As social media continues to attract marketing executives as a platform for extending the brand and gaining new customers, questions are becoming more frequent. Can social media actually sell product? Can it establish a brandís reputation? Two recent media posts examine these questions and cast doubt on the true value of social media as a marketing tool.

An opinion piece by Stephen Baker was recently published in the New York Times asking if social media is truly an effective selling tool. Proponents believe that this is the new word-of-mouth marketing, where your social graph is better qualified to lead you to good products and services. However, as stated in the piece, accurately gauging how effective social media can be to delivering sales is very difficult. According to a study by IBM cited in the article, only 0.68 percent of all online purchases made on the busiest day of the online shopping year in 2012 came directly from Facebook.

On the subject of branding power, a post in mediabistro.com discussed results from a study by Kentico Software that casts doubt on social mediaís ability to define a brand. When asked what carries more weight when it comes to brand affinity, only seven percent of the respondents cited social media, a distant fourth place behind word-of-mouth (28 percent), brand Web site (25 percent), and in-store experience (18 percent).

Does this mean that social media canít be effective? Of course not. There is no disputing the widespread adoption of social media in both personal and business communication. The key is developing a social media strategy that fits into a comprehensive media and communications framework that hits a target audience on all levels. Leveraging the power of social media to underscore traditional and digital communications can drive stronger results, but relying on the medium alone is a mistake.