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January 12, 2009


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Patrick Evans

Awesome post. I am a big fan of hybrid "marketing communications"-type positions that allow for the communications aspect of public relations, but takes into account many of the metrics and practices of traditional marketing. More and more, I think these hybrid positions will become the standard when it comes to social media for business.

Jonathan Burg

Great post. I don't think there will be lines drawn in the sand. A good brand either (a) has someone in house managing all agency/communications leads and coordinating social appropriately or (b) has a third party building social strategy and partnering with all agency/communications leads appropriately.

The lines between creative, digital, traditional, broadcast, print, strategy, media, mobile, social, gaming, pr, CRM and direct marketing are blurring. The best agency is one that knows how to play nice - at least that's what's best for clients - so long as there is someone leading the strategy and managing the troops.

There is a lot of overlap in today's mar comm/CRM world. And as relationships between brands and constituents grow closer, lines will further blur. Overlap is inevitable. It is up to the right strategic person in the room to stand up and make it work in an organized and sensible fashion.

There is no easy answer. There are fewer hard lines. Great post!

Stephanie Edwards-Musa

Hi Paul, I don't think you are off the deep end. Personally, I agree that it is likely something new- we just maybe don't know what it is yet?

I don't know, but it's interesting and fun to watch it all come together.

Webconomist (Giles Crouch)

Paul it's some good thinking. Glad you share, it's what makes this medium evolve.

Patrick above mentioned "hybrid" and Beth talks of Social Media as "communications" and marketing is communicating, but generally one-way and PR is communicating as well, from a story-telling perspective.

Social Media is conversational communicating.

But what of the Power Law Curve? That more people "listen" than participate?

It's all changing. Because people can organize at lower cost than ever before will change governance, business and economics. Some rules will remain, others will change.

OK, now you've got the ol' nogging whirring... :-)


Paul - dare I say it again .. you are ahead of the curve once more! Thanks for the link to my article with Shel. This is a topic I've been thinking about for quite awhile. I do think of myself as a "marketer" and believe that social media marketing is a valid component of a global marketing umbrella that includes PR, Research, Sales, etc.

However, what I've also seen is that social media reaches beyond marketing. For example the IT developers who blog; using Twitter to support customer service (which I think should be under marketing but that is a different post!).. Social media crosses silos. Social media impacts the enterprise beyond marketing. It changes the way people do business. That means new processes must be developed from how products/services are developed to how information is disseminated internally and externally to how marketing strategies are created.

I think you and John are on the right track ... however, I'd like to see it go even further into the c-suite beyond communication. Paul, you and I rather wished in 2004 that there would be positions that included blogging in their job description .. and now there are! Perhaps some forward thinking company will create a COSM - chief officer of social media. Sign me up for that gig!

Elizabeth Kaylene

I think that social media is something on its own, that can be used as a marketing or PR tool -- if done correctly. Social networking is a way to connect with people, and advertising/business has always been about making connections.

For example, a commercial for aftershave might connect with its audience by showing that a clean-shaven and smooth face on a guy may be attractive to women. So the bearded guy watching TV might go out and buy that aftershave so he can make a good impression with the girl he's taking out tonight.

Social media takes this to another level. Anyone can get on Twitter, for example, and tell the world about their day. I can tell everyone what I'm wearing or what I'm watching, and someone out there might care enough to say something back.

I can tell so-and-so I hope they feel better or that I'm sorry their grandma passed away.

I can share links and photos with just a couple of words and a TinyURL.

Anyone can join my conversations with my friends.

Social media lets us all care on a wider, more personal level. If you've got a message to share, I think social media is your best bet.

And now I feel the need to go write about this on my blog. (:

Paul Chaney

Yep, we're always looking at what will be, living somewhere between the now and the not yet. It's a curse really. Why can't I get a job as a plumber or something and just be happy with that. All this future thinking gives me a headache anyway. Heh.

As to your desire for a COSM, I have to believe that you'll find that role waiting for you at a big company and soon. They'd be crazy not to hire you.

Paul Chaney

Elizabeth, I believe you've hit the nail on the head. It's all about having converations. That's why I prefer the term to social media marketing.

It's being where the people we serve and are trying to reach live -- both online and off -- and trying to serve them. That starts with a conversation.

I think the best social media people are those that simply know how to converse well.

Rob Williams

It's almost like evolution. Old media is being morphed into new ways of sharing and interacting. The element added is the conversation. So now old media takes on new forms to help the engagement. The proof is when there is no conversation around a piece of new media. It just passes away. The good/bad about that is that the cost to produce is low so it can flood the market. But when done with a strategy in place to build relationships, conversation and conversion come along.

Paul Chaney

Excellent points Rob. We are in an evolutionary phase (maybe that's always the case). The "old wineskins" of print and broadcast advertising (or any advertising) is being replaced by something we're still working on defining.

Sure as shootin' we'll institutionalize social media though, then something else will have to come along to further the evolutionary process.

