social media how toIs your social media program fully integrated with your traditional marketing program, or are you just bolting on “Follow me on Twitter/Facebook” to your ads and fooling yourself?

The Integration Question

If you’re running a truly integrated program, congrats. You’re among the elite. Like the Marines, you’re part of the few, the proud, the enlightened.

But for everyone else, the question that constantly floats around boardrooms, ballrooms and conference panels is “How do I integrate all of this new social media with my traditional advertising and public relations campaigns?” Yes, social media is growing up, and in 2010, marketers don’t just want to know how to use Twitter and Facebook, marketers want to know how to integrate Twitter and Facebook into their advertising, direct marketing and public relations campaigns.

I think the problem is that most people are asking the wrong question. When you ask someone to tell you how to do something, you’re asking for a process that you can replicate. But that is just one process. Sure, it worked for them (and maybe you) this time, but is it truly replicable? Will it work tomorrow or the day after that?

Consumers are a lot like bacteria. Just as bacteria can evolve and eventually grow resistant to antibiotics, so too can consumers grow resistant to current forms of marketing, including social media marketing.

So instead of asking how to integrate all of it, maybe a better question would be to ask “how to think” about integrating social media, digital media, old media and the blending of all of it. We need to be asking for a framework, not a solution.

If someone gives you a framework for thinking, they’ve empowered you to think for yourself. If they give you a process to replicate, well, they’ve just made you reliant on them to give you a new process when the old one finally fails to be effective (because those pesky consumers, like bacteria, will grow immune).

A Social Media Framework

So what does a framework for looking at the integration of social media and traditional media look like? Let’s start with the base.

The Achilles heel of advertising is truth. A 2007 Nielsen Report showed only 55% of Americans trust advertising.

That same report found that overall, consumers trust other consumers above all else. 78% of respondents said they trusted – either completely or somewhat – the recommendation of other consumers. This is social media’s strength.

However, social media’s Achilles heel is scale. Because exposure comes one person at a time, except for the rare meme, it can take weeks, months, even years to scale an effective social media program.

Thus, a good starting point for a framework for considering how you should integrate social media with traditional media might be to think in terms of yin and yang. Social media and advertising are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s probably best if all marketers move away from replacement thinking, and focus instead on complementary thinking.

Under the complementary model, we look for ways that social media can leverage advertising and vice versa in order create a more impactful and effective integrated campaign. Let advertising offset social media’s scale issue and allow social media to bring believability back to an advertising campaign.

Pepsi Refresh Project home page.

A number of marketers are already experimenting with this approach. From announcements like Pepsi’s decision to forgo Super Bowl commercials in favor of its Refresh Project to smaller efforts like Tabasco’s decision to support a social media experiment to try to change the Mardi Gras brand from crazy/tawdry to more family-friendly. These marketers are using advertising or public relations efforts to drive consumers to online destinations where conversations are built to deliver long-term brand results.

Advertising Age breaks the news of Tabasco’s unique Mardi Gras partnership.

The Social Media/Advertising Integrated Planning Framework

I noted earlier that we need a framework for planning truly integrated campaigns. Over the years, I’ve developed a simple 6-question integrated marketing development framework that helps me get started. Today, I’m sharing it with you as a starting point for the development of your planning framework.

#1: What is the goal?

You’d think this is an obvious one… but you’d be surprised how often people skip this step. Another tip: start with the business goal, not the communications goal.

#2: Who is the audience?

Give yourself some depth here. Go beyond demographics and ask yourself what do they look like, sound like and whom do they hang out with when they’re using your product?

#3: Where is the audience?

This an obvious question, especially when you consider social networking platforms. But go beyond the obvious to the not-so-obvious, as in where they are in their lives. It will add a lot of depth to your analysis.

#4: How can I connect with my audience?

Don’t just define this in terms of channels. Ask yourself – from a creative, offer or conversation perspective – how can you best connect with your audience?

#5: How do I extend the conversation?

This is where that yin and yang thing really comes into play. Once you’ve made that initial contact and gained permission to have an ongoing conversation, what do you plan to do next?

#6: How can I get my audience to introduce me to others?

When was the last time you saw this section in a marketing plan overview? Don’t let that be a reason to leave it out of your plan. If you’re going to do something truly integrated, you have to think beyond the conversation to the recommendation. Recommendation is where the real money lies, so think about how you can get your customer to give you one.

The Value of Integrated Thinking

Which do you think would be more effective today – simply pushing the same message in all channels or customizing the role of each channel (and the message) to fully leverage the power and limit the weakness of each channel? And if the answer is obvious to you, why do you think more companies and brands aren’t doing it? Leave your comments in the box below.

