Handshake specializes in social media public relations, not in social media marketing for social media sales, because the latter use of social media remains unproven as a research-based way to achieve results.
Research shows that traditional marketing can result in sales, although less so in an age of media fragmentation and in today’s economy. In contrast, the challenge with social media marketing is that the only results of its effectiveness with regard to generating sales are anecdotal. Just this month, David Cooperstein, a senior advisor with Forrester, probably the top marketing research firm, said as much: “So how can we move beyond the abundant proof that social media impacts buzz to proof that social media positively affects revenue?”
I define marketing as attempting to communicate with a specific customer segment in hopes of generating sales, and public relations as offering information broadly to a wide audience in hopes of engaging interest, memory, and mentions to others.
Whether using an offline strategy through traditional means such as hosting a networking mixer, or an online strategy through updating a corporate Facebook page, PR’s purpose is the same: awareness. If people are aware of you, they can buy from you. If they’ve never heard of you, they can’t because they don’t even know you exist. Awareness can result in word-of-mouth referrals from people who know you to people who don’t. Is PR buzz correlated positvely with sales? Yes. Does a direct one-to-one-correspondence exist between being known through PR and sales? No. And that's also not one of PR's claims.
For businesses, I don't see social media as A Good Thing. I'm not a social media evangelist. I’m not a fan of social media any more than I’m a fan of a hammer. It has no ethical or moral value. It’s a tool that works well for certain tasks.
Handshake is in the “abundant proof that social media impacts buzz” business – social media PR. While big corporations and big marketing research firms with big budgets are in the process of collecting data about the relationship between social media and sales, we’re doing what social media is really good at – generating buzz and awareness for our clients through social media public relations.