Dave Segrove

I think in a perfect world, social media would be just that, conversation, the exchange of ideas and the development and refinement of the medium itself. The problem is that, while there are many people who want to be part of this evolution of the web, there is a large faction of the “what's in it for me” or “what can I get out of it” crowd.

To some degree, we're always “marketing ourselves”. People write blogs for other people to read. We like attention, it's the way we're made. I refuse to believe anyone who doesn't check their follower count on Twitter and take some pride in an increase.

Social media has tremendous potential that is already being realized. It is truly a level playing field where anyone with an Internet connection can potentially reach thousands and thousands of other people without the expense that “traditional” media has required. Unlike “traditional” media, social networking / media is two way (for now) and the community sets its own rules. If you've got nothing worth listening to, people will tune you out.

What marketers risk is doing to social media what spam did to email. It became intrusive. It became annoying and people took action. Email, doesn't allow the sort of interaction that social media does, but marketing will continually evolve to meet the environment. Companies and individuals want to get their message out, albeit in a slightly more subtle way.

I don't know what the answer is and I certainly don't want to be all doom and gloom. I hold out great promise for social media, but if it really is going to be the free exchange of ideas, thought, discussion and experience, it can't become “commercial media”...and that line is a tough one to ascertain.

Elizabeth Kaylene

I couldn't agree more.

Now if only we could all come up with a better title; I've been calling us "social media people," too. (:

Elizabeth Kaylene

@Dave: While I do agree with some of the things you said (like social media marketers having to be careful of looking like spam), I do have to say that if you don't look at it as a conversation, you're in the wrong part of the field.

For example: If you post a blog and someone comments on it, a conversation has begun. In fact, just by posting a blog you've started a conversation.

There have been several occasions where someone has either DMed or @ replied me on Twitter asking for one of my web design services -- and I've only tweeted about being a web designer once.

There are definitely people out there who have that "what's in it for me" attitude, but they are usually blacked out by the guy who is online and talking to the people that follow or friend request him. People aren't stupid. They can tell the difference between a gimmick and a genuine person who cares about other people.

Just from talking to people and caring -- just from having conversations with them -- I've added readers to both of my sites. Ironically, it started as a completely unconscious thing.

If you look at social media as conversations, it opens up a whole new world or possibilities. If you still don't believe me, I suggest you check out http://garyvaynerchuk.com/. This guy is sure to wipe away any room for doom and gloom about social media networking. (:

Paul Chaney

I remember when blogging was a purist medium, then marketers got their hands on them and they went to h*ll. All kinds of aberations appeared.

Over time the chaff fell away and the medium matured to a point where today you hardly ever hear anyone talking about splogs for example. (Not that they don't still exist, just don't seem to be a topic of conversation.)

While I'd certainly like to keep social media free from encroachment by those of us trying to make a buck off it, if we approach it with the trifecta of genuineness, authenticity and transparency, we can accomplish the goal of commerce without placing a cloak of shame over the medium.

Ari Herzog

I suppose with a name like Paul, it's natural for you to insert Biblical quotations into a blog post. *insert sarcasm*

Of course social media can exist without marketing and people relations, but if you do that, you have to rewrite the definition of media. Can media exist without either?


The old method of advertising is interactive marketing. The term is misleading. Most people think it means that there is some type of interaction on the part of the person advertised to, and there is. But, it is not conversational. Instead, the advertiser wants you to interact with their campaign in a specific set of steps. Following the call to action and visiting a website for instance. It’s the push to make you do something. Live this image. Buy this now.

Social Media Marketing is just the opposite. It’s the pull of the tribe. The tribe already has your trust so the actions they take are ones you align with. On a larger scale, it’s the allure of belonging in the group as you take action together. “I am doing this so why don’t you do it with me?” On an individual level, the attraction is to behave the same way to get the same results that benefits your fellow tribeswoman or tribesman. “She looks hot! I want to look hot too. I want to go to her hairstylist” and you do. Social Media Marketing uses the power of attraction.

While advertising tries to use the same tactic, with a billboard for instance, of a gorgeous woman telling you the benefits of the salon, it doesn’t have the same impact because it’s pushing you to go. It is not pulling you in as a trusted friend. Your friends have your best interests at heart and advertisers do not. Social Media Marketing is based on building trust and that foundation will make Social Media a dominant player in Marketing.

Paul Chaney

Doesn't help that I'm an ex Baptist minister either. :-) I'm preaching a new gospel though, that of social media marketing.

Robert Lesser

Hi Paul,

I enjoyed your post but wanted to add a dissenting opinion.

Like all of us who have commented here, I am a large proponent of social media.

However, I feel that we may be 'missing the forest for the trees'.

Rather than asking 'What is social media?', I believe that the key question should be 'What is the impact of social media?'

In one of your earlier posts this year, you commented that only 64 out of the Fortune 500 are blogging.

If we are to build the business case for those organizations that have not adopted social media, we need to be discussing concrete examples of how social media has impacted the objectives of organizations.

Otherwise, I fear that we will continue to be preoccupied with this discussion on whether social media is 'blue' or 'red' or 'green'.

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