09/19/2013 04:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Marketers -- Social Is for Philosophers, Mobile Is for Cartographers

2013-09-19-map.jpg When clients ask me for a "social strategy," often what they are imagining is a tactical road map for social networks like Facebook and Pinterest. What I usually say is that social marketing is a philosophy, not a platform or channel strategy. Social is about creating a story that is open-ended and portable, one that others want to participate in and share. While that story can be seeded on a social network, ideally it takes on a life of its own and jumps the tracks from person to person and network to network.

What this also means is that a social approach to marketing can be applied to many different platforms whether or not they are inherently social. Consider Chipotle's recent video ads which are great, compelling content. The end destination is TV but Chipotle has seeded them first online trusting that the powerful anti-factory farm message and compelling animation and storytelling will lead to mass sharing and earned exposure, and it has.

I've had clients where we had consumers tweet from banner ads, or use hashtags on Twitter to trigger discounts at brick and mortar store locations. These are display and direct response respectively, but they are also social. It's a state of mind.

Mobile, on the other hand, had led to all kinds of convoluted behaviors on the part of advertisers seeking to treat it as a platform. Mobile is the art of context -- where is someone seeing your message, on what device are they seeing it and what else is in the vicinity? If you can get to who they are, all the better.

The truth is, despite a slew of attempts to create mobile ecosystems, most of the digital sites and platforms users access in mobile are similar to what they use on the desktop. In many cases it's a social network like Facebook or Twitter, but it can also be mobile versions of sites like Yahoo, the Weather Channel or YouTube to name a few.

This makes context that much more important.

A tweet offer for the local pizza joint I might see on my desktop at work at 11:45 while I'm debating lunch spots with my coworkers is actionable in a different way from a tweet I see on my Twitter Android app from the same store when I'm a block away and I just asked for lunch recommendations from my followers. Those in turn are different from the tweet I see on my iOS Twitter app on my iPad gearing up for Monday Night Football suggesting a 2 for 1 offer to feed your #mnf watching crew.

I chose Twitter for this example because they have really found the sweet spot when it comes to taking the mental construct of social and melding it with the physical reality of mobile. For paid media the trick is targeting by device, user interests, and location -- and Twitter has all of those capabilities now. Incidentally, so does Facebook.

Of course it also helps to have something great and shareable to say, whether it's an offer, a cool animated video with a new Fiona Apple song, or an unexpected image that captures the human side of your brand.

So remember when a client asks what mobile app they should build for or what their Pinterest strategy should be -- think like a philosopher, act like a cartographer.