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  • I believe in the Value of Integrated Thinking. I’m still just trying to integrate it all. A person or business has to be able to say the same thing in different ways to reach more audiences . . . just like speaking in more different languages. In the end people have to open up and learn new things.

  • I completely agree with the approach you are talking about Tom. I know when I was in school, our curriculum really stressed the “Holistic Marketing” concept when dealing with Marketing Communications. I also especially like the framework/questions you wrote. All too much people become too consumed with their brilliant idea that they don’t stop and have reference questions to see why/what they are doing with their brilliant idea in the first place.

  • Thanks Ryan. Agree that a great idea without a sound strategy can often win awards but seldom creates true ROI for a client.

  • Bill

    Is it saying the same thing in different languages or framing your offerings in relevant ways (that may change by target audience and/or channel) to create action?

  • Great topic:How to Integrate Social Media With Traditional Media.

    TV and (some) newspapers/radio still have the power to make or break you. I can think of few Social Media examples where SM savvy folks took advantage of the moment and the opportunity to plaster their mugs all over TV. Steve Garfield and Jim Kukral come to mind.

    I think that for companies like pepsi the offline campaigns might hurt the online viral spread.
    Im talking about the psychological friction between the collaborative, altruistic nature of Social Media verses profit-grubbing corporatized, self-serving promotions.

    I think thats the real trap they (pepsi and other big corps) have to figure out how to avoid. Being honest and following the 10 steps you laid out should help.

    Thnx for a great article….very cool topic, very interesting take. Loved it 🙂

  • Chris Kulbaba

    I always get a little thrill when my Email notification pops up and I have a new article from the Social Media Examiner – this was not an exception either.

    What a great topic, turning digital tools into analog profitability. As an employment coach, I am continually asking clients to think of themselves as a business, and to develop a marketing strategy that is effective. Using online tools is increasingly more effective, as there is a fair degree of transparency.

    I agree with your list, to begin with the goal in mind and develop your strategy that way. Otherwise, it is more like ready-fire-aim – cart before the horse, whatever other analogy you think is relevant.

    Those ten steps make sense, they are easy to follow, and I agree with the other poster here – be honest, be you, and make it a strategic venture with a specific measured goal in mind of returns.


    Chris Kulbaba

  • Always good to be one step ahead of the trends

  • Bob Hendershot

    Good article with lots of points to think about.

  • Victoria

    Excellent insights, Tom! I especially appreciate point #1, your encouragement to readers to include solid planning as part of an overall campaign. At Modello Media, Inc., we find clients often want to skip this step and ‘get to the good stuff.” But as Chris Brogan said (or was it Seth Godin?) “Social media is a process, not an event.” It certainly does take time and perserverance to see, not just lead generation, but real business. However, by the time business rolls in, you’ve already done the hard work of establishing a relationship. I also Your article clearly laid out exactly the steps we’ve been ‘preaching’…except that now, I can tell clients, “Don’t just listen to me. Tom Martin says it too!” lol..Keep ‘the good stuff’ coming, Tom.

  • Awesome Post Tom!

    Full integration of all marketing efforts is the only way to achieve synergy and maximize the outcome of your efforts.

    Business Plan -> Marketing Plan -> Social Media Marketing Plan -> Strategies -> Tactics

    It has to flow!

    Thank You for sharing!

  • Thanks Dino… glad you found it worthy.

  • Thanks Chris…glad to see my first post here lived up to the SME brand quality.

  • Great! Thanks for sharing. The idea of integrating social with traditional is something that all agencies should start (or continue) mastering.

  • Hi, Tom.

    My favorite part of this post is your point about using advertising to leverage social media and vice versa. One thing I might add to that, though, it that this requires a social strategy of substance – ideally, going beyond superficial social engagement to ACTUAL INVOLVEMENT IN SOMETHING, whether that is an event, a cause marketing program, etc. Otherwise, it’s not going to do much in terms of sustainable activation. This could be the “how” in step four, or at least one of the hows. Just my two cents, you know me, always have to get it in there. Really great thinking, Tom.

  • Victoria,

    Thanks for the kind words… as for invoking Tom Martin… best of luck… hope you have better luck with it than I do ;-))

  • Sue

    You know how much I love when you add your two cents… so I guess what you’re saying is that the social strategy has to be more than just adding the Follow us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter buttons to the ad/tv spot? 😉

    Seriously, good add. True, think in the future we’ll see folks use advertising to start the conversation and social/digital channels to keep it going cost effectively.

  • Social media platforms attract brand advocates more than flowers attract bees. The laggards have now adopted Facebook but the true power of social media lies in the ability to reach the 10% of your target market that will tell the other 90%. I don’t want 10,000 fans. I want 100 brand advocates that tell each of their 1,000 followers, who then tell their 300 friends, who then tell the Suzie Joes that live down the street with no computer.

