Escaping The Sandbox

by Jason Falls |

As much I as I have beaten the drum lately of bridging the gap between the echo chamber it-getters and businesses that are still fearful and skeptical of digital and social media marketing — I did, after all, co-author a book that helps businesses jump that gap — I think we’re starting to see a maturation of the social media marketing space. Whether it’s full-scale corporate evolution on the enterprise side or entry-level social media tactics implemented by small business, it seems the market place is maturing enough so that companies are escaping the sandbox.

No longer do we seem to see clients that just “want a blog” or “want a Facebook page” with no rhyme nor reason. Now, clients and companies are coming to the table with, “We want to drive sales,” or “We want to manage our online reputation,” or other strategic purposes for social media use.

Sandbox Fun
Image by engelsrud via Flickr

This is good because it means more social media consultants and agencies will be held at a higher level of accountability than just, “handle that for us.” Those not pushing clients to graduate beyond tactics and start implementing larger-scale strategies to compliment business drivers will now be held accountable for more than followers and fans. This will further weed out the bad and elevate the good. And it will serve our clients and customers better.

But the trend doesn’t mean all businesses everywhere are moving ahead. Among social media management software companies, the number one client challenge is that even socially adept companies don’t understand the difference between monitoring and engagement, between engagement and advertising, between monitoring and measurement. Certainly, the social media software vendors don’t seem to help matters.

Radian6 is a monitoring and listening platform that provides an engagement portal. Expion is an engagement platform that provides analytics. Argyle Social is an analytics platform that provides an engagement platform. Wildfire is a game/engagement platform that for some reason gets classified as a publishing and management platform, but it isn’t.

No wonder brands are confused. The vendors themselves can’t define what they do well. Throw in advertising management and you’ve got a whole lot of tools that do some of what brands need, but none that do them all.

But the good news is that of the various functions of social media management software, brand-side marketers are at least now coming to the table knowing which ones they want. Sure, they may be unclear on the definition of each but they have a strategic purpose with more frequency nowadays.

What I hope this evolution out of the sandbox means is that we’ll start to see better case studies, stronger strategic advice from the vendors we use and more proof positive that social marketing can, in fact, drive business in ways we’ve not been able to before. We need more case studies. We need more stories. We need more sophistication in the marketplace so our innovations and ideas can grow.

Here’s hoping we start to see that and more. But let’s not forget there are still millions of businesses out there that don’t get it. Maybe it’s because they’re waiting for more proof-positive case studies or maybe they just don’t like engaging with customers. We can’t stop bridging the gap as social media evangelists. If we do, we leave too much of the world behind for the industry to sustain itself.

But as we’re building that bridge we can now start to make sure it doesn’t end in the sand, but on solid ground for businesses.

Your thoughts? The comments are yours.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).