Integrated Social Media > Stand-Alone Social Media

Jennifer Leggio wrote a post for ZDNet.com yesterday entitled “Social media consultants: snake oil or value add?” Her conclusion:

“Overall, while there are a lot of consultants selling snake oil, the pushiness of the salesman should not scare companies off of social media completely. It can be a tremendous — and free — resource for branding and customer engagement if used in the right way. It does not need to overtake your business objectives and it does not need to cost a fortune. It does, however, need to be strategic and it needs to be done right.”

I have two comments on this conclusion. On one I agree with Jennifer; on the other I disagree:

  1. Social media is not free
  2. Social media needs to be strategic

1. Social media is not free

I’m not going to hang around on this one for long, especially as this isn’t the focus of the article. However, it is an important point.

Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, WordPress etc. may be free (not all are). However, the time you invest in using those tools is not and that time investment can be significant. Working in a public relations agency where we bill by the hour, this is clearer to me now than ever before.

2. Social media needs to be strategic

Banging head against a wall As Jennifer states:

“Many of these consultants have been successful building their own personal brand, however, prowess for personal brand building does not prove an understanding of enterprise business needs.”

I completely agree. There are way too many people out there right now who have built considerable profile for themselves and think this translates to companies. Granted, some of them do have the knowledge to make the leap. Unfortunately for most, though, personal branding is not the same as corporate communications or marketing. I keep seeing proof that show they simply don’t know that.

In fact, I’ll go one step further.

If anyone who approaches you and offers to implement social media tools in your organization without integrating them with your marketing and corporate communications strategies, chase them away with a pitchfork.

“Companies need to stop believing the hype that social media is an “everything drug.” It’s not.”

Social media shouldn’t be a strategy on its own. While you may need guidelines and policies to effectively use these tools, from a communications perspective social media is a new set of tools that we should add to our toolkits.

If your communications strategy results in you primarily using social media tools then fine. However, just as you wouldn’t trust a builder who just showed up with a hammer instead of his toolkit, don’t trust “social media consultants” who push stand-alone tactics independent of strategies. Believe it or not, social media outreach won’t work for every company (more on that in an upcoming post).

In the long term, the successful companies consulting on social media will be those that integrate it strategically with communications and marketing.

Stand-alone just doesn’t cut it.

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.