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The online marketing world is changing at an amazing speed. It seems like everyday there is a new strategy or tactic that you MUST try! I take each article, blog post or forum I read with a grain of salt. All tactics are not for all businesses. This is especially true with Social Media Marketing. You can't force your brand or products to fit with every social network or media site on the web- it just doesn't make sense and won't improve your business (or your bottom line)!
Social media marketing is a detailed process that helps to promote/market a site, brand or business by engaging, conversating and interacting with current as well as potential customers. This exchange should be beneficial for the company/business/marketer as well as for the customer. The benefits for the business include insight into their customer base, improving products and customer relations, link building, brand awareness and increased traffic to their site. Many people may think that this conversation is more benefical to the company, however, customers can also benefit from the openness of social media. The social media interaction provides an outlet for customers to interact with their favorite brands and companies directly as well as express their opinions. This type of online marketing is a natural extension of the way people talk about their brand and product experiences offline. Customers will spread the word to peers, colleagues and family members. In a way, social media marketing is much like the word of mouth marketing that takes place off the web. This content also provides customers with entertainment, more detailed product/company information, education and market research.
You may be asking, "What are the avenues I could use to get involved in Social Media Marketing?" Social media comes in several flavors including blogs, forums, Twitter, podcasts, online video as well as social networking sites such as MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook (to name a few). The first mistake many marketers make is to try to utilize all of these flavors- this will just leave a bad taste in your mouth. Some formats work better for some companies then others. There is a process that should be used to pick and choose the flavors that you, and more importantly, your customers will like.
The success of your social media marketing campaign will depend on you following the process of getting involved in social media marketing:
- Listen: Before getting involved in social media, you have to figure out where "your people" are spending their time online. "Your people" are people that share your interests, use your products or could be interested in what your company offers. For example, if your demographic is not participating in the conversation on MySpace, this is not the right road to go down.
- Set Objectives: Not getting this step clear will be a certain detriment to the success of your campaign. Without a concrete goal or purpose for your tactics, no successes or failures can be measured. I have to ask...what would be the point?
- Get Involved: It is essential to participate based on the objectives set by your business. Be a social butterfly- make comments, respond to comments, provide commentary, participate in polls and surveys. Social Media Marketing takes time and is not a quick fix. There is work that is required to be successful. Be an active and valuable member of the community that you chose!
- Monitor: Without monitoring the progress of what is happening with your campaign, you can't make changes to improve performance and important metrics. Always be trying new things to improve the performance of the campaign.
- Pay Attention to Reporting: Regular reporting will probably include letting upper management know what you have learned as well as how the strategy has improved awareness and online traffic. Metrics such as ROI can take some time to calculate since these are difficult to grasp.
- Analyze Everything: It is important to sit down and determine what all of it means. This includes reporting, analysis and ROI. Was the campaign successful? Is it worth continuing? These are all important questions one must ask.
Some may not be able to see the value in having a page on a social networking site. These used to be associated with college and high school kids.. not anymore. At an increasing rate, those in the corporate world are getting involved in these types of networks. I am sure if you are in the business world you are familiar with "networking events". This is the same exact thing, only online. Participating in these types of sites can bring new customers, potential employees and new partnerships.
There is such a thing that online marketers have dubbed "social media breadcrumbs". These are the many paths that we create to lead those that find us on one social media site to other places that they can connect with us. For example, a LinkedIn profile may include a link to the users' personal blog or company website. Or a Twitter "tweet" can lead followers to a new, interesting post on the user's corporate blogs. All of these interactions contribute to the ultimate goal of marketing-> awareness, interest, information, brand building and in the long run sales and life long customers!
Social media is all about community, generating content, sharing information and being involved. You may be tempted to jump in and try all the "flavors" of social media right away. This is not a smart move. The most important thing is to take the time to taste all the flavors before deciding if the flavor fits you (and your customers) and it's something you can stick with for a long time- because the Social Media Marketing process takes time. After that, it's all about being part of the community you choose, making it better, creating connections with others and building online brand awareness!