Everything Old is New Again: How Social Media Has Changed Marketing

In the past few years, the business world seems to have been increasingly inundated with new marketing specialties.  Now we have content marketing, engagement marketing, influencer marketing, customer-centric marketing, in-bound demand marketing, and on and on.  The list is seemingly endless.  In fact, just recently I was made aware that there are those in the financial sector who are doing “forward-facing” marketing.

So let’s just peek behind the jargon for a moment and see what’s so new and innovative about these subsets that they require specialists to implement them.

♦        Content marketing.  At what point has marketing not been concerned with what we say to customers and prospects?  Brochures and sales materials go back at least as far as the Renaissance Italy and the birth of modern capitalism.  (BTW, that is also the time double-entry bookkeeping was invented.)  Certainly there are those who are tying themselves into intellectual knots trying to show how content marketing is new.  But, in the end, these new definitions give us a distinction without a difference.

♦       Engagement marketing.  At what point has marketing not been concerned with “engaging” a prospect’s interest?  Okay, so now we are supposed to get them to talk to us (and, hopefully, with us).  But sales has been attempting to engage prospects since the beginning of sales.  And that has always been the purpose behind our brochures, sales sheets, web sites, etc.

♦        Influencer marketing.  At what point has marketing not been interested in gaining credibility through testimonials and endorsements?  Millions are spent every year to buy sports and entertainment celebrities to push product.  PR firms live to get implied endorsements for their clients through interviews and mentions in the press.

♦        Customer-centric marketing.  At what point did marketing not think the customer was the end-game?

♦        Forward-facing marketing.  Does that mean we’ve all been doing “backward-facing” marketing all these years?  (Personally, I prefer “sideways-facing” marketing so I can catch trends in my peripheral vision.)


But, yes, there is something relatively new buried within the morass of innovative jargon.

What is new is that all our traditional efforts have been amplified, become more immediate, and been made more difficult with the emergence of social media and new digital platforms.

♦        What is new about content marketing is the increasing number of ways to get our messages out.

♦        What is new about engagement marketing is the immediacy and reach that social media and mobile offer.

♦       What is new about customer-centric marketing is the instant feedback we can get.

♦        What is new about influencer marketing is the number of firms who’ve jumped into the game by insisting we can find these “influencers” cheaply and easily on social media. (As I have discussed elsewhere, this approach is both time consuming and, ultimately, only marginally effective.)

So we now have more mechanisms than ever before.  And it is a sure bet that those numbers will continue to increase.

But the advent of social media has not changed the essence of what marketing is and what it must do.

Marketing’s job remains the same:  We must soften up the market for sales.  We must position our products and services in the context of the marketplace.  We must explain the value of what we offer in a way that makes sense to the marketplace and potential customers.

Focusing on mechanisms and innovative jargon creates ever-more mechanical specialties; it fosters consultancies; and it enhances bureaucracies.  But it doesn’t get the job done.

We don’t need more mechanism specialists.  We need people who can implement tried and true techniques, develop innovative approaches, and then use them all effectively.  The end-game is in sales, not how you get there.  That is marketing.

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