  • Richard Wong

    Thanks for a great article. Companies at my part of the world are still using Social Media in the same way as the traditional media by ‘pushing’ the message out and we being a social media marketing services provider is trying hard to educate their mindset to integrate and compliment the two method. This article will give us another good point to convince them.

  • Manifornothing

    Brilliant post. I agree with you totally on framework vs cut and paste models. And you’re right, your first few tips for an integrated model seemed too obvious (yet needed) but the last two were right on the money for me. Thanks for passing on a wealth of wisdom.

  • I think it really depends on where the potential customer is in the buying process. Advertising is all about creating awareness, where social media is building on awareness, and creating trust and enthusiasm. Trust and enthusiasm come from multiple events: great customer service, feeling like you’re part of a community, great product, etc.

    So create awareness with advertising and guide the prospect to your social media presence to expand the relationship. If you do a good job of fostering the relationship, they should, in theory, become a long-term paying customer.

  • Tom, I agree with the premise of these six questions and think they would work best for smaller businesses and organizations that have small or non-existent marketing departments. The questions can certainly help simplify the process.

    However, I still believe there’s value in doing the due diligence for larger entities, including competitive and SWOT analyses. Any good plan can get easily sideswiped by unforeseen threats or missed opportunities.

  • The Nielsen report really nails it. People believe other people which is as old as history. Not sure why it took us marketers so long to clue into this fact. The technology of social media networks now makes it all possible for even the very small businesses.

  • We’re new to Social Media and we’ve just bolted on, so we’re not part of the elite, we are not marines as yet, but this is a timley post that will really help our business get started about thinking on how to integrate traditional with SM platforms. You are quite right in saying that SM really is forcing us to define and refine our traditional media. Good post thank you.

  • Your 6 questions are a great reminder of when we are participating in social media activities to stay “on task” and not just waste time. It’s easy to get sidetracked with SM. Having a blueprint to stay focused really helps.

  • Social media should be be integrated with traditional media. Social media just one tactic when apporiate in a marcom plan.

  • Social media will not entirely save your site from marketing, for me traditional media must also incorporate in it. Those were cool tips.

  • Elaine,

    Fair enough… totally agree on the competitive analysis front but never been a big SWOT fan… the difference between Opportunity and Threat is often subjective… and rose colored glasses can often turn a Strength into a Weakness or worse, the other way around.

    Hence, I’ve long recommended that companies move away from those standard frame works and instead, be very customer focused in whatever analytical framework they choose.


  • this is so hot for us at the moment!
    Long term, we see social media as the driver and call to action for alot of traditional media.

    We are currently mixing in large format and out of home billboard advertising with social media as the call to action.
    working on rolling out a campaign now which mixes in stencil art / graffiti around Melbourne CBD that will use social media as the call to action to a micro-site.

    we have also used promotional models and other mediums to assist us in building momentum for our campaigns.



  • Nona

    Just now catching up on reading after last week’s vacation and this caught my eye. Great article. Question #6 is the one that jumps out at me – one of the key benefits of social media is its ability to create true brand advocates. If we don’t ask that question as marketers, it’s like not asking for referrals from our own best clients. Also, some smaller businesses with limited resources tend to think that it’s an “either/or” situation with social media and traditional marketing. As you say, it’s a matter of applying the proper framework. Thanks, Tom!

  • Absolutely Love It!

    100 True and Loyal Advocates = An Army

  • Nona,

    Glad you made your way over here… agree… #6 is probably the least asked question during any strategy session. But I find it is also the most illuminating.

  • Your comment about bacteria is classic! I was shaking my head while reading this. All to often when talking about social media with our execs. they ask me what other organizations are doing or want to see proof of other people who have done the same thing. I caution this exact carbon copying idea. As my teacher Derek Mehraban in MSU’s New Media DL class says “Immitate before you Innovate” which is true to a point since there is value in researching our competition but he and you both are saying along the same lines of what I am thinking. It’s important to build on what our competition is doing instead of completely copying what has already been done. I don’t want a cookie-cutter campaign or doing something that has already been done. I want to take someone’s good idea, build on that and make it our own – then it will work for us. Otherwise we are just like the car advertisements that all have a fancy car, driving on interesting terrain, and basically saying their car provides the best luxury for the lowest price!

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  • Elizabeth Norvell

    I am glad to know that Social Media has extended its wings from conversation to recommendation which is absolutely an essential feature to flourish in all sphere! Great article!

  • Thanks Elizabeth – good to see this article still getting traffic and comments.

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