Most marketing organizations are finalizing their 2010 plans. As they do so, many are looking at social media and how it aligns with other investments and ongoing programs that will be in effect in the New Year. Websites are already being updated with fresh content and e-stores already reflect new products or services. Current web and online marketing already include search engine marketing as well as paid advertising. Given this reality and the increased pressure to drive more of your marketing spend online, where does social media fit?

The very clear answer is that social media can complement your overall marketing strategy very effectively when it’s truly integrated.  Conversely, when treated as a separate channel or kept in a silo, it can actually work against your other efforts.  This isn’t a revelation to any good marketer: online focused or not. A poorly planned and executed print or paid ad campaign without a specific focus or the right content and plan to back it up, can actually damage your brand and leave consumers feeling confused. The same is true with social media. When executed in isolation and without a solid strategy and plan, you run the risk of creating noise and missing real opportunities when consumers stumble across your efforts.

The key to making social media work for your marketing efforts versus against them is integration across all channels. Make sure you are connecting social media with all of your other online efforts from search engine marketing to e-commerce. I threw together a quick diagram to help illustrate this concept. Empower individuals to participate and interact with your brand by giving them the right information and tools at the right time. Integrated campaigns that include social media as part of your pre-click (off-site) and post-click (on-site) web marketing strategy can amplify the effect of your marketing efforts, helping to stretch your budget further by reaching a greater audience.