The Importance of Social Media: Towards a Healthy Marketing Mix

In an article in Marketing Darwinism, Steven Salta and I argued strongly that modern marketing is in peril. We suggested that the elevation of the concept of “ROI” has driven Marketers, in general, to be myopic about the channels they pick to market through. With a zealous insistence on ROI as an input, Marketers have cut themselves off from many effective avenues and have tended to cluster to the imminently measurable elements of digital marketing, to the exclusion of so many other worthwhile channels. Socedo CEO Aseem Badshah and I then did a video, explaining this concept further, suggesting that a Marketer with channel myopia is like a Chef who has an infinitude of ingredients but only one spoon and one pot in which to create a gourmet meal. Our clarion call for Marketers was to reclaim their profession and to bring back the Marketing Mix.

As with all such ideas whose time has come, the reception was fabulous. Each of us has gotten countless texts, LinkedIn comments, DMs, and phone calls thanking us for saying what “needed to be said.” We can’t claim breathtaking originality here, only a good dose of common marketing sense.

In some ways that seemingly simple concept- common sense- is exactly what has been missing from the intersection of Marketing and Technology for the past decade. Too many companies overclaimed and underdelivered. Too few companies took the “Art and Science” approach to Marketing. Too many companies sought refuge in arcane marketing mathematics. Too few companies understood the math but avoided being beguiled by it.

In a complex world, with multiple channels, burgeoning technology platforms, intersecting audiences, and messages that traverse geographies, customer types, and industries, there are no silver bullets or magic potions, only creative and data-inflected best guesses. Such is the nature of complex systems.

A good Marketer must make peace with this reality but still strive to make herself better by learning, trying, testing, and taking risks. A good Marketer must also resist over-indexing on the brightest and shiniest new object. A good Marketer must understand data and understand ROI but not be shackled by either.

Social media and Social-mediated messages fall very neatly in this “mid-zone” between Art and Science. They are at once measurable but inexact. They are simultaneously hard-hitting and important but ethereal. They indicate propensities but no guarantees. They indicate short-term patterns but not long-term rigidities.

As such, Social media must be taken seriously, but, once again, as part of a larger mix of inputs and outputs. Social media platforms thus must be part of all marketing infrastructures but not the only part and not even necessarily the biggest part.

That something is part of a mix does not diminish its importance. But we must as a community of Marketers maintain our larger perspective.

Committing to a holistic view of Marketing is crucial. In this view, Social plays an important role.

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