Social media marketing is a method of promoting your brand (be it yourself, a product, a service, or a company) by strategically making your presence known across various social media networks (such asFacebook, Twittter, Google Plus, etc). This may seem overly elementary but “making yourself known” is the kicker because each category of social media has a different, sometimes intricate method for effective promotion.
Business from Social Marketing is Often Indirect
A key concept to social marketing is that it is not designed to immediately provide business but instead it provides the visibility your brand needs to ultimately convert fans into buyers. I often get clients saying “I don’t think being on Twitter will sell anything.” The truth is that often they are correct. Having a commercial presence on a social platform that provides great content and interesting free tools (aka. widgets) raises the awareness of your brand so that users remember your service for later, and it also provides you with a podium to share the benefits of your brand. In short, it is important not to forget this essential concept: social media marketing drives brand awareness which later translates into sales.
Social Media Categories and Associated Strategies
Here is an introduction to the various top portals segregated into their appropriate categories and mated with a recommended strategy. Please keep in mind the following is only a partial listing of some social media sites. If you want a more comprehensive list check out Knowem which includes social media networks in a variety of categories.
I have organized Social Media Marketing into the following categories:
- Social Networking Sites
- Business Networking Sites
- Social (Collaborative) Bookmarking Sites
- Content Voting Sites
- News Sharing Sites
- Collaborative Directories
- Video Sharing Sites, and
- Photo Sharing Sites
Now that you have an idea of the various social web properties and their potential marketing application(s) it is important to identify what you want to get out of social media before you market in this space. Be sure to ask yourself the following questions:
What is your ultimate goal?
Consider the objectives that come to mind. Here are some examples of common answers and what they might mean to your planning efforts:
- “I want people to know my name and acknowledge my expert status.”
In this situation you may want to drive traffic to your main website bio that features your services, testimonials or even your resume. Using social media you can build your online reputation by participating in sites that appear to have a strong following of potential customers; provide answers to their questions, find associated content that you know will help them and bookmark it. All-in-all you want to make friends and create a personal profile above recrimination.
- “I want my company name to be found within all of the major social media sites when my industry-related keywords are typed in.”
There are a variety of ways to achieve this end result but I expect the most effective is to create quality content that no one can help but link to. That is far harder than it sounds but the fact is that company names don’t rise to the cream of the Internet crop without blowing people away with helpful and thoughtful content. Once you create the content use a blog to disseminate it quickly while placing a snippet into your social media profiles in such sites as Facebook and Twitter along with a link to your main article (where readers can continue reading). By only providing a teaser for your article and pointing readers to your website for the full article you will be emphasizing the original posting on your flagship site as the original article, as well as heighten ingits visibility. Be sure to work hard to create a network of friends within each social community. You can leverage this community by letting them know you have just released an article they may be interested in.
In each of the cases above I also recommend participating in answer forums like the LinkedIn Answers area or Quora where people (and in turn their businesses) can prove their worth to questioners. In fact there are people whose sole income comes from impressing people in Q&A forums and getting their business. Indeed, each of those programs offers a point system where, if you are providing top answers you can rise in their ranking of your industry brethren which will increase your company’s visibility significantly.
How much time are you willing to commit to social media marketing?
This is a crucial question because it will determine just how big you want to make your social media plan. If you are doing this yourself then force yourself to set aside time every day or every two days to keep your profiles active. If that is too much work then consider hiring someone to help you keep the profiles fresh OR just select the top social media websites to market. Whatever you decide to do, start out small and then increase your social marketing workload only when you know you have the time and patience to do the additional work correctly.