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The other night, a Tweet by Jonathan Bray, a student in Bellevue College’s Web Marketing Specialist Program, alerted me that he’d gotten a grade of 100% on his paper based on my recent Ad Age article, “In Defense of Social Media.” He was kind enough to share it with me, and I thought his take was interesting enough to share with you. Thanks Jonathan!

B.L. Ochman’s article In Defense of Social Media (Ochman, 2011) discusses the relevance and best use of social media for marketers. She talks about what social media can do for companies, what companies shouldn’t do with social media, and provides examples of businesses that profited from the use of social media. B.L. Ochman is managing director of emerging media at Proof Integrated Communications and can be found on Twitter and blogging at Ochman is a highly credible source of information; her article was featured in Advertising Age.

Ochman says, “Social media isn’t supposed to do anything for companies.” It isn’t enough to just create a quick Twitter account or Facebook page and expect customers to come rolling in. Social media is not a replacement for a marketing plan. Instead a social media strategy should exist in your marketing plan.

Secondly she notes “Social media allows consumers to access vast information and it encourages people to talk to others before looking to brands for information. Smart brands join the conversation.” With the proper use of social media a firm can create a service differentiation competitive advantage. Contact with your consumers enables you to stay up on complaints and issues as they are reported and worked out in real time. This demonstrates the commitment to service and credibility that can be expected of the firm. When executed properly all interactions are simultaneously Creating Value and Communicating Value.

“There is no longer a market for “messages.” But, the market for something to believe in is infinite.” Social media allows firms to present information as a discussion rather than a long speech. As people read interactions between the firm and other customers it gives them an understanding of the ethics that govern the firm and how they can expect to be treated should a problem occur.

Ochman lists 6 requirements for building evangelists and creating sales with social media:
1. Have a great product or service – 2. Close integration of digital, social, mobile, with offline: advertising, events, PR, direct marketing, and sales promotion – 3. Entertaining content that is integrated with the marketing plan – 4. Including social media in product development – 5 Selling what people want without becoming sales focused – 6. Using social media for customer/tech support

Social media is relatively new and still maturing. More time is needed before it will be as clearly understood as traditional marketing channels. Just because we don’t fully grasp it is no reason to shun it. Ochman makes a great case for building a social media strategy into your marketing plan, or business plan. With social media brands can build a competitive advantage and showcase its service differentiation at the same time. The more a brand interacts with the customer the more it builds a social reputation that communicates the brands philosophy and value while promoting its products and services. Social media provides a true outlet of customer service where both consumer and brand can have their side of the story told openly. Brands that adapt and take full advantage of this will come out ahead with a trusted social presence.

Ochman, B. L. (2011, January 19). In Defense of Social Media. Retrieved January 19, 2011, from Advertising Age