Editor's Comment: Social media's no isolated case

For months now, the sound of marketers excitedly scrawling the words 'social media' on whiteboards and flip charts up and down the country has reached almost deafening levels.

However, research from the IAB shows that less than a quarter of brand owners have given social media a central role in their marketing schedule. The reason is simple: despite the continuing hype surrounding Twitter and Facebook, social media is just another channel and should not be viewed as the be-all and end-all.

Toyota is discovering this first hand. While it is doing little in the way of above-the-line marketing to offset the threat to its brand since its recall of 2.3m vehicles in the US last week, it has been Facebooking and tweeting its socks off. Despite all this social media activity, Toyota's problems are worsening and all the tweets in the world won't change this. As Mark Ritson writes this week (page 18), it needs a far-reaching crisis-management strategy and sustained cross-platform marketing drive to win back startled consumers.

What Toyota doesn't appear to have realised is that social media is best used alongside other channels as part of an integrated campaign.

Unfashionable as it may be to point out, brands such as Comparethemarket.com are getting the most out of social media by using it as an add-on to their above-the-line activity. The formula for success is straightforward: the conversation is started offline, via TV, radio or outdoor, and continued online via a nicely branded blog or social media presence.

The approach of marketers is slowly becoming more sophisticated, but there is unlikely to be a meaningful shift toward social media until sites such as Twitter and Facebook widen their reach and prove their ability to deliver measurable ROI.

Gareth.Jones@haymarket.com

Lucy Barrett is on maternity leave.

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