Social marketing programs differ from online advertising or marketing campaigns. They're not about hard sells to consumers; they're about connecting with them for the long haul, on their terms, and sharing information and experiences together. Social marking programs are different because they're about building relationships first, and selling second. They can be a valuable part of a brand's marketing strategy if done right. Like all marketing efforts, social marketing programs should be measured to ensure that business objectives are being met.
One of the few upsides to our Great Depression-like dip in the stock market over the past 10 months-plus is that people are starting to get serious about return on investment from their social media/online community efforts. With marketing staffs and budgets cut to the bone, how can they not? Participating on Twitter or keeping a blog might be “cool,” but unless those efforts deliver comparable or greater ROI as email or search marketing efforts, marketers can’t afford to waste their time.