Whenever “social media” is discussed most people immediately pigeon hole it into a computer related, online networking phenomena. After all the term originated and developed along with socially engaging websites and platforms. But, perhaps it’s time to broaden the definition and remember that social media does not necessarily just happen in a vacuum on the internet. Perhaps social media marketing should include any tools that spread messages and recommendations between people – regardless of whether they are plugged in or not.
Wikipedia states that; “Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks.” “Usually” is the key word here, and very true. But, all “content” of course is not limited to the internet and many “social networks” still exist outside of cyberspace.
The Wikipedia definition goes on to further explain social media marketing as “The resulting electronic word of mouth (eWoM) refers to any statement consumers share via the Internet (e.g., web sites, social networks, instant messages, news feeds) about an event, product, service, brand or company…”
If we simply remove any references limiting this definition to the internet, I believe we get a much broader and productive definition of social media marketing. Here is Wikipedia’s definition again, in it’s entirety, with all references to the internet or on-line removed.
“Social media marketing programs center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks. The resulting word of mouth refers to any statement consumers share about an event, product, service, brand or company. When the underlying message spreads from person to person and presumably resonates because it appears to come from a trusted, third-party source, as opposed to the brand or company itself, this form of marketing results in ‘earned media’ rather than ‘paid media’.”
Long before there was Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the hundreds of other online social media platforms, people were “liking”, “tagging”, “pinning”, posting and starting conversations off-line with bumper stickers, t-shirts… hats or simply by the products they chose and used in front of family and friends. Yes, there are broad differences, but from a business standpoint I would argue that one promotional sticker on a car has much more value than one on-line “follower” or “like”. I wouldn’t contend you need one over the other, because it is important to reach out, connect and converse with customers through multiple channels and networks – whether online or off.
Although promotional stickers are basically mini-billboards, they are not perceived as ‘advertising’. Stickers applied in visible locations are personal recommendation and literal ‘signs’ of support for a business, a person, an idea or a product. I’d call that “earned media”. Supplying the right type of sticker to customers and fans at the right time takes advantage of low-cost opportunities to turn those supporters into a no-cost sales force encouraging word-of-mouth marketing.
Sounds like social media marketing to me.