Classic marketing vs. Social Media marketing

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Working for an organization that is experiencing growing pains in our quest to fully participate in social media this post will compare and contrast two spheres of a 2012 Infographic designed by Robert Weller which assesses classic marketing tactics to real time social media strategies. Based on my vast experience in marketing and public relations, I regard two aspects highlighted in the graphic “Communication with Customer” and Availability” as essential for successful brand management. Additionally these two subjects are well worth further exploration for the betterment of my organization.
I am a proud employee of a 237 year old organization and one of the oldest established businesses in the United States. We have been delivering our product without interruption since our establishment. In fact, it could be said that the organization itself is based on communication and has evolved over time to meet the needs of its customers when and how they communicate. So it is ironic that we should be challenged by such basic functions as communication with customers and availability. Both considered hot items in our classic marketing and social media marketing efforts.

Communication with Customers
Classic marketing tells us that communication should be well considered and reviewed. When communication does occur between the customer and the company any background must be kept secret. As a former manager of consumer affairs I can attest that my organization has used this strategy with moderate success as this was the industry norm. We have a massive database dedicated to the correct and uniform way to respond to customers for most issues. For decades we have instructed our local and regional leaders to refer customers to the “customer care” or complaint department where the issue can be resolved in the most professional manner.
Local leadership is discouraged to resolve customer issues at the local level and instead encouraged to funnel them through one centralized resolution department. In the rare instance that customers were actually able to infiltrate management at an individual location and all attempts to reroute the customer to the customer service center were met with refusal, then and only then the issue must be resolved by using core language. Core language is approved by our extensive legal department and any management employee can be comfortable in responding to a customer inquiry or issue using this preapproved language. That is the way it was…and sometimes still is. This process almost guarantees zero liability and that’s a great benefit to the organization. The problem occurs when the customer issue does not fit into a cookie cutter category, is urgent or is something we have not dealt with before.

Communication with customers using social media marketing looks much different. My organization has found that using social media as a way to quickly respond to customer issues challenging at best. Customers who use social media as a way to communicate with an organization expect a fast, public reaction to comments that they post. They want an immediate and public response, as we can conclude that is why they are using social in the first place. My organization is having some challenges accepting that gone are the days that dissatisfied customers write a letter to the President of the company. Nor do they have the time to wade through a telephone tree to resolve an issue. The value of using social for customer response is that an organization can be transparent, immediate and resolutions are made in the public forum for all to see.

It’s a great tool, except when working with an organization so ingrained in the classic marketing methods that they are unable to see the value of immediacy. Red-tape abounds and speedy responses rarely happen except in instances that could be deemed emergencies. Working with the legal aspects of protecting an organization will always exist, and rightfully so. However, there is a way to be more engaged in social by using some of the old school, tried and true tools created such as core language and use it for real time response on social.

Preparation and preapproval is key, when trying to break into social media when working for an organization that operates much as it did centuries ago. The good news is we have had moderate success using social to communicate to our customers in regions or areas that experience service disruptions due to national disasters and issues that affect a group of customers. Further we are actively looking to expand our listening capacity and customer interaction on social by expanding our entire social media department. We may be a bit slow in adapting, but we are getting there. I do believe the two can be used together to help and organization communicate more effectively with our customers. Going forward it’s clear that customers will be seeking more interaction via social and organizations such as the one I work for need to be able to adapt to that change. Happily we are doing that, prepping for the future now.

Availability in the classic mode of marketing means being available for customer concerns during regular business hours, (9 to 5) with no support beyond that. In contrast, availability in social media marketing means 24/7 response, responding to customer requests and negative comments in real-time. Paralleling the two in today’s digital world the classic way just does not measure up to the new media playbook as outlined by eight important implications authored by Anthony Young in his book, Brand Media Strategy. Specifically the implications of the playbook remind us that as marketers we must adopt digital practices as best practices for all media. Inventing new way to operate will make us more effective.

Today’s consumer can’t wait for a written response for an issue they experienced with our company or an answer to their question. They want an answer now and to be successful and stay relevant organizations need to realize this. Availability through social media as it relates to customers is simply better. Facebook and Twitter are the most logical formats to increase your availability. For large organizations there is no reason not to be available to your customers 24/7 365 days a year.

In conclusion while classic marketing still has its merits, those merits are fading away. As marketers we must take what works in classic marketing and integrate it with social media marketing tactics or we will be left behind.


Young, A. (2010). The New Media Playbook: A New Set of Rules for a New Media World. Brand Media Strategy: Integrated Communications Planning in the Digital Era. New York: Palgrave Macmillan
(See May 20th Service Disruption Post)


Posted on May 25, 2014, in In Your Own Words MMC-5006 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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