What The F**k Is Social Media Marketing?

by Troy Joos As a recently hired employee at a social media marketing agency, I’m constantly asked by my family and friends, “So what do you do?” If one of these inquirers ventures to speculate on what I do in such an obscure field they almost assuredly offer, “It’s like… Facebook stuff right?” While this is technically correct, it’s utterly deficient in explaining what I do. The problem is that in today’s business world the term “social media” is thrown around like “synergy” or the suffix “2.0.” Social media has become a blanket term to describe everything on the Internet that’s vaguely connective in nature including anything from MySpace to e-mail.

If you search the term “social media” on Google, you will most likely be led to its Wikipedia page. This page is flagged with the official caveat- “This article has multiple issues.” This warning is a telling indication of the general lack of understanding regarding these two deceivingly simple words. There are numerous definitions of social media, many of which point in dissimilar directions, but I would contest that social media is any form of online publication or presence that allows end users to engage in conversations in or around content.

Reaching users through a true social media campaign is different than conventional advertising methods. A billboard on the side of the road is still a billboard even if no one drives by. Similarly, an infomercial is still an infomercial even if no one is up at 4AM to watch it. Conversely, social media ceases to be social media if people are not involved. People not only need to see your social media campaign, but also need to interact with it. They need to follow it, retweet it, comment on it, or something of the like before it can be considered social media.

Advertising through this medium can be described as advertising with your audience instead of at them. Social media allows people to get involved and get excited about your product in ways that other forms of advertizing dream of. So, while social media does entail websites like Facebook and Twitter, the websites themselves are not social media. They may characterize social media, but they are nothing without their users. Interaction is not only what differentiates a social media campaign; it’s also what makes it so valuable.

The capability to target an ad campaign to such a precise audience is unique to social media. For example, you could target an advertisement on Facebook to single, female, Harvard students who like cats. Try and do that with a conventional radio or television ad. These capabilities are unprecedented and, up until the proliferation of social media, nearly impossible. So, what are you waiting for? Take advantage of social media marketing!

Also, check out this slideshow by Espresso: