Social marketing is at a crossroads.

The explosive popularity of social media over the last decade led many B2C marketers to launch social programs, often without any strategy or even an understanding of what they hoped to accomplish. Since then, nearly all marketers have jumped on the social media bandwagon launching Instagram accounts and influencer programs, putting UGC on their websites, buying listening platforms and ads, and, yes, maintaining a Facebook page — but many are struggling to articulate the value of all this “social.” What’s going wrong and where do marketers go from here?

In order for marketers to take back the reins on their social practices, they must realize two fundamental things:

First, that “social media” is not one single channel. It is a collection of technologies — from social networks to blogs; ratings and reviews to full-blown communities; and everything in between — that allow people to connect with each other, whether that’s friends connecting with friends, consumers connecting with brands, or employees connecting with each other.

And second, since it’s not a single channel that you can turn on and off with the flick of a switch, it’s not something for which you need a single dedicated strategy. Instead, you need a marketing strategy in which social tactics and technologies are employed and deployed where they’ll help you make the most progress toward your goals.

So what’s the value in all this social technology? Potentially much more than the results you can get from any single social marketing program. While you can and should still use social throughout the customer life cycle, and you must measure each of those programs accordingly, social’s real value to your company lies in the way it puts the customer front and center. In today’s post-digital world, which demands a totally new worldview, social media has the power to reach beyond the marketing organization and help your whole business achieve its goals.

These are the topics I explore in my new report, You Don’t Need A “Social Marketing” Strategy. I also take a look at how other marketers are gaining prominence in their organizations by using social tools and technologies to improve results against marketing goals and across their businesses; what other parts of the organization can benefit from the power of social media; and what competencies you must develop to get there.

This report articulates our vision for the future of social marketing and is the first report in our newly revamped Social Marketing Playbook. My colleagues Jessie, Erna, and Sam will share more details about the other reports in this playbook in the coming weeks, but here’s just a taste of what our research focuses on:

We’ll be filling out the rest of the playbook with reports on social marketing maturity, road mapping, measurement, benchmarks, and more in the coming quarters, so keep an eye on this page for updates.


Image courtesy of a454 at