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Social Networking Is Not the Idea

In a recent meeting with a potential client, we discussed the benefits of building customer loyalty, distinguishing from the competition, the importance of delivering engaging and relevant content and experiences, and the power of customer involvement with the brand. “This is going well…I’ve got this one in the bag,” I thought.

Then he said it, “Have you heard of Twitter?” and a little grin came across his face. It was as if he thought he had just spoken some magical spell and was waiting to see me turn into a frog, or that he had just revealed the purpose of life and the mystery of the universe itself.

“Yes,” I replied, knowing full well that the upcoming debate would be about “tactic vs. idea.”

Apparently, a competitor whispered the “Twitter” word to him, swept him off his feet, and would be carrying him away into the sunset of social networking. My opportunity was gone, and with it, a potential client who got whisked away blindly with nothing more than the enlightenment of a new medium.

Where people gather, marketers will hunt, and the social networking scene is certainly the latest fertile territory. It is a domain where people commune to share photos, videos, ideas, or their latest personal update. Now here come the marketers, and the question is, has this emerging space altered basic brand strategies, or just introduced a new medium in which to practice them?

Look briefly back at the original discussion points I had with the potential client. Marketing strategy was about: 1) building customer loyalty, 2) market differentiation, 3) brand content and experiences, and 4) customer involvement. Each of these certainly can be practiced within various social networking arenas, but is it wise to pin your brand to a single medium or tactic? Is mere brand presence and participation in social networking the answer?

Perhaps the answer lies with another question—were print ads, the :30 sec TV spot, banner ads, or guerrilla marketing the single secret answer …or are these simply multiple tactics, arrows in the quiver, that fit within a greater brand strategy?

I argue that all mediums, all tactics—social networking included—are merely vehicles for delivering brand presence and engagement. Just like the world of investing, it may be wisest to spread it around.

So no matter where your brand engages, please diversify your tactics, and never compromise on powerful, captivating ideas that will resonate with, and persuade your audience. Remember, brand presence does not equal brand engagement.

– Dave Goldfain