For those who are finding the greatest success in social media marketing, social media is just instinctually part of the mix. It's not an afterthought, and it's not a completely separate undertaking. It's just part of how it's done.
Making It All Work Together
Few companies have illustrated this better than Ford. WebProNews spoke with the company's head of social media, Scott Monty recently, who said, "There's fundamentally much greater impact when we start to think about paid, earned, and owned media all working together."
"Traditionally, advertising and PR and then social media have kind of stood on their own, and they each do their own function fairly well," Monty explained. "But when used in conjunction, there's such a much more powerful momentum and aggregator behind that it absolutely makes a difference for us."
Monty talked about some of the things that Ford has specifically done to harness social media, including during the 2011 Ford Explorer reveal (more details in the video).
"We were building up our online community...and doing it authentically, and we were giving people bits of information along the way, and then on the day of the launch we had an integrated program with online advertising, with broadcast, and social media, and a schedule of events throughout the day so people could choose when and where and how they wanted to engage with the content," said Monty.
"At the end of the day, we had an impact that was greater than a Super Bowl ad," he claimed. "We were the number 2 trend on Google for the day, and that morning, we were the number one trending topic on Twitter."
When Things Go Wrong
One of the many facets of a strong social media presence is the ability to help shape public opinion of your brand, and that means being prepared when things go wrong.
"You have to have this 'always on' mentality," said Monty. "Being there and building credibility, quite frankly, because when a crisis breaks, whether it's online or offline, there's going to be chatter about it, and if you have a community of advocates that are out there and able to speak on your behalf (and I know we have lots of Ford fans out there), that helps us get our message out and really address the problem."
"Now at the same time, we still need to be front and center," he added. "And as in traditional crisis communications, make sure we have a plan in place, make sure we have the right team that handles this, because even if it breaks online (on Twitter or wherever), we need the whole team to actually participate, and to help get the message out."
Social media's not a new thing anymore. More companies are starting to understand its power and importance.
"We're seeing people starting to understand how it has to mature into the traditional - PR, advertising, digital advertising and social media all working together...customer service - it's all coming together, and I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years, there's no longer such [a] thing as a standalone social media kind of thing. It's just part of the way that we do integrated communications," said Monty.
"We're starting to see our team think about social media early on in the process now, so it's not just the 'rubber stamp' at the end of a process," he added. "We've got teams actually thinking about how we integrate social media into a real world event or how to integrate it into our next advertising campaign."
Granted, you probably don't have Ford's budget, but you can certainly learn from their practices. Your efforts don't have to be on such a large scale to be effective. You're only as big as your audience.
For more on how to orchestrate a mix of earned, paid, and owned media to increase clickthroughs and conversions, read this.