Can social media take the place of marketing automation platforms?

by Barrett Coakley

Our October Innovation Contest winners won a signed copy of “7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis” by Bill George and the right to have their article re-published here on Blogging Innovation. Here is the second of the three winning entries:

Trust in Advertising
by Barrett Coakley

The Corporate Learning group at Harvard Business Publishing currently uses Eloqua as our marketing automation platform (MAP). Eloqua is very robust and does everything we need and more. However, I have been thinking lately as social media applications mature do they have the potential to be a free marketing automation platform, especially for a small business? Already today there are services that you can use to do some rudimentary tracking. For example, if I use to shorten my URL and post a note on Twitter about a free article on my site I can track click throughs and retweets through’s tracking capability. I can then use Google analytics on my site to gain even more information.This certainly is not as robust as an Eloqua, but it certainly gets the job done, and it’s free.

Another important aspect of social media that can’t be replicated by a MAP is highlighted by the findings in the recent Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey as seen in the chart above. The survey found that recommendations from personal acquaintances or opinions posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of advertising. Ninety percent or consumers surveyed noted that they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70 percent trusted consumer opinions posted online.

“The explosion in Consumer Generated Media over the last couple of years means consumers’ reliance on word of mouth in the decision-making process, either from people they know or online consumers they don’t, has increased significantly,” says Jonathan Carson, President of Online, International, for the Nielsen Company.”

Marketing is all about building trust and being relevant to the consumer. I know I regularly look at recommendations on sites like Best Buy before I purchase any electronics. I do not know these people, but it goes back to James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of Crowds theory, “under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them.” Social media has a much greater advantage over a marketing platform because a Tweet to people who follow you is more likely to be taken more seriously than an email from a campaign.

Think of the power of some of the services below and compare them to how you would react to items posted there versus an email in your inbox from a vendor that you may have a passing knowledge of but no real relationship. What do you trust and believe more?

  • LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Digg, Stumbleupon, etc.
  • revver, knol (yes, knol), etc.
  • Gist
  • Meetup
  • Youtube
  • Hollr

What other services are out there that have this same power? Do you think that social media could eventually be the defacto MAP as the technologies mature and people start building applications to track items (like Metricly)?

Barrett CoakleyBarrett Coakley is currently a Senior Product Marketing Manager for the Corporate Learning Group at Harvard Business Publishing.