Why Your Brand Needs An Interactive Strategy

“Don’t let social media cash checks your website can’t handle.”

I came across this quote in a tweet on Jeremiah Owyang’s feed, which was lifted from Avinash Kaushik’s book Web Analytics 2.0. I’ve yet to read this book, but I’ve followed both Jeremiah and Avinash closely over the past few years and consider them to be very credible thought leaders in digital marketing.

This quote has stuck with me since I first came across it. It’s a great reminder that, while the relevancy and growth of social media continues, all other interactive marketing tactics deserve an equal amount of consideration. Think about it. Most companies spent the majority of 2010 obsessing over how to perfect their online social communications. They started a blog, established a presence on Twitter and Facebook and developed a supporting content strategy. In the meantime, their already two-year old website became less of a priority and was nearly obsolete. This company also failed to recognize that their younger customers had a strong desire to interact with their brand through a mobile application just as much as their website. This is all hypothetical, of course, but you get the point.

Based on the factual changes we’re seeing in consumer behavior today, I agree with the notion that websites and microsites don’t deserve as significant of an investment as we’ve seen in the past. Consumer behavior should be at the forefront of the decisions we make as marketers about the who, what, why, where and when. I also agree that marketers need to have a strategic plan to adapt to the dynamic nature of social media. As the percentage of social network users increasingly penetrates the number of Internet users (forecasted at 61% in 2011 by eMarketer), we’re way past the point of considering social media. It’s a must. Social media has graduated from being a shiny object to becoming a legitimate way for brands to connect with people.

But just as brands are beginning to catch up with social media, the shiny objects have become shinier than ever. Whether it’s Foursquare, Groupon or Quora, we’re constantly trying to wrap our heads around how these tactics can fit into a holistic interactive strategy. Or even better, how they integrate with an overarching marketing communications and brand strategy. But, if we continue to get tripped up by the hype of the latest and greatest, we become less strategic and more tactical.

Marketers need to be careful about investing too heavily in social media (or any other tactic for that matter) at the expense of another. If your research and insights lead you to focus more on social versus your .com or mobile experience, fine. But at least research and insights got you there. During your research, you may also stumble upon insights which convince you that people interact with your brand in social media for different reasons than they interact with your brand on your website. Or maybe your prospective customers are more apt to engage with your brand through a mobile experience. It all depends on what people want out of a relationship with your brand. And interactive marketing offers brands the opportunity to build relationships with people through interaction. I encourage you to be the advocate that pushes to find the appropriate balance between people’s wants and your company’s business objectives. The end result will be a more relevant brand experience people can interact with whenever, and wherever, they want.

Prioritization and allocation of your marketing budgets should be a direct reflection of what people want out of their relationships with your brand. If you don’t know what people want, the shiny objects will prevail and you’ll be in the race to the bottom. Prioritization does not mean do one thing and not the other. It means being smart about how you focus your investment among the numerous tactics available. If you properly structure your interactive marketing strategy, this will not happen. It will also deter you from letting tactics such as social media cash checks your website can’t handle.