmed with all of my options. I did extensive research and have found the social connections that best suited my profession. It has increased business tremendously. People are constantly asking questions and making referrals. The ROI has had a big impact on an increase in revenue for our small business.