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8.6 Social Media and Marketing: Rules of Engagement

Learning Objective

  1. Learn the rules of engagement in social media and what the benefits are.

Social media imply a democratization of information and require authenticity and openness from those who would deliberately use them for marketing. Relying on the Internet, this means that good stories as well as bad stories spread and stick around. Jeff Jarvis may have had problems with Dell in 2005, but you can easily find all relevant communication with a quick Google search.

Although they are engaging publicly with a wide audience, marketers need to remember that they are communicating with individuals. While marketers should engage in the conversation and can lead it, they cannot control it.

Marketing to Content Creators

The influence of bloggers means that they should form a part of any public relations (PR) strategy (see Chapter 12 "Web Public Relations" for further details).

Supply content creators with the tools and resources they need so that they can easily talk about your product.

Marketing to Content Consumers

Social media allow anyone to have a say, and the same tools that are available to individuals are available to companies. Company blogs allow a brand to build a personality and to interact with its target market. Entertainment created and spread via social media increases brand touch points. Using the same channels that are available to your consumer aids in understanding the consumer and evens the plane of conversation.

When using social media to reach out to content consumers, go to where your consumers are. The media used are dictated by your users.

For example, a nightclub for students can create a Facebook group to advertise its weekly specials and interact with fans, while Land Rover enthusiasts would probably be more comfortable with a forum.

With all interactions, marketing messages need to be labeled as marketing messages, with a disclaimer added if necessary. Trying to hide them as something else will only decrease authenticity.

Marketing to Content Sharers

Content sharers are content consumers who also pass your message on, whether by using chat or e-mail, by sharing a link on a blog, or by submitting your content to a bookmarking or aggregating service. They are a crucial link in the chain that passes your message around. Make it as easy as possible for sharers to share by using chicklets and unique and easy-to-read URLs.

Advertising on Social Media Platforms

While marketers can use the tools of social media to convey their message, the user characteristics that define a social media Web site are also important. Social media allow users to express themselves, and this means that demographic information can be compiled to allow for more useful and targeted advertising. This presents many opportunities for targeting advertising and for finding creative ways to reach an advertisement-fatigued demographic.

The Benefits of Social Media to Marketers

There are many benefits to companies and marketers for taking advantage of the services that social media sites offer. The following are just some of these benefits:

  • People are finding it easier to switch off or ignore traditional advertising, particularly through traditional media environments such as television or radio. Social media give brands the opportunity to interact with customers through targeted communications that customers can choose to engage with on their terms. For example, a consumer may visit a branded YouTube channel as opposed to deliberately ignoring advertisement breaks on television.
  • Social media’s potential to go viral is one of its greatest benefits; if users like the content, then they will share it with their communities.
  • Social media allow you to create an online community for your brand and its supporters.
  • Social media can tie in nicely with any of your other online marketing tactics; a holistic e-marketing strategy is always the best strategy.
  • Social media allow you to engage with an online community and allow you to connect your brand to the appropriate audience.
  • Social media have created a forum for brand evangelists. Companies should embrace as well as monitor this, as users with negative opinions of your brand have access to the same forum.
  • The various platforms allow you to access a community with similar interests to your own, that is, networking without borders.
  • The numerous interactions allow you to garner feedback from your communities.
  • Feedback from social media sites helps drive both future business as well as marketing strategies.
  • The range of media enables you to learn more about your audience’s likes, dislikes, behavior, and so on. Never before has this much information been available to marketers; market research just got a whole lot cheaper.
  • Niche targeting just got a whole lot easier.

There are huge risks as well as opportunities. Social media facilitate a two-way conversation between customer and company. This necessitates that the company shifts approach from “deploy and watch” to one of constant involvement with the audience.

Social Media and the Changing Media Landscape

To keep up with their audiences, traditional media have had to adapt. This has changed the way that they publish, both online and off, as well as how they can sell advertising.

For example, many newspapers now publish their content online as well as in their print publications. Online, they can allow for instant commentary on their articles. It allows an instant snapshot of what their readers think, which can then be used to make editorial decisions. Print stories can be supplemented online with video, and this has been embraced by many news organizations. Visit to see how one newspaper is using video online.

As mentioned, television advertisements can be placed online for free via channels such as YouTube. This opens advertisements to a new audience and allows for advertisements that can be created without the restrictions of television. Advertisements can be extended, and now additional footage can become as important as the original. Quality advertisements are voluntarily and deliberately viewed, as opposed to deliberately ignored.

Tools of the Trade

As a creator of content, there is a plethora of platforms for the budding social media enthusiast. Throughout the chapter, we have listed the URLs for some of the most popular services, most of which are free. Instead of going back through the chapter, visit Use the tags to navigate to the social media tools you need to get started.

Pros and Cons

Social media allow marketers insights into their demographic and the chance to engage with their audience in a channel selected, and preferred, by the audience.

They allow marketers to capitalize on the creativity of their consumers to spread their message further, often at very low costs.

Lastly, social media provide avenues for establishing direct, personal contact on a level not available to traditional marketing campaigns.

However, companies also need to be aware that bad messages spread as well as good ones, and the connectedness that can prove so useful can also be a conduit for the distribution of negative messages.

This new landscape is one in which the customer really is king, and any attempt to dethrone the king can have dire consequences. Efforts to control the conversation in social media are soon found out and can backfire horribly.

Any company embarking on a social media strategy needs to be sure to monitor its reputation online. It is crucial to know what is being said in order to be able to respond and communicate in the social media sphere.

Social media are also known as consumer-generated media (CGM); this refers to the creation and sharing of content by consumers on the Internet. It has allowed a democratization of the Internet, where all Internet users now also have the opportunity to be creators as well as consumers of content.

Social media refer to the online technology platforms that allow users to do the following:

  • Bookmark and aggregate content
  • Create and share content
  • Use other Internet users’ preferences to find content

Most social media services are free to all participants and rely on advertising for revenue. Social media provide targeted demographic information to advertisers looking to direct their advertising.

The Bigger Picture: How It All Fits Together

Social media can have SEO benefits for a Web site, particularly when a company engages in the various social media. By using the services of social media, either to create or share content, Web sites can attract links, all helping enhance search engine rankings. Companies can also use their SEO keyword strategy to focus their social media efforts.

Social media can provide a targeted network for online advertising, allowing detailed demographic information to play a role in media planning and buying. Companies can also make use of the increased engagement of consumers to create engaging advertising for these mediums, such as advertising within videos and social-network applications, or merely making use of increased time-on-page metrics to create more intricate advertising.

Affiliates often use the new opportunities presented by social media to find new avenues for targeted traffic, resulting in revenue growth for the company being marketed.

Social media play a crucial role in viral marketing, due to the large, connected audience; in online reputation management (ORM), due to the way that users talk about brands; and in WebPR. Social media are used to express opinions and so are the bedrock of ORM. Any company or brand that is hoping to communicate to this connected audience needs to learn to use social media. ORM is all about the tools of listening and using social media to guide the conversation.

Viral marketing, online reputation management, and WebPR are expanded on in the following chapters.

Key Takeaways

  • Social media allow anyone to have a say.
  • Brands need to go where their customers are. Media selection is dictated by the users.
  • Marketing messages should be dictated by the users and where they are.
  • Marketers should make it easy for content sharers to pass on content by using chicklets and easy-to-read URLs.
  • Demographic information can be compiled to allow for more useful and targeted advertising.
  • There are many benefits of social media to marketers. However, there are also huge risks.
  • Social media have changed how traditional media operate.


  1. What is the difference between advertising using social media and marketing using social media?
  2. What are the benefits of social media to each, and what are the challenges?