When Michael Sommermeyer first Twittered "Changing Your Social Media Status Isn't a Marketing Tactic," I thought, "Oh, good! Someone making the case against social media as marketing--maybe hearing this side of the story will help me with the task of convincing reluctant clients of the value of social media!"
Alas, no such luck. Michael was making the case that, while updating your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or what-have-you status isn't a marketing strategy, it is an excellent way to expand your network and make connections you wouldn't otherwise have had access to. He relates the story of Jeremy Epstein, who through a relatively random social media connection, discovered that the person he'd been corresponding with was the Chief Privacy Officer at AOL, a great business connection for him.
So in this sense, no, social media isn't marketing. It's networking. It's the equivalent of going to those Chamber of Commerce events and getting to know your fellow business people. It's the equivalent of joining your national trade organization so you can get to know, mentor and connect with people in your industry. It's the equivalent of throwing a cocktail party at the industry's big yearly trade show so you can meet, connect and converse with associates, prospects and partners from all over the world.
So no, social media isn't marketing. It's good, old-fashioned networking, plain and simple. Just as we've been doing for years. And no, I don't mean the smarmy type of schmoozing where you go in expecting immediate business in return; that's the absolute wrong (and completely ineffective) way to network, both in real life and online. You go in with a genuine interest in engaging in conversation and a healthy curiosity for how you can help others, and from that, real connections are born.