Social Media Marketing
At Mr.BusinessBuilder, we want you to understand how social media tools can enhance your online marketing strategies, and learn how to build a social media presence for your business.
Social media is the term used to describe online communities or networks of people that share ideas, opinions, and content online in an immediate and informal way.
Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn appeared just a few short years ago and have quickly grown to dominate the Internet. Most content that you access online – news stories, blog posts, videos, etc. – is easily republished to your network of choice to create discussion, dialogue, or even just for entertainment.
With the rise of social media has come the rise of social media marketing – an often hyped term that unfortunately many businesses don’t understand. Social media offers real value to your online marketing strategy, as it provides businesses with an opportunity to interact and build trust relationships with their audiences. Using social media is an easy and inexpensive way to communicate with large groups of prospective customers in an informal environment.
While it’s tempting to jump in and join the discussion, when you involve your business in social media you need to do so in a strategic, well-thought out manner.
Let’s look at the key components of embarking on a social media marketing strategy:
- What exactly is social media
- The key social media sites
- Setting up your social media accounts
- Social media dos and don’ts
- Social media marketing plans
- Outsourcing social media management
What is Social Media, anyway?
Social media is the term used to describe websites and software that allow their members to post, bookmark, discuss, share, and create content within their member network. Most sites are permission based, with each member having his own profile or username and selecting who he wants to have as part of his network.
Beyond individual use, businesses are rapidly creating their own social media profiles and using the services to interact with their existing and potential customers. This essentially creates a community of people around your business who you can communicate with and market to.
The impressive part of social media networking is the speed at which content circulates. For example, let’s say one person posts a link to a YouTube video on Twitter, and 25 out of 189 of their followers watch it. Then, one of those 25 people “retweet” it to their following – which is 2,907 – and in a matter of 30 minutes, nearly 500 people have seen the video. That is the power of social media.
This makes for lightning fast word-of-mouth advertising, if your product, service, or link bait is interesting enough to be shared. With a simple click, users can “like” content on Facebook, retweet content on Twitter or bookmark it on Delicious.
As a business, social media allows you to:
- Offer customers a more accessible, personal option for communication, feedback and customer service
- Build trust and authority within your network
- Conduct informal surveys and feedback
- Encourage two-way communication and dialogue
- Hold contests and build buzz around your offering
- Share behind the scenes information and photos
- Provide your opinion on current events and industry trends
- Connect with broader groups of people
*Note: Technically, blogs count as social media too. However, we’ll look at your company’s blog strategy as an, additional, powerful way to connect with buyers.
What are the social media sites that I need to pay attention to?
I always encourage my clients to spend some time snooping through social media sites to get a sense of what’s going on and to learn based on what others are doing. This research will give you a sense of what you like, and what rubs you the wrong way – just like real life social networks. It also allows you to discover where your niche is, and start thinking about your business can plug into the existing community.
Here’s a quick roundup of the main social media sites. You may or may not end up involving all of these sites into your strategy – chances are you won’t – but it’s smart to be aware of what is available to you.
Social network sites include Facebook (http://www.facebook.com) and LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com). Users for each of these sites create their own profiles, and populate them with photos, contact information, location, interests, hobbies, and (on Facebook) status updates. Both of these sites offer a rich source of information about your customer groups through their profiles.
Once you create a Facebook profile, you populate your network by adding “friends” or other profiles. You allow these people to view your profile and published content, and they allow you to view theirs. The homepage of your Facebook account is a continuous stream of your friends’ activity: photos, status updates, event invitations, links, and messages.
Business can now create their own profile pages and collect followers who “like” them. In addition to the basic features, you can also add applications to your Facebook profile, things like games, quizzes, and ecommerce interfaces.
LinkedIn is a professional networking site designed primarily for people in business to connect and introduce their contacts to one another. Each user creates a profile that is a little like a resume, which includes their work history, interests and what they are looking to do with their LinkedIn profile.
Businesses can create groups or pages for their company, and link to all their current and past employees. Others can reconnect with old colleagues or make new connections through old ones. Members can make recommendations or endorse other members based on their work experience.
LinkedIn is a relatively guarded network, however. You need to have a contact in common in order to contact a member or view their complete profile. Generally, this network is great for consultants and others who own their own businesses and rely heavily on networking and referrals for their customer base.
