planning social media isn't short term media planning

September 1, 2009 ·

in my particular line work, it's that time of year where we lay down the foundation of our brands in media for the year to come. we plot out campaigns across all media channels and social media activations. the problem is that we plan both of those things as if they are the same. moreso, we force fit social media into the planning paradigms that exist for traditional media.

you see, traditional media fits nicely into campaigns and campaigns nicely into fiscal years. a flight of TV is just that. it lasts for x number of weeks and it's done. it does it's job, there are specific outcomes and results neatly tied to the time it was on-air. same with radio, outdoor, print and even online. so few of any advertising has life beyond it's short window of planned existence.

amidst this relatively short shelf life media, there's SM and the relationship marketing side. this doesn't fit nicely into a campaign or even a year. you don't just jump in and jump out as you do with other media.

social media takes time. it's about nurturing and continued support of a community over time. yes, you change the dynamic of the conversation depending on your in-market communication stream, but those are just outlets. they don't end as a campaign ends, it's ongoing. long lasting.

beyond the community cultivation and consumer engagement that is a continuing endeavor, there are a number of other ways that social media isn't short term.

  1. long term presence - what happens in social spaces lives on indefinitely, well after a campaign is over (that is until it's not so shiny anymore and shutters). it builds, it evolves, supplemented, referenced and complimented.
  2. searchable - as a result of being eternal, it is indexable and more easily found.
  3. greater impact of two way communication - participation by real humans, on both sides of the marketing hourglass, make this more powerful, especially the peers.
  4. memorability of personal interaction - should you be so fortunate (albeit sometimes of unfortunate circumstances) as to get personal interactions from the brand, that is something that lasts with you for a long time and alters behavior.
one of the main problems with this fiscal thinking is in how we link back our activities to the business. with traditional media, it's very easy. we see immediate lifts in sales, soon find out measures of brand salience as a result of seeing advertising or we look at clicks (sorry, but it's an easy example). with social media, the cycle isn't so immediate. it can take time to build the affinity, or know when a social touchpoint exhibits itself as a change in consumer behavior.

it's always difficult to change how people operate. social media represents such a shift in marketing operations that it's worth revising our necessity for short term planning and thinking.

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