Blog post

Is Social Marketing the New Multichannel Marketing Power Center?

By Julie Hopkins | May 22, 2015 | 3 Comments


I have two coverage areas at Gartner. Multichannel marketing and social marketing. They’re both digital, and they certainly overlap. But taking each agenda out for a spin feels different.

One feels responsible. Respectable. Multichannel marketing is the Ford F-150 of marketing. Practical. Proven. Marketers “get” multichannel marketing. It “works” for them.  They can all find use cases within the channel mix.  Maybe not the swankiest of rides, but you can always get the job done.

Social Marketing is like the Fiat or Tesla of marketing. Contemporary. Visionary. But it’s not hard to see limitations. Many marketers still ask, “how will this work for me at any kind of scale?” Great vision, great concept. But does it possess all you need to get the job done?

Which is why our latest research study, aimed at how multichannel marketers leverage their channel placements in support of their programs, was so darn delightful for us. Delightful not because it validated all that we believed to be obvious and true, but delightful because it didn’t. It revealed some emerging – or perhaps even inadvertent strategies – that marketers are using to find success, that when taken together, may give us a new idea of how social marketing is “driving” multichannel engagement.

Our research, the first findings of which are published to clients here, and were discussed at our Digital Marketing Conference two weeks ago, revealed (among other things) the following:

  1. Regardless of phase in the buying journey, marketers listed social media as the most important, or second most important, channel used to support the customer journey
  2. Social media was also listed as the top marketing channel to support the post-sales customer experience.

Chew on that for a minute. Social media…the most – or second most – effective channel at every step in the buying or ownership process. Really? The data says yes. And to quote my colleague Marty Kihn, when the data contradicts what you believe, it either means the data is wrong, or you are, and it’s not usually a problem with the data.

So while the data says that social marketing is the multichannel power center, I don’t yet believe that most marketers have this entire story stitched together. I don’t see many clients who can speak phase by phase about the metrics they’re measurably moving through social publishing or engagement. However, I think that there are marketers who have an increasingly good understanding of how social marketing works for them in discrete moments, or phases.

I also think there are marketers who are making concerted investments to find that understanding; to determine how to use social connections more strategically in support of their business goals. As described here, Mondelez, who has in recent years been as busy testing-and-learning from emerging social and digital techniques as they have been making Oreos and other treats, announced that they plan to turn all of their digital media in 25 countries into shoppable ads with “buy now” buttons, aiming to capture sales from millennials via the time they spend on social sites. It’s a real example of real commitment to social commerce. And while it’s unlikely that a significant number of units will move in this way, the insight that will be generated from the program will again strengthen the perceived and real power that social marketing has in moving product, and will teach us all about the power of social commerce.

I’ve heard the question before, “does anyone pick a multichannel campaign management solution based on social marketing capabilities?” My answer is generally no. And while multichannel campaign management is not synonymous multichannel marketing, the power dynamic is still true. Social marketing hasn’t traditionally been thought of as the multichannel power center. Based on the data, I’m not sure we can assume this to be the case for long.

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  • @mccauley_andrew says:

    Interesting post Julie especially the data point around the importance of social in the customer experience. Does this by extension mean mobile is now also critical to customer experience since most social networks are engaged with on mobiles devices? If so, this could be a significant blind spot for most companies. Love to hear your thoughts.

  • Philip Green says:

    Social marketing has opened a unique way to interact with any person sitting anywhere in the world by just a click. Otherwise, you’ll have to put big advertising boards, have to undertake awareness campaigns which cost much more than owing a website and hiring some social media expert to increase your social presence.

  • Jesper Valentin Holm says:

    Thanks Julie; Interesting article – definitely a testament to the dominant channel-centric approach for enterprises to buy, apply and organize around technology. As I see it, it is a painful reminiscence of business management from the age of the industrial society, that inhibits innovation and growth. However, a great opportunity for those able to embrace marketing technology both vertically and horizontally, to enable the creation of appealing consumer centric experiences, designed from a deep understanding of the business and it’s core KPI’s, rather than a simple focus on which channel creates most conversions.