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I recently attended a digital marketing event in Milton Keynes and got into an interesting conversation with a person from a Social Media marketing company and a director from a food manufacturing company. The food manufacturing person had a website but did no digital marketing and was interested in whether he should use Social Media as he had heard it was one of the latest “trends”.

To the Social Media person, he was in his element, he quickly explained that using a Social Media Strategy was the best form of digital marketing that a company could have. He soon lost the food manufacturing person who looked on bemused as the jargon went over his head, whilst the Social Media person was in full flow and didn’t appear to notice.

After 3 to 4 minutes, although it felt like longer, the food manufacturing person asked me for my view on a Social Media Strategy. In reply I asked him “Do you have a Telephone Strategy? Not understanding my point, he asked could I explain. The Social Media person also looked unsure.

I went on to explain that Social Media wasn’t a strategy for a company to use for its marketing. What it represented was just another communications channel that could be used, just like a telephone could be used for communicating with a prospective customer.

The use of Social Media by companies, with it being relatively new and receiving significant hype, always draws significant interest as no company wants to miss out. Especially at a time when many Social Media companies are appearing on the scene with experts (as they have their own personal Twitter and Facebook personal accounts they see themselves as experts).

Social Media should be recognised for what it is and integrated into a digital marketing strategy. It can be an excellent means of communicating with existing and prospective clients whether it is used for marketing, customer support, PR or brand awareness. However, it is not a standalone form of marketing and operating in isolation may not be cost effective.

A website can serve many purposes for a company but if it can’t be found in the search engines it becomes ineffective. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Managed PPC (e.g. Google AdWords) can be very important in delivering prospective clients to a website who can then go on to contact the company or buy online. However, SEO or PPC cannot operate in isolation, just like Social Media, because if the prospective customer arrives at a poor website they will just leave.

Only when each form, whether it is the website, SEO, PPC, social media, email, videos, etc. is used correctly in combination with other communication channels can it be successful. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and what will work for one sector or company may not work for another.

As a result, using 1 form of digital marketing will not work, just like using 1 company offering just 1 digital service. What a company needs is a digital marketing strategy that incorporates various forms of digital communication working in combination and in an optimised and cost effective form.

The food manufacturer director appreciated the information, took my business card and said he would be in touch. The Social Media expert happened to receive a phone call and wandered away obviously using his “telephony strategy”.