NewspaperVsTSMB I’ve been having several meetings and working lately on a broad model of social media for business.  The case study work, the business plan writing and the face-to-face meetings have me examining more and more closely how the world of social media and what I’ll call ‘old media’ is colliding.

This is a post that has been formulating for awhile and I’m looking for critical comment to keep the evolution going, so chime in if you have a perspective you can share or let me know if you agree with the viewpoint I’m sharing.  It’s a perspective that has elements that demonstrate for me that the social media marketing model is maturing. 

I’ve met Gary Vaynerchuk before and in my view, he has done more to prove that model than anyone I can think of.  Gary is turning into the poster child for this type of marketing with a book deal and regular speaking engagements on the subject about how social media has worked for him.  An interview in the NY Times from March 2009 really says, for me all there needs to be said about how an investment in social marketing can really pay off.  The article interviews Gary and cites how he ran his own market research in a three-pronged campaign that pitted direct mail, billboard and an online tools against each other.

He paid $15,000 for a direct mail campaign that produced 200 new customers for his wine retailing company, Wine Library (http://tv.winelibrary.com/).  He also invested $7,500 in a billboard ad (I have no idea where it was posted; might matter – probably not) and he generated 300 new customers – a better result for less money, well worth the expense we might say.  He then ‘tweeted’, or posted via Twitter, an instant messaging campaign for no more cost than his time and secured 1,800 new customers.  This last comparison is an ‘OMG’ or ‘Oh My God’ revelation that for me points the way as to why businesses need to explore more deeply the leveraging of online media to promote their product.   

What’s it going to take to get similar results?  Well, Gary has over 195,000 followers on Twitter which, may place him just behind President Barack Obama (Twitterholic’s TwitRank follower count and the ones on Gary’s page did not match when I looked today) and he has been on Twitter for a while.

The second item that is impacting my perspective is the move by print media to more and more online content and fewer and fewer ‘dead trees’ (paper-based media).  The Seattle Post Intelligencer moved from a print-based content company founded in 1863, gradually to a mixed online / print media company to now exclusively online as of March 17, 2009.  The woes of print media are well publicized though and I’ll not regurgitate all the stats here.  The challenge I think is not if these properties will go online, but really, how fast and how thoroughly.  I still get a newspaper for example (how freaking archaic huh!) but I do not expect the news to be fresh in the paper, I get it to peruse baseball news and do the crossword puzzle everyday – it’s low-cost, daily entertainment for me and being an amateur chef, I get to examine the food ads on Wednesdays.

Finally, I see the move to online media being driven not by access from the desktop, but from mobile devices.  The NY Times is available in print, online, the Kindle and you can get an electronic subscription for MS-Mobile.  Additionally there are several iPhone apps that leverage their content for consumer use in specific applications.  Why this is relevant is that I believe there is a trend.  It’s more important globally than domestically though, because people in other countries will have access to web content on wireless mobile devices much sooner than a wired desktops or laptops.

The overwhelming perspective for me then is for companies both large and small to work with a professional team to discern first that social media is fast becoming the way to connect to their audience and that to delay a moment longer will be an act of forfeiting their current and future customers to their competitors who ARE going online and engaging the audience. 

As usual, there is a good deal more to say on the tactics, tools and strategy of social media for business, but I this is a foundational post I wanted to get out there.