Social media marketing is the use of Internet technologies that allow users to distribute their own content to market their businesses, expertise, and personal interests. A blog post, tweet, or YouTube video can be produced and viewed virtually by millions for free. Advertisers don’t have to pay publishers or distributors huge sums of money to embed their messages; now they can make their own interesting content that viewers will flock to. Traditional media remains customarily one-way communication. Only a few selected responses to articles are published in future publications. Social media marketing provides an interactive component that allows both marketers and viewers instant flow of communication. Most common interactions include comments, ratings, and the ability to share on other social media and web sites. Marketers can easily connect and start dialogs with content providers or potential customers. Another plus is the unlimited amount of viewership. With traditional medias, viewership is limited to amount of publications printed. With social media marketing, the world is the limit.
Social media marketing is a great equalizer: small brands are no longer limited by a financial budget. It costs almost nothing, easy to create, and can have an enormous financial impact.
A blog is a type of content management system (CMS) that makes it easy for anyone to publish short articles called posts. Blog software provides a variety of social features, including comments, blogrolls, trackbacks, and subscriptions for social media marketing purposes. Blogs make great hubs for other social media marketing efforts, as they can be integrated with nearly every other tool or platform. Every company should have a blog to inform customers of their latest news, discounts, specials, and contact information.
• A blog should be conversational in tone.
• Stick to topics within the company’s niche. What makes the company unique? Focus on your brand.
• Blogs have many built-in design templates, but hiring a graphic designer will make your company look professional and unique.
• Establish a consistent habit of regular posting. Customers are more likely to revisit the blog if they know a new post goes up every Tuesday.
• Get to know other bloggers in similar industries and connect through cross-linking to gain visibility and credibility.
• Add multimedia, including pictures and video.
Twitter and Micro blogging
Micro blogging is a form of blogging that limits the size of each post; for instance, Twitter will only allow posts up to 140 characters. Twitter can be updated from either a computer or cell phone. Twitter is the easiest social media marketing tool because it requires very little time and can quickly increases sales, buzz and consumer insight.
• Set up an account with a good avatar, optimized bio, good use of keywords and a nice branded design.
• Follow people you already know and find people of like-mind or similar industries to follow.
• Twitter and most Micro blogs are conversational two-way communication. Engage people; don’t just talk at them or advertise.
• Ask for retweets politely if the content is important, but don’t over do it.
• Keep an eye on what’s popular and what’s being discussed by using trending topics.
A social network is an interactive website that allows people to connect with contacts they know both offline and online. Utilize connections, groups, and other features of a social network site to engage industry members and potential customers. Some examples of social network sites are Facebook, MySpace, Linked In, and Friendster. Some key components are friend lists, groups, and photos. Photos are one of the most popular features on social networking sites because they connect faces with content. Social networking is a fast-growing social media marketing tool. Companies should create accounts in at least two social networking sites for stronger web visibility.
• Social networks allow companies to build direct and personal relationships with customers.
• People should have profiles, whereas companies should have pages.
• Be active with updates and interaction. The more updates posted, the greater visibility you have.
• Know your audience and select social networks where they can be found.
• Understand the special features offered by each network and utilize them.
• Don’t spam or overuse private and public messaging. Wall posts are equally effective.
• Get friends and fans to create content and spread the message for you. Organic content, not created by you, is much stronger and more convincing.
• Give fans a place and incentive for interacting with your company.
• Offer exclusive and different content for each social site, don’t just recreate a copy of the company website.
More and more people are using Media-sharing sites as social media marketing tools. Media-sharing sites allow you to create and upload content, which is sometimes call user generated content (UGC). Although these sites include social features for members, most of the users of media-sharing sites are not members, but are merely viewing sites’ content. When you create content for use in your blog, you should upload it to media-sharing sites to allow others to see and use it as well. YouTube and Flickr are two major media-sharing sites. As with any site, make sure to take full advantage of creating a profile with a strong bio, avatar, and use of keywords.
• Media-sharing sites make it easy for companies to produce and distribute multimedia content to thousands or millions of viewers.
• Leverage all existing social media marketing tools by posting links to media-sharing sites.
• Use tags effectively. Tags are the same as keywords so add as many as possible as they will create more traffic to your sites.
• Shorter is better when it comes to video; keep the viewer interested and engaged.
• If your content allows for it, encourage people to share or embed on their sites.
• Inspire fans to create content for you.
Social News and Bookmarking
Social news sites are websites that allow users to submit and vote on content from around the web. Social media marketers have found these sites to be very useful in generating buzz and traffic. Your content should foster the buzz and traffic as direct marketing is frowned upon.
Social bookmarking sites are much like news sites but they are geared towards user submitted information. Users can submit and store interesting links they want to revisit. Most bookmarking sites count the number of times content is stored and visited to determine how popular a social media marketing site is.
• Social news and bookmarking sites are a great way to drive thousands of visitors and hundreds of links to a specific page.
• Set up a profile as completely as possible.
• Write a compelling headline that tells visitors exactly what an article or link is about and what it will offer them. Informative, rather than fun, titles are most important to drive the right audiences.
• Use voting badges on site content to promote bookmarking and voting.
• Consider the audience and culture of each site before submitting to it.
Rating and Review Sites
According to an April 2009 Nielsen Media Research survey, 70% of consumers trust consumer opinions posted online compared to the 61% who trust newspaper ads and 59% who trust magazine ads. Nineteen percent of online consumers in the United States comment on blogs and post ratings and reviews on the Web at least once per month.
Review sites are a major component to the success of all your social media marketing because users are talking about your products, services and brand online. Every local business should have a presence on review sites.
But be careful. A sock puppet is a form of web spam where an overzealous business owner sets up a bunch of fake accounts and cranks out great reviews of their businesses. This is very bad form of marketing and the chances of getting caught are high. Review sites have implemented algorithms that are designed to spot and flag fraudulent activity. A few bad reviews are far less troublesome then getting caught in this tactic. On the bright side, a bad review can benefit the company as it states what needs to be changed.
To encourage reviews of your business, you should post the badges provided by the review site. Yelp and others offer this.
• Review sites are the most cost effective form of social media marketing for small local businesses.
• Make sure listings on review sites include plenty of keywords.
• Respond to negative comments in private to try to solve the issue. If that doesn’t change the comment,
respond in the public thread with a professional response. Always respond in the same media as the original comment.
• If stickers are available from these sites, post them at your business for further promotion.
One of the oldest forms of social media marketing is a forum. A forum allows users to make posts that others can respond to. It may make sense to create your own forum, but it is very time consuming. Often, it’s best to become an active and respected member in existing, relevant forums. You should always spend time reading posts and getting to know a community before responding and engaging in the conversation.
• Forums are a great place to build your reputation in an industry or niche.
• Get to know the community before posting.
• Contribute and add value, don’t pitch or direct market.
• Become an active and respected part of the community.
• Don’t post a few times and never come back.
• Having your own forum may be rewarding but a lot of work and maintenance.
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