The Social Media Strategist is Dead, Long Live Digital Marketing

marketing mix online

In the last few months I have been looking to join a corporate marketing department again. (All things economic point to stability over feast and famine.) And in that process I’ve been hearing a lot of comments like this, “Your resume looks like you’re primarily into social media.” Um, yeah. It’s what I write about, but we all know it’s only about 10% of the marketing mix. But when did SOCIAL become a bad word?

There are quite a few problems with social media.

  • It’s a small part of the digital marketing mix
  • We’re still fighting to prove ROI in most businesses
  • If other parts of your digital mix are off (your website conversion process, for example) social media isn’t going to do much to improve your over all performance
  • Since everyone can do social media, it’s become the new “me too” job description
  • Everyone does Facebook and Twitter, what else you got?
  • Anyone can claim they are doing social media for a company, but what are they doing?
  • Content calendars and publishing schedules are nice, but talk to me about your results
  • Most people have some social media experience
  • Few people have social media relevance and metrics to back it up

Digital Marketing Top ThreeLet’s start with the metrics. Social media is current in a distant 3rd place in the marketing budgets of most companies. After email marketing, and search marketing, social media brings in about 6% of the total ROI of companies with large digital marketing budgets. And for 6% of the return, they might be better served just spending that 6% of the budget on more PPC clicks. I don’t believe this is the case, but the interviewers in most companies these days are not interested in talking about social media. “We’ve got a social media group already.”

It’s as if social exists in a digital marketing silo of it’s own. That’s a huge mistake.

“Um, does your social media team and your search team interact much?”

“Not really.” said a recent digital marketing manager who would’ve been a peer had I gotten the gig.

“How about your SEO and PPC teams, do they share their results to help improve each other’s performance?”

“Um, I’m not sure,” she said. I could tell by the look on her face that the interview was over. Crap, why do I have to open my mouth.

TRUTH: Social media does not exist in a silo.

As a stand-alone discipline social media would be hard pressed to claim even ONE sale in the ROI column. But social media is not a different part of digital marketing. When a company separates their social team from the rest of the digital marketing company, they are committing one of the most common and most egregious errors in digital marketing.

Social media is an accelerant. Social media is a connector. Social media can generate reach, but if the visitors are landing on a dead website with only a Contact Us form for interaction, there is very little a fantastic Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest campaign can do. Social doesn’t close the sale, but social can bring a lot of new potential customers to the opportunity.

Sure the role I was applying for in the previous conversation was Digital Marketing Director of a nice size tech startup. The woman I was chatting with was the Production Manager. She was responsible for making all of the digital content happen on the website of this 100% ecommerce-driven company.

And she wasn’t all that keen on social media. She wasn’t even really all that interested in my perspectives on digital marketing, social media, seo, or even her own specialty, content development. After I didn’t get the job, the recruiter said I didn’t have enough enterprise experience. (Um, let’s see, two years at Dell in enterprise marketing, um… yeah, what else.) And the team didn’t feel I had the right amount of digital optimization or seo experience. (Again, maybe the problem was my attitude and not my experience. I was wrapping up my tenure at Dell in 2009, when this young woman was entering the workforce for her first job.)

Okay, so maybe the social media strategist isn’t dead, but he’s not an experienced digital marketer. The social media strategist, manager, director, might as well be a college grad who has some experience building Facebook pages and doing Twitter campaigns. Because the social media roles these days tend to be entry-level positions. It’s “digital marketing” that now has been brought back as the catch all. And social is part of that mix, but it’s not even a very interesting part. “Yeah, we’ve got a group that does social media.” WHAT?

So maybe social media is still being misunderstood, or misrepresented. And of course the big companies dropping their massive social media campaigns might have something to do with the loss of shine from the social media strategist’s halo. When the hard numbers come in, marketing wants sales. If your social media team is trying to drive their own ROI and results even when the website sucks, or the content is stale, well, you can see where the disconnect is, can’t you.

Social does not stand alone. Social has to be a part of search marketing, and content marketing, and email marketing. The big channels of inbound marketing are all enhanced by social media, but social media does not CREATE CONTENT. Social media does not DRIVE SALES.

Today the social media strategist is a recent grad with two or three years experience in the real world of marketing. And the digital marketing director may or may not have any connection to the social marketing team. I’m not sure where this leaves us, except to note that disconnected social media is like a headless body. I suppose you can create a lot of activity and conversations, but if they are not tied to financial objectives, the CFO is not going to approve any high-level leadership roles with “social” in their title. SEO Marketing Manger, sure thing. We know SEO and PPC are hard workers. But social? Social is like a pipe dream without hard numbers to show the executive team.

The social media strategist might not be dead, but he’s a very inexperienced digital marketer. And his pay range is reflected in this lack of respect for the discipline.

So tell me, how did your latest social marketing campaign convert? And what were the KPIs you were looking to achieve and how did you get there?

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)


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