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Do you see social media as a replacement for traditional advertising?

2 min read

Social Media

Venture capitalist Mark Kvamme says the words companies everywhere are longing to hear, and they’re in the lead story of today’s SmartBrief on Social Media: “If you can harness social-media marketing, you don’t have to pay for advertising anymore.”

It’s a really nice idea, isn’t it? But I think it’s dangerous for two reasons. First, it creates unrealistic expectations about what social-media marketing is capable of doing — and what social campaigns really cost. Second, if a company really bought into that line, it would risk missing out on all the powerful ways social marketing and traditional marketing can work together to strengthen a brand.

Kvamme is talking about a handful of specialized projects — all of which his company has a stake in — that lend themselves naturally to social marketing. I firmly believe all companies can benefit from using social tools as part of their marketing strategy, but it’s not always going to make sense to make social the focus, much less the only thing your company does.

It worries me when people tout social marketing as a cheap, easy marketing wonder drug. The truth is, social marketing isn’t well understood, it’s more expensive than it looks and it’s always a little bit of a gamble. When feckless optimism blinds us to these realities, it’s easy to become cynical about social media and blow it off as hype. If you want to be an effective advocate for something, you need to be honest about its limitations and challenges. Then, trust that there’s no shortage of reasons why it’s worth the trouble anyway.

Do you see social media as a total replacement for paid advertising? How are you making the case for social media in your organization? Do we need to confront the problems of social marketing in order to realize its benefits?

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