When it comes to marketing (and just about everything else), there are right-brained thinkers and left-brained thinkers. The right-brain thinkers are more subjective and often more creative and would not like the concept of social media having two options. It makes it too black and white. Left-brain thinkers are guided by logic and wouldn't necessarily believe that there are only two categories in social media marketing. In other words, neither type of person will likely agree with the assertion of this article, at least not at first.
One can make an argument that there are definitely multiple sub-categories, styles, and strategies that go into social media marketing, but there are really only two stances that businesses should take. These two categories can be called "outbound" and "inbound" social media strategies. They shouldn't be confused with inbound or outbound digital marketing strategies. In the case of these social media categories, we're being a little more straight forward than that.
An outbound social media marketing strategy is what most who believe in social media want to achieve. They feel that social media is a venue through which to reach people, communicate, improve branding, and expose the company's messages. Its goal is to be aggressive and take advantage of the fact that the masses are using social media regularly. In many cases, customers are spending more time on social media than any other digital activity.
An inbound social media strategy is very different from a pure inbound marketing strategy. It can be viewed as a defensive posture, a way of covering social media without much time or effort. It's about checking off the social media task box. This is the type of strategy that a business should employ if they either do not believe in social media as an appropriate marketing venue or they do not have the time and/or budget to put a true effort towards an outbound strategy.
Let's take a look at each strategy in more detail.
Outbound Social Media Marketing
This is an "all in" strategy. It focuses on the beliefs that lots of people are on social media, that sites like Facebook have the data that can be used for hypertargeting them with the right messages, and that either ideas or website clicks can be driven through an aggressive advertising component.
In the case of car dealers, for example, social media offers a venue to target people who intend to buy a certain vehicle in the near future. By taking advantage of this data and putting the right messages in front of them, dealers are able to pull people in from social media sites onto landing pages on their website.
To do it the right way requires an investment. It can take time to craft the messages, monitor the profiles, and participate in conversations. It takes advertising dollars to get the message out to the right target audience. Social media in general and Facebook in particular is a pay-to-play model. The old concepts of organic reach are dead.
Inbound Social Media Presence
You'll notice that I did not call it "marketing". With an inbound strategy, a business is simply creating and managing a presence so that they are there without putting in much effort. It's not a defeatist strategy by any means. For many, they have not found the benefits of social media or they're not ready to invest what it takes to have a strong marketing strategy, so they simply get their social media covered.
This is important because people will visit your pages and profiles. Most businesses have buttons that lead to their social media profiles right there on their website. The search engines will often rank social media profiles and pages high on search results for the business by name. Making sure that your pages have an ongoing flow of content is important while not being too time consuming or expensive.
It doesn't look good when people visit your social profiles and they haven't had anything added to them in some time. It's even worse when people are going to these profiles to converse with you or to leave a comment (such as a review) and it goes unnoticed. In extreme cases, Facebook pages can be "hijacked" by spammers leaving their links to unrelated pages. When this type of spam is found on a page, it can be worse than an embarrassment.
Why There's No In-Between
Some will balk and say that there are ways to have a good marketing strategy without going all-in. They are wrong. The benefits of a toe-dipping, low- or no-budget strategy that is trying to do more than establish an ongoing presence are no greater than a purely defensive inbound strategy. In other words, you can spend very little time and money on a basic inbound strategy or you can spend some more time and a little money on an attempted lite marketing strategy and the end results will be the same.
The gap between a basic presence and a "good" presence is minimal. However, the difference between a "good" presence and a full-blown outbound strategy is huge. If you're not going to go all-in, then you should focus on having a good presence rather than trying to work in a little marketing. It's a waste of time and money to go halfway. Either invest into it or keep it simple. There's nothing wrong with either strategy; they both have their benefits. Trying to be there in the middle, not quite bought in but more than just covering the basics, is a limbo that yields nothing more than keeping it all inbound.
It's a lot like poker. On some hands, you'll play it tight, particularly if you believe your hand is weaker than your opponents. On other hands, you'll play aggressive, even going all-in when the time is right. The fish in the middle who are trying to tiptoe through hands are the ones that end up losing their chips the quickest.