This is a highly debatable topic, which depends on where you are coming from (and where you want to take your company or internet-based, marketing efforts).

Are there Internet Gurus out there that profess that they have hit the Big Time – made millions – and want to share their approaches/techniques and tricks of the trade with you?

Definitely – just check out your inbox daily and you will see the multitude of offers (if you are a subscriber of the right sources).

Most will hit your pocketbook up, after attending a free/no obligation webinar or teleseminar event.

Then, the ride begins with program-after-program and a revolving charge to your preferred credit card monthly.

You have now arrived and are locked-in to a perpetual cycle.

The real question is – Can you make it in this fierce, highly competitive internet-based, world without understanding and mastering the basics and fundamentals of Marketing?

Our firm is a specialist in Market Programs – we apply the various vehicles that are available to our core business and to our client’s business needs, as key elements of the overall Program.

No doubt Social Media Networking – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and sources like DIGG are powerful agents, however one must realize that they are informational/promotional platforms and vehicles – in themselves, they are not a Marketing solution.

Here are a two examples:

1) After conducting a confidential research effort, a high-technology firm discovered that its primary competitor is gearing-up to target a new, growth market and literally abandon its traditional market and installed base. This will be done over a period of time, however the firm will keep this planned migration under wraps to assure that it does not disturb the installed base or lose revenue.

Now – let me ask you – if you were the smart and enlightened company – what would you do with this valuable insight?

What type of Market Program would you develop and implement?

What marketing vehicles/platforms would you leverage to support your program?

For every twenty people that we would pose those questions to, we would predictably obtain twenty different responses.

However, the answer is not Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, although they could be elements of the overall, Marketing Program or Campaign.

In practice, this class of program is deemed a Competitive Attack Program – it is designed to exploit the weaknesses/vulnerabilities of the competition to generate new, tangible sources of business for the firm implementing the program.

The program elements include: Qualified Contact Data-base, Direct-Response, Media Coverage, Competitive Analysis, Competitive Playbook/Tactics, Sales Support Collateral, Telemarketing Coordination, Financial Incentives (to make the transition smooth for the intended prospect), Competitive Positioning (Training Workshop to ramp-up the troops) and quarterly targets and incentives for the company’s direct sales/support and 3rd Party Channel Partners (if appropriate).

In this example, LinkedIn could be a valuable element of the program that would allow you to identify and pinpoint direct target prospects or sources to gain access to a segment of the prospective audience. Further, many of the professional blogs on LinkedIn could be powerful agents for engaging with potential prospects or interested parties.

Twitter could be a powerful vehicle to provide a consistent flow of messages and links to articles and other useful information that support your Attack Program.

However – by themselves – LinkedIn, Twitter and other vehicles are not the Marketing Program that drives your company to success – the full make-up of the Competitive Attack Program is.

One of our clients generated $4.6 million of new sales in the first two business quarters and the direct competitor never knew what hit them. The program also created opportunity for our client’s stable of products and services to this newly, acquired customer set.

2) An emerging, early-stage high-technology firm targeted the Defense and Military Market, as its priority. Previously, the firm wandered aimlessly in 6-8 target segments, which resulted in no focus, continuity and little revenue (discrete, non-repeatable projects).

The firm had no experience, contact base and little traction in the Defense and Military Market, although they realized that their 3D Immersive Simulation Systems were ideal for repair and maintenance training applications for target Defense and Military programs.

Being an early-stage, firm – they could not afford to experiment and the drive to generate short-term revenue was critical.

We refer to this class of program, based on the company’s need, as a Vertical Industry Development Program.

The company needed a qualified, expert that knew the ropes in the Vertical Market, was well-connected with a solid prospect base – the TOP 60 Defense Contractors, along with influential Agencies and Program Offices – and could put it all together in a well-rounded, integrated Market Program.

Again, LinkedIn, Twitter and other vehicles have a role in this program, although they are simply active elements.

The Program elements include: Qualified Contact Data-base, Direct-Response (E-Mail Communiqué to known contacts), Media Coverage (Featured Interviews/Articles in relevant Industry publications), Product Launch (rolled-out C2ACT System Platforms – to round-out the program), Financial Incentives (for serious prospects), Telemarketing Outbound (Lead Fulfillment), plus the company had no direct salesforce – an element of the campaign was to recruit 3rd Party Reps that could take on the product-line. The program had four distinct phases with the final phase introducing a powerful iPad killer application outlining the Raytheon Patriot Missile Radar project, which was made available on Twitter and promoted on LinkedIn – with coverage on many appropriate Industry blogs.

Again, LinkedIn and Twitter were elements of the overall, program – not the program itself.

This program resulted in building a rich, opportunity base and establishing our client at the Program Management, Business Development and Engineering levels in the TOP 60 Defense Contractors (cross-division).

It reinforced our client’s commitment to the Defense & Military Market and put them and their new product family on the map.

Our assessment in seeing many, small-to-medium sized businesses adopting new wave Marketing approaches (heavily biased towards Internet Marketing and Social Media Networking) is that they are struggling.

Many suffer from false expectations, in that, they thought that Social Media Networking would allow them to hit the Big Time.

Remember: Internet Marketing and Social Media Networking are not substitutes for Marketing knowledge, competence, experience and expertise.

It is no different than any other professional discipline – one needs to know the ropes and in today’s cluttered market – strive to be distinctive and different and not get lost in the noise.

This was a tall order for Marketers in a traditional sense.

It is even more pronounced in today’s Internet-driven, world.

Learn everything you can or hire an expert – extend your thinking from leveraging the various platforms/vehicles that are available to developing and implementing effective, Market Programs.