Good-bye social media. Hello social business. By Natascha Thomson

Is Social Media Dead? At a recent conference, a friend and I had to admit that we were bored by the social media discussions. It seemed that nothing fundamentally new had happened in a while. Same old, same old. Or at least that’s how we feel, as we “do” social media for a living.


This led us into a conversation about where social media is headed. There seems to be a great divide between businesses that are heavily invested in social media (examples: SAP, Cisco, eBay) and companies that are scraping the bottom. Even inside the enlightened companies, there are social proficient employees (often this is their job) and those who are still trying to learn what a hashtag is (their boss told them to “get with social media”).


What does this mean?

Let’s take a step back.

Social media is dead. Or rather, social media used in isolation is dead.

Point in case: Marketing.  While no company has a “VP of Email Marketing”, there are plenty with a “VP of Social Media”.

Isn’t it about time to roll in social media with marketing communications, PR, and Analyst Relations? Yes, the important term here is: Integrated Marketing. Social media in isolation makes no sense.


Is this a good enough solution? No.

Social media is dead. The Social Business is alive; or should be.

In the age of inbound marketing, the traditional marketing model is no longer working.


Old days:

Client A purchased a product and that was usually the last he/she heard of Company B. If the product was good, Client A told a few friends. If the product was bad, Client A told a lot of people.


Client A purchases product and expects to stay in ongoing contact with Company B.

If the product is good, Client A might rate it online (e.g. Amazon) and tell her/his friends on Facebook or Instagram about the good experience. If Client A LOVES the product, he/she will go to great lengths to let their online network know.

If the product is bad, Client A will let Company B know – via Twitter or Facebook etc. Client A will also let their entire online social network know that they are unhappy at the same time. Client A expects to receive a response from Company B to their complaint. If Company B does not respond, Client A will get even more upset and continue to voice their displeasure online.


What This Means For Your Business

  • Marketing no longer ends at the point of purchase.
  • Marketing, sales and customer service can no longer operate in isolation to meet customer needs.
  • The traditional marketing (and sales) models do not make it clear who would be responsible to “market” in the post-purchase cycle. Many think it’s the role of customer support now, but is this function properly trained and have the right resources to take on this role?


The only possible conclusion is that a business can only succeed in the age of social media if it becomes a SOCIAL BUSINESS (and in order to keep things simple, I am not going to go into mobile, digital etc. as integral parts of such a strategy; let’s just call it “social media” for now).

A Social Business does not only integrate social media into every business area that touches customers and prospects (again, I am excluding other uses of social here for simplicity’s sake), but also adjusts to the new mandate of a social world by restructuring their business.


What is “social selling”?

Every time I hear the term “social selling”, I am not sure what that really means.

I get it if sales people listen to social channels to learn about their prospects’ needs, but “social selling” generally also refers to sales people being online and sharing information. As the relationship between a sales rep (especially in B2B) and a client is generally private, what can a sales rep possibly share that is not already being shared by marketing? Well, maybe a few very savvy sales people could create their own content but that defeats the purpose of marketing as the part of the organization that primes the market to purchase from sales people. It’s not efficient.

My point is, many “social selling” solutions work like this: marketing people put content in a repository that sales people can then share easily via social media, maybe adding some insights. If sales is sending out this content, and marketing is sending out this content, isn’t this duplicated effort, resulting in the appearance of spamming?

The solution is to restructure and redefine marketing and sales in the age of social.

  • And that’s only the start. A social business starts with a social CEO, who leads the charge.
  • It also starts with education for employees on how to best use social; training that goes beyond how to make a post but includes how to set objectives that matter and how to measure them.


The Bottom Line

Social Media (in isolation) is dead. Integrated social media is alive. And the Social Business is the nirvana we should strive for.

Now, very few businesses are Social Businesses yet; some are on the way.


What it really is all about is nothing new: Change Management

Social media tools have changed the traditional way of doing business by extending the buyer’s cycle beyond the purchase. In the 21st century, Marketing is never done. There is a constant feedback loop, and companies have to address the bad and foster the good.

Welcome to the brave new world of the Social Business.

YOUR TURN: do you work at a social business? Or a company transforming to a social business? Reach me directly at @NaThomson. I’d love to hear your experience.

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About the author
Natascha Thomson
Natascha Thomson
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Natascha Thomson @nathomson helps companies create social media marketing strategies that generate awareness, demand and long-term customer relationships. Whether a company is just getting started with social media or wants to optimize their existing strategy and channels, she can provide the necessary training and expertise. Natascha is the Owner & Founder of MarketingXLerator, a Social Media Marketing Consultancy, and co-author of the book 42 Rules for B2B Social Media Marketing. She teaches yoga in her free time. Connect with her at @nathomson.



2014-08-25 15:44:05 Reply

Not sure social media is “dead” so much as we’re just getting smarter about how we’re using it (or need to). The actual “social media” is no different than a “web site” or “e-mail” … So if you call it “dead,” then would you also say web sites are dead too? Or that e-mail is?

I like the analogy with e-mail. There’s “no VP of e-mail.”

My take on the future is branding. There is simply so much noise out there that we need to be better about establishing brands. More specifically, personal branding. Social media (and web sites) make creating an identity online and a personal brand online far easier than ever before. (I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking given recent things like Google Authorship).

I think people don’t know how to use social media as well as they could. I think people struggle with proving the value of social media. I think people aren’t innovating (what you’re noticing too), and it is boring because there’s a lack of creativity. This creativity must come through strong use of branding, design, and execution — not just sending out a Twitter status update or pinning something on Pinterest. That may let you engage with people and be “social” but it does not replace the need for branding.

I like the idea of “social business” because it helps explain what’s going on better. Brands must be social and must engage their audience more than ever. I firmly believe in this and the sentiment of this article which is exactly why I am building things like Social Harvest.

I believe it’s important to have tools that help you understand how your audience perceives you, gives you an idea for how your competition is perceived, allows you to track your brand, and growth. Otherwise, you really don’t know if you’re engaging the right people or are effectively using social media and you end up in this “stale” or “dead” situation.

Gary Schirr

2014-07-07 13:23:46 Reply

Good point, Natascha!

Social media is ubiquitous. At one time there were separate tracks for international or global marketing. Now all marketing is global. Soon we will realize that all marketing is social!

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