In this first of two articles, I will try to situate social media marketing (SMM) within the wider marketing discipline, after situating marketing within organisations. However, I will strip everything down to the bare bones and provide sound-bite type information only, as blog articles are not textbooks that provide all the detail. So, no referencing, no case studies, no models or references to models, no detail, etc. – just the bare bones in an informal, easy-to-understand writing style. The idea is to situate the marketing function within organisations and SMM within marketing, so that we can then focus on SMM. Those who are interested can then do some research to learn more, as there is a ton of information available on everything to do with all the items mentioned.
Why is marketing necessary?
First, we need to acknowledge that all organisations, regardless of size, need to market themselves, their products and their services in order to be sustainable and to continue to exist. For-profits will want to make a profit and ensure a positive image among their stakeholders in order to sell products and/or services to generate income, while government entities will want to ensure support from the public and their specific stakeholders and ensure (usually bigger) budget allocations each year, in order to ensure income. For the purpose of this series of articles, we will focus on for-profit entities.
What is marketing?
Marketing is one of the five main functions necessary in all organisations, along with HR, finance, IT and Operations. Marketing is about ‘going to market’ – in the old days, literally collecting the eggs, packing them into baskets, loading the baskets onto a wagon, driving the wagon to a market square in a village and ‘crying the wares’ to the passing public at a specific price, eg ‘Fresh eggs! Fresh eggs! Only 2 cents each!’.
This very simple example touches on all four of the classic 4 Ps of marketing: product (eggs), price (2 cents each), place (market square) and promotion (‘crying the wares’). This is the classical marketing mix. The area of interest for these two articles is promotion, which is where SMM fits into marketing.
If we fast-forward 500 years or so, the industrial and technological revolutions have changed what ‘going to market’ means. It is now all about communication between organisations and markets (now customers, potential customers, influencers, gatekeepers and stakeholders) in order for the organisation to be successful. Let’s unpack that in two more sound-bites.
These days, markets are more than just the people who buy eggs, cereal, life insurance or an editing service. Markets include government actors who are active in a particular space, such as the Department of Agriculture for the agricultural industry, media that report on fashion for the fashion industry, professional bodies that regulate accountants in the finance industry, the SETA that regulates manufacturing in the manufacturing industry, and so on.
For editors, the broader market may include: clients who buy their services, such as a publishing house; the professional body the editors belong to, such as PEG; the Services SETA that regulates matters regarding training and development; potential clients who could buy their services, such as other editors.
When companies market themselves, there can be a myriad of objectives at play, such as selling a service or product; building a network to build support or influence; influencing influencers or gatekeepers; advertising a service or product; advocating for efforts to build support, influence or sway others; showing the organisation to be a good citizen; and so on.
The larger the organisation, the bigger the client base and the potential client base, the wider the geographic spread, the bigger the service or product offering and the more complex the operations, the more complex the marketing efforts will be. So all the communication cannot be done by ‘crying the wares’ in a market square any more. Now a plethora of tactics need to be used to meet the many objectives that will be determined by the organisation.
The graphic below provides a rough idea of where we are currently in terms of marketing tactics and tools, with the industrial and technological revolutions continuing to provide an ever-growing list of options that can be used to communicate with the broader market. Note that the elements included in the graphic are not exhaustive. For example, below-the-line advertising includes blimps, wallscapes and much more.
The elements can be re-arranged in various ways, depending on focus, objective, context, etc. For example, communication could contain media relations, stakeholder relations, publications, etc. The purpose of the graphic and how it has been constructed is simply to provide a clear view of marketing within organisations and SMM within marketing. Note that the functions have been stripped down to the bare bones, as they are not the subject of these articles, while the marketing function has been expanded to include much detail, as it is the subject of these articles.
Marketing for editors
As editors, many of us will be sole proprietors or micro enterprises, therefore much of what is done within the broader marketing discipline will not be appropriate or possible. For example, a company like Investec may sponsor a nationwide sports competition, but an editor will not have the funds to do so, nor is the audience reached by this tactic appropriate. So we have to focus on what is appropriate and what is possible in terms of promoting ourselves.
It is important to understand that there is no one correct way or best way to do this: what one person does will differ from what another does, which is as it should be. One editor may put up adverts on dustbins near a university, while another may place adverts on Facebook and another may place adverts in the local newspaper. What you do will depend on your marketing mix, your skills, your preferences, your budget and the skills and preferences of the marketing specialist that you consult, if you decide to do that.
One possible option is to focus on social media (SM) and to either do paid advertising or prepare content that you post for free. There are pros and cons to both and a SMM consultant will be able to explain this in detail or you can do some research. For now, all we need to know is that there are two options: paid SMM and content SMM.
In the next article, I will focus on the biggest SM platforms in South Africa, based on the reported data.