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The popularity of social media in marketing and PR continues to grow at a rapid pace, with more businesses taking this form of communication seriously every day. From restaurants to fashion, technology to travel, you can find information, special deals and customer care from your favorite brands online across Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Google and more.

But wait, there’s more!

While social media is an important element to business marketing and PR, it’s not a replacement for additional, proven forms of promotion. With its low cost, easy barrier-to-entry and seemingly widespread reach, it’s tempting to think social media can replace other forms of marketing. But it’s important to remember that social media in and of itself isn’t a marketing or PR strategy: It’s but one promotional tool in the smart business marketing toolbox.

Two important things to remember in business marketing today are integration and interaction. Don’t abandon something that’s been working for you and your business just because social media is the hot new thing on the block. Integrate your online and offline campaigns, and integrate cohesive online campaigns across social networks  to get the most bang for your buck, enhancing all current efforts and maximizing reach in a way never before possible. Interaction is also important (talk with, not at) to engage audiences and make them feel an emotional connection to your company, brand or product. Prospects are much more likely to listen to you and follow what you’re doing if they feel that you care about them and that they’re important to your business.

For example, say you’ve always had an email newsletter in which you send out special offers to subscribers. Help to increase your subscriber base through “sneak peeks” into your newsletter content by sharing snippets or teasers across other social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Or post a survey or poll on your Facebook and share the results in your newsletter, again  reaching and encouraging new subscribers (and rewarding existing subscribers) with content reserved especially for them.

Another example : Most companies have always had speaking opportunities or event networking (even attendance of trade shows) on their marketing/PR “to do” list. Take these opportunities a step further by again involving not only the physical, offline audience that’s at the show, but also the online audience pre- and post-event. For example, say you’re speaking on the topic of franchise ownership. Post a pre-event survey across Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and/or your blog that asks your fans and followers if they’ve ever owned a franchise and if so, what their biggest challenges were. Incorporate these answers into your presentation at the show, giving credit where you can.  (If someone knows you’re going to mention them, they’re more likely to watch/listen and tell others to do the same). Or if you’re just attending or exhibiting at a conference, ask show attendees to stop and share their experiences or tips for others. Record their insights with a hand held camera (such as a Flip), edit into a compelling and helpful video when you return and post it on your blog with additional resources post-event. Tie these resources back to your website, or Facebook fan page, and promote on Twitter ... again, back to integration.

One of the best marketing efforts has always been to have third-party, positive testimonies about your business or products. Whether it’s a customer, a reporter, an industry guru, a partner or an analyst, accolades from others hold more credibility than you standing on your own soapbox (or starring in your own ad). This traditional element to marketing is still incredibly important and can become a much  more powerful program with a social media element. For example, in the past, you might have interviewed a customer and asked them to sign off on a case study, which you’d then post to your website or in a sales kit. With social media tools, the case study can become so much more than words on a page; you can make them come to life as a much more intriguing story by including video, interactive comments from viewers, and more. “Case studies” can come in the form of an ongoing story, perhaps different chapters in an weekly video series, or the opportunity to interact with followers/prospects by asking them to join a Facebook event or Twitter chat where they can ask questions directly of the customer in the story. This gives them the opportunity to not just read your slick, well-written case study, but to engage with your case study subject and ask questions, a testament in and of itself that you truly do have happy customers that you trust to answer live questions about their experiences in working with you, or using your products.

The point is  social media in marketing can enhance your efforts and make them more interesting, interactive and memorable. But social media in and of itself doesn’t replace traditional efforts. Both are important for success today. Learn how to integrate them both for your best success yet.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christine Perkett founded PerkettPR – providing public relations, social media, interactive digital services and marketing communications for B2B and B2C companies - in 1998, and has been consistently recognized as an innovative PR industry leader. She has been listed one of the "100 Most Powerful Women of Twitter," was named one of the “Top 25 Authorities Moving PR Forward” in a 2009 industry ranking by Traackr, "Best Communications/IR/PR Executive" in 2008 from the American Business Awards, a “social-media guru” by Women’s Entrepreneur and twice featured in BusinessWeek’s Social Media Report. Christine is a Board Member of NYC’s Style Coalition, Dialogue, Boston’s Business Marketing Association, and the Norwell, Mass. Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice. She blogs for various outlets such as her company’s blog (http://www.PerkettPRsuasion.com), ThisMommyGig and several personal blogs, covering topics from marathon training, parenting, fashion and more. Christine is a mom of two boys and three dogs and a some-time marathoner, most recently completing the 2010 Boston Marathon (raising money for Boston Children’s Hospital). Connect with Christine on Twitter: @missusP, Facebook (christineperkett) or LinkedIn (christineperkett).