Today, social media is part of nearly every marketer's strategy: More than 90% of the marketers we survey are already using social tactics.

But the sobering reality is that nearly a decade into the era of social media, more social marketers are failing than succeeding. Why? Because of a problem we call “social exceptionalism.” Rather than regarding social media as just another marketing channel, marketers act as if social is somehow unique:

  • Some treat social media as an island. Too many marketers never connect social to the rest of their marketing programs. But social messages that don't match the rest of your marketing program are unlikely to contribute much value.
  • Others ask social to carry the weight of the world. No matter how social your audience, no one channel can shoulder the load of an entire marketing program on its own — as many marketers ask social to do. Successful marketing always relies on finding the right mix of platforms and tactics.
  • Most use unproven metrics to track performance. Marketers have moved past tracking only fans and followers — but few have gotten much further. Too many measure recently invented metrics like "engagement," and too few track the brand impact or conversion rate of social programs.

The solution to this problem? You must integrate social media into the marketing RaDaR model and understand how it supports each part of the customer journey — not just offering engagement but also enabling discovery and supporting exploration and purchase. In fact, social marketing tools and tactics can offer value at every stage of the customer life cycle and can support reach and depth and relationship:

  • Social reach tactics help people discover your brands, products, and promotions. People can't discover what you're selling if they're never exposed to it — and that requires you to use tactics that help your messages reach your target audience. Social media can help: Both word-of-mouth marketing and paid social advertising can deliver reach for your marketing programs.
  • Social depth tactics help prospects explore and buy your products. Your audience is looking for depth when they explore your offerings. And the place to which people most commonly turn for such detailed information is a brand's own website. Weaving social tools into your own site — including blogs and communities as well as ratings and reviews — can offer detail about what your brand stands for and expose prospects to real customer experiences.
  • Social relationship tactics build stronger engagement with your best customers. After people buy from a company, there are many ways they stay in touch. Social has a valuable role to play here: Branded profiles on public social sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter can foster stronger relationships with the customers you've already acquired.

In the end, social tools and tactics can support every layer of the marketing RaDaR. But to succeed you have to fight social exceptionalism. Social media will become most valuable to marketers when we blend it into our marketing programs rather than making it stick out.

How social media fits into the marketing RaDaR

For much more detail on our vision for how social can support great marketing programs, see our new report Integrate Social Into Your Marketing RaDaR, the lead report of our Social Marketing Playbook. If you want to get hands-on with these ideas and learn how to apply them to your business, we're hosting a workshop called Unlock The Potential Of Social Marketing in San Francisco on September 18, 2013 – you can register here