Marketing professionals are feverishly obsessed with “social media marketing.” Social media includes websites where huge numbers of users provide their own content and create connections and relationships by sharing information and following each other’s updates. There are dozens, and perhaps hundreds of these sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, Spoke, ecademy, Classmates.com, Friendster and Flickr, where people exchange business and personal information, status updates, photographs, videos, news articles, political views, resumes, sexual interests, sports opinions, recipes, health facts and endless amounts of other data.

It doesn’t end there. Social media marketing also includes the use of blogs, online videos, discussion forums and creating ways to allow customers to provide feedback and ratings on the pages of your websites. And a lot more. It’s tremendously valuable and some organizations have done a great job getting real value out of their social media marketing efforts.

Without a doubt, there are massive marketing benefits available to marketers who can figure out how to harness the attention and preferences of audiences using social media tools. Everywhere you turn in the marketing world, people are promoting the value of engaging social media for businesses purposes. I quickly went through a week’s worth of emails to find invitations to attend or view whitepapers, webinars and conferences. Here is a sampling of what I’ve received over the last seven days:

How to Develop a Social Media Strategy That Works For Your Brand
Connecting Constant Contact and Social Media for Internet Marketing Success
Free webinar – Webcasting + Social Media Increase Attendance: An UNLEASH09 Case Study
The Best of Both Worlds: How to Effectively Leverage Social Media Relationships with Real-Time Collaboration Tools
Email Gone Viral: How To Extend Email Reach Through Social Sharing
2009 B2B Social Media Benchmarketing Study
Service in the Time of the Social Customer
Understanding Your Online Reach
Generate a Buzz for Your Business Through Social Media Marketing. Convert that Buzz into Revenue.
5 Killer Ways to Promote Your Facebook Fan Page
Now, I subscribe to several marketing newsletters, but there are hundreds of others and this list represents just a week of emails — and I probably missed some. Marketing via social media is white hot — the level of excitement is off the charts.

Social media, however, cannot yet substitute entirely for other, more traditional forms of marketing. Recently, I was on an “expert panel ” at a marketing event and the audience was breathlessly excited about social media. At one point, all of us panelists were asked to comment on the value of this new channel and when it was my turn, I stated that while I thought social media would someday provide enormous marketing value, I was concerned that people were focusing too much effort and attention on it. I said that, in my view, there was probably no huge “first mover advantage” in figuring out how to market successfully via social media and that it was important to continue to utilize email, direct mail, direct sales, telesales, advertising and other channels for now. I said that people should make sure they stayed current with what was happening in social media and they should be constantly experimenting, but, since no one has yet cracked the code on measuring the results of these new opportunities, it was important not to get distracted from demand generation methods we currently use that we know are effective.

These statements won me a large number dirty looks and I felt like I’d just announced that I was predicting a major comeback in Yellow Pages advertising. Several people in the audience probably dismissed any notion of hiring my company to do marketing consulting for them and I think there may have been murmurs of organizing a lynch mob.