Does social media marketing still matter? Not like you think.

Mark Schaefer
6 min readMar 6

I received a message from a reader in the U.K. wondering if social media marketing still matters. She had read my book The Tao of Twitter (which is really about social media strategy) and wondered if the book’s main ideas were still relevant in a world where it is so difficult to earn attention and connect with customers.

The short answer is, yes — it still matters, but probably in a way that is much different than you think. I believe the essential nature of social media marketing has changed forever, and I will address that today.

Is it really marketing?

I have never really liked the phrase “social media marketing.” The power of social media is connection, and I can assure you that you people will not connect to you if all you do is “market” to them! However, if you come alongside people at their point of need and help, inform, or perhaps entertain them, there is a chance for a spark of new connection … and that is a great starting point.

Instead of viewing social media as “marketing,” I would like to reframe the strategy today and contend that it is a first step in a powerful marketing process. To take advantage of the wonderful opportunity of social media, you need to view it in the larger context of today’s consumer realities.

The role of emotion

To understand this process, let’s step back and identify the two types of marketing.

The first type is direct marketing — driving sales through ads, promotions, coupons, etc. Social media has some role in this transactional world, especially if you have “conditioned” followers to pay attention to your social media marketing for bargains and special offers. And, of course, social media plays a crucial role in customer service. Twitter is the homeroom for complaints!

But I contend the larger opportunity for marketing is brand marketing. A simple example of brand marketing is Coca-Cola. What comes to mind when I mention Coca-Cola? Probably this:

Mark Schaefer

Keynote speaker, marketing strategy consultant, Rutgers U faculty and author of 10 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Belonging to the Brand!