Social Media Rules (of engagement) To Live By

Over in the linkedin group I manage, (Direct Marketing Questions & Answers), we’ve been having a discussion on the zig vs. zag nature of direct marketing and social media.

In essence, the theory is this: with everybody zigging towards social media these days, does that leave a giant hole (translation: opportunity) for traditional direct marketing to be used to engage customers and prospects?    It’s been a spirited discussion so far.  And I firmly believe that traditional direct marketing (integrated with the web) presents such an opportunity in a zigzag market.

My personal bottom line is that social media marketing is just one of the tools in my kit bag, and should be used (tested and rolled out) as part of the direct marketing mix.  So I use it all.

But no discussion of social media these days should be done without a basic understanding of it’s strategic vs. tactical use.

I see many companies using social media tactically, without thinking through the strategy.  The truth is, anyone can post a video, start tweeting or blogging, etc., and many companies have jumped on this bandwagon as a tactic.  However, much like direct mail or any other direct marketing discipline, the tactical use of social media can have little or no results at all, thus giving the marketer the erroneous impression that social media doesn’t work.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say, we tried direct mail (or insert medium here) and it doesn’t work.  Some of these people when further queried will admit to not following the rules… the first of which is define the strategy, the list, the offer, etc.   And with some of these business owners if they are willing to learn how to do direct mail right, their next attempt will have better, if not profitable results.

There are many places in which to find the rules of direct mail, or traditional direct marketing.  But when it comes to social media, the rules of engagement are a bit vague.

Beyond strategy – the common sense rules of engagement:

So I have been studying social media marketing for the last year.  Practicing it strategically, and analyzing my results.  And I have also been looking for a good quality set of rules to live by.  Today thanks to Twitter I found some published by Intel for their employees and their contractors.  These are a good place to start.

Note from Jim:  Article originally written by me for eMarketing & Commerce Magazine (eM+C):

12 thoughts on “Social Media Rules (of engagement) To Live By

  1. Oscar Del Santo says:

    This is a seriously good post. The importance of the right strategy in the social media cannot be overemphasized.

    So many companies (and individuals) jump onto the bandwagon out of sheer peer pressure and without the resources to even monitor the conversation – let alone participate effectively. No surprise if disheartening results are to follow.

    Yet it does not have to be that way.

  2. Sudha says:

    I don’t think unless you have a long term strategy and enough Time and patience to burn , no output will come from Social media marketing.
    Unlike conventional Direct marketing communication which is like fast food giving instant gratification.


  3. Jane Dedek says:

    This is a really nice post, and can be really useful for in-house recruiters, as well as marketing folks. I particularly appreciate the differentiation between “strategy” and “tatics”, something I think many businesses can benefit from exploring.

  4. Meredith Collins says:

    This is great information and it leaves room for plenty of thought – that said – many businesses (I am thinking smaller) don’t necessarily know or understand the difference between strategies and tactics.

    It would be useful if you would explain these differences as you see them, in your professional capacity, with examples!


  5. Julie Myers says:

    Thank you for sharing this article. I think it is a great reminder how easy it can be to get carried away in the excitement and rush of a new trend. As you state, it is but just one tool in the marketing toolbox.

  6. Pam Moore says:

    Jim – I couldn’t agree with you more. I posted a similar discussion on my blog today. It is amazing how many companies are still thinking they need to jump on the social media band wagon as fast as possible without realizing that it takes planning.

    I think part of the issue is YES, it IS very easy to get a TWITTER account (seconds, not minutes) as well as a Facebook biz or group page. However, as you know so many then ask “now what”?

    Social media isn’t magic and isn’t going to grow your business all by itself. It’s about the planning, content, segmentation & audience and continued evaluation and refinement.

    I agree w/you 100%. Just as we plan for direct mail or an eblast, the same should go for social media, even if it does only take 20 seconds to setup the Twitter account. It’s not the account that matters….it’s what you say, how you say it, who you say it to, when you say it, and how it integrates with EVERYTHING else you do!

    Great post. Let’s catch up this next wk for sure. Sorry, my week got a bit nuts. Never thought this startup biz was going to kickoff so fast. Can’t wait to discuss our many synergies 🙂

  7. Tnelson says:

    Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂

  8. Christine LaBon says:

    I agree, both social media and direct mail should take a strategic approach. Important factors that should be predetermined include which medium to follow and what audience to target. One similar advantage of direct mail and social media is the ability to directly target buyers. Direct mail offers can be received in home, and social media presents the channel for recipients to generate feedback and communicate directly with companies.

  9. Misty Dawn says:

    This is a really useful list of guidelines! Some are obvious and those of us who have used social media for a few years are well versed in these, but there were a few principles that I had not thought of in these terms. They also worded the obvious principles in a manner that even a newbie to social media would understand.
    I will definitly be passing this along to fellow social media folks to remind them (and myself) not to forget the “rules!”

    Thanks Again!
    Misty Dawn
    manager of the indie band Western Civ
    Chapel Hill, NC

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