How Do We Integrate Social Media with Overall Marketing?

We are at a point where we think of social [media] in a box. But social media will soon be part of all media.

– Mark McKenna, chief marketing officer, Putnam Investments

Talk to any marketing leader, and many will tell you they can't help but think about social media. In fact, they might even have their CEO breathing down their necks over the subject.

That's what happened at Putnam Investments, manager of $153 billion, when CEO Bob Reynolds woke up one day and said: I want to be on Twitter.

“Bob has a passion for technology and communications, so we put together a task force and explored the options,” CMO Mark McKenna says. But that wasn't enough. McKenna recalled that his boss turned to him and said, “Let me be clear. I want to tweet tomorrow.”

Yon can be sure McKenna wouldn't have been able to meet his boss's demand if he didn't have a larger vision for how marketing needed to work at Putnam.

This larger marketing vision can play on the consumer side as well. I'm reminded of the time when I developed a national campaign to give away one million copies of a free budget kit to help Americans save. The campaign led to over 60,000 orders in a matter of a few days, due to a combination of traditional PR (the Washington Post), an appearance on Dr. Phil, and social media or the word-of-mouth effect. Today, the free tools continue to be accessed by thousands each year with minimal effort, thanks largely to social media.

As David Edwards, a financial advisor at Eleron Financial Group, puts it, “If you don't have a marketing plan, none of these social media efforts will help.” That's because you have to know who you are (and what you offer) – and whom you want to reach.


First, let's step back. Is it difficult to unify a firm's social media efforts with their overall marketing plans and goals?

Yes and no.

Lindsay Tiles, managing director of corporate public relations at Charles Schwab and a leader of social media efforts there, says, “It's not challenging; it's just that there are more levers to pull.”

She's light. Social media is simply another channel to get your message out – but in a far deeper way. Social media isn't just about pushing content out; it can be about engaging your audience.

Say you have a white paper on impact investing and you want to reach family offices. You could just distribute that content in the social media world, but take it a step further. You might invite readers to engage, perhaps by commenting on the content, encouraging them to share it, or inviting them to an event (online or offline) to learn more. That engagement could require new people or processes on your end.

Another challenge across firms, says Citi social media director Frank Eliason, is that “social media efforts need to match the culture of the company – and that's not always the case.” Companies need to consider:

■ What are we striving to do?

■ What are the social components to marketing efforts?

It helps when the message comes from the top. Using Putnam as an example of culture, McKenna says he would sit down with Reynolds to discuss strategic moves – moves that McKenna would execute that very afternoon.

Another challenge: measuring social media. One case in point is Citi's Private Pass, which offers early access to concert tickets for their credit card customers. Citi has turned that service into a social media activity, empowering cardholders heading off to see, say, Billy Joel in concert, to then start talking about the experience – and build the Citi brand and reach in the process. See Figure 19.1.

The resulting conversation is analyzed and its metrics flow across the overall organization, it's not retained just within the marketing unit itself.

Citi's Private Pass Encourages Cardholders to Share Through Social Media

FIGURE 19.1 Citi's Private Pass Encourages Cardholders to Share Through Social Media

Another essential step in incorporating social media into marketing plans includes recruiting employees skilled in social media. This leads many firms to hire from places like digital agencies, colleges, or the blogosphere, or to invest in their employees' social media education – something many top schools from Columbia University to the University of Texas at Dallas now offer.[1]

But once you get into the groove and make social outreach a daily or weekly habit, it simply becomes a core part of one's overall marketing efforts. In the end, it can make the challenge of building relationships more efficient and more impactful.

  • [1] Eric Dybala, “Top 20 Social Media Universities,” Social Media Delivered, March 2, 2012, socialmediadelivered.eom/2012/03/02/top-20-sociaTmedia-universities- by-socialmediadel.
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