As social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn increasingly dominate the internet landscape, marketing in these (and other) online venues takes on added significance. Inbound marketing has become the buzzword for nearly every company and enterprise, both large and small. Social media marketing has become a critical tool when it comes to enabling inbound marketing, and introducing a product or service to potential customers.
How does a business benefit from social media?
The value proposition of social media is that it allows you to have almost complete control of your company’s branding, development of networking opportunities, and the ability to establish yourself as a subject matter expert in a relatively short amount of time. There are multiple strategies that can be used for accessing social media marketing, but it’s important to know the landscape of the medium before you jump in.
As a general rule, it pays great dividends to research the market, and find the niches that your target audience is already using. Take the time to build virtual “street cred” in any such effort - in other words, participate in the conversation – in online forums and venues that fit your niche. Spend some time learning about SEO tactics so when you are actively participating, you’re not only demonstrating your (and by extension, your company’s) expertise in a topic, but you’re using keywords and key phrases in your online communication. Want to know what people are talking about in your niche, and keywords that work? Start with Google Trends.
What else can I do to get involved in social media for my business?
At this point in internet history, setting up an online group to promote your brand or product is vitally important – and it’s almost a necessity from a standpoint of launching an inbound advertising campaign. Perhaps even more importantly, though, is the networking with other niche groups that must be an integral component of such an effort.
For instance, VA Mortgage Center is a private organization that brokers home financing for military veterans. But their Facebook presence is wisely missioned as an ongoing conversation about accessing all benefits for military veterans, rather than focused on just the services they offer in finding mortgages for veterans. As a result, the VA Benefit Blog on Facebook has nearly 50,000 members. How powerful a marketing tool is that for their company?
So, here are some basic rules for marketing and advertising in social media space:
- Develop a game plan, and stick to the basics. Understand that you are becoming a member of a virtual community, and that your membership reflects your brand.
- Measure what you do – most social media sites have a very robust system that allows you to monitor the success (or needs) of your advertising campaigns.
- With the exception of direct paid advertisements, don’t overtly market your products or services to members of the community; rather, establish your subject matter expertise. Virtual “street cred” is your most important marketing asset.
- Be personally involved in the process. It’s a mistake to trust your brand and company integrity to your most recent intern, or the high school kid down the block.
- Partner with an online marketing company or digital marketing agency that has experience in dealing with this new world of social media marketing and advertising.
On the surface, it sounds so simple. It’s easy to make the case that you need to be involved in social media and online networking in order to promote your business. But recognizing the need and taking the first step to get there are two different things. How you handle taking that first step can make the difference between frustration and success.
What social media sites have you tried for marketing, and what successes or failures have you experienced? You are encouraged to leave your comments on this blog.