Social bookmarking sites include Delicious (http://www.delicious.com) and StumbleUpon (http://www.stumbleupon.com). These sites allow users to organize, share, comment on, and review web pages that they find interesting enough to bookmark. Both of these sites also interface with other social media sites – like Facebook and Twitter – so the act of bookmarking a favorite page (and the page itself) is communicated to a wide audience.
As a business owner, you will want to work to have your website, articles or blog bookmarked by users and shared around the Internet.
When you create a Delicious account, your bookmarks are saved on a server that you can access from any web browser through your account. You can also sync your bookmarks with your web browser. The service allows users to see other member’s lists and browse through bookmarks by subject or tag.
StumbleUpon is a little different. Using the interests you select, the service takes you to web pages that have been bookmarked based on popularity. You can choose to like, dislike or move on to the next page.
The most popular and well-used example of microblogging is Twitter (http://www.twitter.com). Twitter is a stream of short status updates or mini blog posts limited to 140 characters. These updates can be submitted through the web, or through a cell phone or voicemail.
Once you set up your Twitter account, you can search for people you find interesting and wish to follow. Your Twitter homepage will look like a steady stream of posts and ongoing conversations that resembles a chat room or dialogue.
By selecting “follow” next to their name, they’ll automatically be added to your feed. Some people protect their tweets, so you’ll have to send a request to follow them before their status updates will appear in your stream. As you start to build a list, others will start to follow you too.
Use your Twitter feed to provide updates on the daily happenings in your business, announce new products, promote your blog posts, ask your audience questions, and encourage your customers to provide feedback.
Here are some Twitter basics to get you started:
- <#hashtag> Used to denote a topic or thought. Any word immediately following a hashtag will turn into a link. Click that link and you’ll see a list of other Tweets with that subject. For example, #hockeyplayoffs or #icantwaittillfriday. Popular hashtags become trending topics – popular Twitter subjects.
- <@twitterhandle welcome to twitter!> A public message to another Twitter member. Only those who follow both you and the person you mention will see this Tweet. <Welcome to Twitter RT @twitterhandle I’m finally here!>
- <RT @twitterhandle it’s a beautiful day today!> RT simply means “retweet”. It’s used to denote that you’re resending a tweet originally sent by someone else. If someone who follows you likes the message, it may motivate them to follow the person who originally posted the tweet.
- <Spending the day at the beach with @twitterhandle #sunnyday> A status update tweet that mentions another twitter profile. Everyone who follows you will see this tweet.
You can also send a direct message to someone you follow, as long as that person follows you. These are private messages that your other followers do not see, but are also limited to 140 characters.
The popularity of microblogging has created the need for a service that shortens web page links. With only 140 characters, it would be impossible to share complicated URLs otherwise. Services like bit.ly (http://bit.ly) will shorten your links and allow you to post your update to Twitter right from their site. Then, they track how many clicks your link gets.
Media sharing sites include Flickr (http://www.flickr.com) and YouTube (http://www.youtube.com). You simply follow the steps to creating your personal account, and start uploading content in one place for others to see.
YouTube is the largest video content sharing site on the Internet, and allows you to upload your own video to your account, create channels of video content, tag, and comment on other videos absolutely free.
Flickr is a large photo sharing website. Users upload, organize, sort, tag and comment on photos within their own networks and groups. Members of groups can collectively contribute to the group’s photo pool. The base account is free, and for frequent uploads, the Pro account is available for a fee.
In social media marketing, media sharing sites act primarily as content contributors to social networking or microblogging sites. Users post a link to their Flickr photo stream on Facebook, and that network can find and access the featured content. Or, users link to a video on YouTube in their Twitter status and their followers access that featured content.
Trending and popularity sites – such as Digg (http://www.digg.com) and Reddit (http://www.reddit.com) – have members that submit content they find on the Internet. That content is then voted on by other members and visitors and the content with the most votes in the shortest amount of time appears on the main page.
As you can imagine, content that makes it to the front page of Digg generates substantial traffic to the origin site. Generally, this content tends to focus on tech-related news, and things that are borderline funny or bizarre. Reddit is focused on news alone.
These sites can be of value to your business if you manage to get one of your web pages or videos to the front page – but it can be a bit of a challenge.