As most of you know, social media was an outcome of the highly-connected world of web 2.0 apps, social platforms and interactive based marketing efforts. Social Media became a buzzword only a few years ago, but it has existed in one form or another for many years before that. In a crux, social media defines the essence of online networking.
While you’ll find a self-proclaimed social media “expert” under every rock you pick, its important to understand what social media really means to your business. Whether you’re an online store or a brick and mortar shop, you can potentially reach out to thousands of prospects and engage them in conversation through this medium. The fact that you can talk to them means that you can influence them. That’s the true power of social media from a marketing perspective.
Theoretically, though, I would say that social media marketing basically defines how you can use different online touch-points and channels to market your products, get traffic, convert people into customers, get your conversation started, etc. Social media has clearly set a higher standard in people sharing and discovering each other. Think of it as a cross between sociology and technology, transforming one way broadcasting into comprehensive two way communication. It’s personal. It’s human.
The power of social media – networking on steroids
Social media transcends beyond space and time, and opens up the world to us. You can be a small recycling company in San Fransisco and still reach out to thousands of environmental enthusiasts all across the globe. The ability to communicate through social networks and interactive platforms has become increasingly simple — and so we see cases where news worthy events like the recent earthquake in China was reported on Twitter before it even hit CNN.
While traditional media was a one-way broadcast medium (newspapers, TV channels etc), social media is two-way communication. The dynamics of human interactions have changed so much that having an online presence isn’t an option any more.
Social media marketing
We have a lot of start-ups sprouting around us that support networking and social interactions — from basic conversations to complete multimedia hosting and sharing solutions.
The first step in building marketing plan is to identify exactly who your targeted customers are, and what sites/apps do they use online. The sites and applications that people use, become tools for the marketers.Through these tools, you can interact directly with your prospects. Here are a few interesting sites to look out for:
- Networking: Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn,
- Community building: Ning,
- Article Marketing: EzineArticles, Hubpages, Squidoo
- Blogging: WordPress, Blogspot, Blogger
- Micro-blogging: Twitter
- Ecofriendly Lifestyle: CarbonRally, ZeroFootprint, MakeMeSustainable, Celsias, Change.org, BigCarrot, Care2, BeGreenNow,
- Photo/Video sharing: Flickr, Zooomr, Photobucket, SmugMug, YouTube, Vimeo, sevenload
- Livecasting: Ustream.tv, Justin.tv, Stickam, bizbuzztour.com
- Virtual worlds: Second Life, The Sims Online, Forterra
Social networking and its implications on marketing
With apps like Facebook and Twitter taking a hold on the mainstream consumer’s lives, it has completely shifted the face of marketing. People trust peer reviews or personal interactions more than Advertisements. Marketers have been using online mediums to communicate with their prospects, reinforce their brands, converse with their customers, build relations with their communities, encourage evangelists to promote them and more. This personal interaction makes the marketing efforts much more cost effective and direct.
With so much happening online, the concept of marketing has also shifted tremendously from traditional advertising to word of mouth and social marketing. It relies on the power of influence and trust for effectively reaching out to people within social spheres. Common social media marketing tools including Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube are mostly targeted for penetration and user visibility. Social networks give marketers the freedom to increase outreach by using these platforms creatively.
Building Social Media Press Releases (SMPRs)
With so much going on in social media, it becomes difficult to keep a tap on new launches or news worthy activities. A lot of activity around web 2.0 companies gets muffled because of the noise — that is unless your start-up is lucky enough to be covered by TechCrunch. SMPRs were formed to help market and build awareness around social media activities. This information can be used by consumers and analysts alike.
Online PR, Blogger Outreach and Digital Relations
Social media marketing is defined as the act of using social platforms for marketing and public relations. To promote products and services, companies are turning to the simple art of communication. Outreach activities happen at grassroots levels where you can directly interact with your prospects or customers on forums and websites. You can also reach out to influential bloggers with thousands of followers in your niche. PR and relationship management is a lot more in our reach today than it ever was.
Using Social Technologies to Empower WOMM
Wouldn’t you agree, that one of the most influential means of convincing someone to buy something is to have his closest friend recommend it. Their ‘circles of trust‘. It just works. Word of mouth marketing is the spread of a message across networks of friends until it becomes viral. There are so many examples of powerful WOMM cases, but a few that come to mind the most are coke&mentos, wherethehellismatt, gmail crowdsourcing clips, free hugs, Dove Evolution, and willitblend. These are all amazing examples of how something can spread like wildfire across the internet within seconds.
The ability to produce WOMM, is, in many ways the holy grail for marketers. A lot of campaigns manage to hit the mark, others fall short. But the impact of WOMM in your website traffic hits is so huge that its always worth a try. Keep in mind that these campaigns have to be strategically designed most the time, very few flukes work.
Social Ads and Social Media in Online Advertising
Although most effective social marketing is done through networking, advertising still plays a part in driving traffic. One of the most popular advertising spot these days is Facebook Social Ads (that you see on the right column of your profile). The ads are effective because they can be targeted according to your demographics, location, and even the keywords in your profile. With such levels of targeted placements, the chances of click-through rates increase a lot in this semantic advertising model compared to traditional advertising. Other online advertising channels are: Google Adwords, SEM, Ad networks and more.
Integrating Email Marketing, RSS and Blogging
The online tools themselves are not as effective individually as they are when they harnessed together. Imagine the power of having a sales funnel that includes; a- building credibility on your blog, b- extending your content to your lists through emails, c- syndicating it through Friendfeed and Twitter. Its not the tools that matter, but the story that you tell with them. It’s like a symphony, with each instrument playing its part.
Where to start with social media
Getting involved in social media can be intimidating. So much so that you might not know where to even begin. There is Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Plurk, Mixx, Digg. There are blogs, forums, wikis, photo sharing, vlogging (video blogging), and others. Here are a set of things that can help you get started:
- Identify your overall goals from online marketing — do you want more traffic, signups, brand awareness?
- Do some research to find out where your targeted customers are — do they use specific forums or read certain blogs?
- Create profiles on those sites and start to network with prospects in different groups and communities. Take some time out to understand the community dynamics and rules first.
- The idea is to add value to the conversations. Build genuine relationships. Through these interactions, create circles of influence so that people start trusting you — build credibility.
Still don’t understand what the f*ck is social media?
If this article hasn’t brought you any closer to understanding what social media is, and how you can use it, view this presentation…NOW!