New Channel – Same Story According to a recent report by Frost & Sullivan, “From Mass Marketing to Social Marketing”, social media is helping businesses transform their one directional, push-marketing approach to a bi-directional customer engagement model. Social media has matured into a viable targeted-marketing channel, enabling businesses to gather customers’ self-reported personal information and use that data in personalized campaigns and offers. As businesses have altered their marketing focus from traditional mass marketing to targeted marketing, the result is increased response rates that drive sales. “Businesses are no longer satisfied with simply being present on popular social media sites and are now striving to gain an edge through social media marketing,” said Frost & Sullivan Contact Centers Industry Analyst Brendan Read. “Therefore, they are evolving their social marketing focus from brand awareness to customer engagement and lead generation. This is exemplified by the widespread use of hashtags and popular social site logos in every medium.” This suggests that social media is not replacing other marketing channels, but potentially closing the loop for other channels as well as offering additional opportunities for outreach. Since it does not necessarily replace other marketing channels, this places increased pressure on marketing budgets as companies try to address a rapidly growing list of social sites of potential interest to their customers. With the proliferation of social sites tailored to niche interests, customers expect a high degree of content relevance, authenticity and quality from the companies that market to them. However, according to Frost & Sullivan, many firms do not budget adequate resources to execute suitable social media marketing programs. Some attempt to cut corners by limiting the number of sites they monitor and avoiding newer sites, despite the evident relevance those sites may have to their customers. While a business may obtain a large user base and strong social community activity, this does not necessarily translate to sales. If customer loyalty and satisfaction results cannot be directly correlated to their social media investments it is difficult to know if money is being spent on the right social media sites and if social media overall is being budgeted for appropriately. Frost & Sullivan recommends connecting social media efforts with the appropriate sales channels, which will in turn allow businesses to define, bolster and track return on investment. Of course, this advice could be applied to any marketing channel – not just social media. Creating customized, high-quality and relevant content, as well as enhancing social site monitoring, tracking, analysis and engagement will help businesses leverage social media in the quest for marketing success, but those efforts also need to be measured in the context of other marketing channels and overarching customer experience and engagement.