The channel you choose should reach your customers.

Indeed? Will social media become so big some day that it replaces all traditional marketing channels? The thought comes from a discussion I was part of on a LinkedIn group.

The basic premise of the discussion was to understand how soon will social media become so ubiquitous that every business uses it. May be this will soon be a case within developed countries, but it is still a long way off in emerging economies.

But that is beside the point. The purpose of a marketing channel is to reach the customers. If they can be reached via social media, that will be the channel of choice. But if not, best of luck.

Social media is already an important marketing channel and it will only grow in importance as we learn how to leverage its powers more effectively. The choice of channel should not be decided based on the hype surrounding the channel. It is also important to take note whether the people you want to reach are on those channels.

There is still a large section of the world population without access to internet. The bottom of the pyramid. And collectively they constitute a huge market. Much bigger than a lot of developed markets. Social media will not help reach them.

But mobile can. And in the near future mobile is where the the attention will be. Already there are 5 billion mobile subscribers in the world. Out of ~7 billion world population. (Internet is around 2.2 billion.) Big numbers there. 

Proof of the matter: the biggest social network in India is not even internet based!! It is a SMS network with around 30 million users. Bigger than Facebook and Orkut combined.

[image: Flickr/Maria Reyes-McDavis]