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Social Media Marketing

Marketing in a Web 2.0 world

Article describing the basics of social media marketing, outlining reasons for undertaking this new channel, what goals you should set and pitfalls to avoid.

Simply put, social media marketing is using the tools, sites and services of social media to promote your company and its products. What are those social media channels? One way to think about them is using Robert Scoble's social media starfish:

It qualifies as a subset of your online marketing campaign, and tends to complement search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and other traditional web-based promotional strategies, like email newsletters and online advertising campaigns. Social media marketing also qualifies as a form of viral or word-of-mouth marketing.

Like old fashioned word-of-mouth, viral marketing relies on us to tell our friends about products or services we love (or loath). Here's the difference. When you tell your sister about a great new sushi joint, only she hears about it. She may tell her boyfriend or a neighbor, but the news moves slowly. But, if you have a popular restaurant review podcast with 5, 000 daily listeners, your review travels a lot further, a lot faster and that little Japanese place could be packed by Friday night

Because social media tends to live online, the vast majority of social media marketing happens on the web. But don't be fooled, there are occasions that these strategies result in real-world interactions. To get attention for the release of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy[2] in Melbourne, Australia the film marketing and distribution company, Buena Vista, produced a flash mob'. A flash mob happens when a group of people, who may or may not be affiliated, show up at the same place at the same time to complete a short activity or task. Once the task is complete everyone disbands and goes their own way. Buena Vista used text messages and email forwarding to organize a gathering of about a hundred people in a busy Melbourne square. The participants simultaneously waved towels in the air and shouted phrases from the movie like, "The Vogans are coming, " and "It's the end of the world!" Believe it or not, flash mobs are already considered pass. In the ever-changing social media sphere they're so 2003!

Embracing Social Media Marketing

If tradeshows, media relations, direct mail and telemarketing are old hat, then it's time to try something new. Social media marketing provides a new marketing channel for you to explore. And, if our philosophical rhetoric doesn't convince you, then maybe these stats will:

  • More people, particularly young people, are spending less time watching television and listening to the radio, and more time online. In a survey of consumer digital media and entertainment habits run last year by IBM, TV and personal Internet usage were neck and neck in a heated battle. Sixty-six percent reported viewing one to four hours of TV per day, while 60% reported the same for Internet usage. We're guessing that Internet usage will sneak ahead of TV watching in 2008.
  • Offline advertising has always been expensive and difficult to measure. The future of online advertising is highly debatable. Regardless, just as public relations is cheaper than billboards, so too is social media relations more economical and effective than whack-the-monkey banner ads.
  • The days of the brochure site are long-gone. Markets are conversations, haven't you heard? Conversation is happening, whether you like it or not. There are, at best estimate, at least 112 million weblogs in the blogosphere. Facebook currently has about 80 million active users (people who have accessed their Facebook accounts within the last 30 days). Flickr, the popular photo-sharing site, published its two billionth photograph earlier this year. That's where the money's going. A recent study by Pollara Strategic Insights indicated that, "one in two Canadian business leaders say social media is becoming more important than mass media." A similar study by Prospero Technologies indicated that, "88% of businesses expect to increase social media spending in 2008."

How Does Social Media Fit With Your Marketing Goals?

You're a marketer, so you know that having clear goals in mind and tracking campaign outcomes is critical. So, what are your social media marketing goals, or what should they be? Why would you want to trek through the swampy and sometimes treacherous social media marketing landscape when you're already so comfortable on the paved, tree-lined paths of lead generation, webinars and media relations? The answer is-drum roll please-increased online visibility. A stronger web presence should be the primary goal of every social media marketing campaign. So, what are the metrics of a stronger web presence'? What does increased online visibility' really mean? These are the concrete outcomes that should persuade you to get off the beaten path.[1]

  • More visitors to your website
  • More subscribers to your RSS feeds
  • More incoming links to your website
  • More views of your content on video and photo-sharing sites like YouTube and Flickr
  • More references to your company, products and services on blogs, podcasts and social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook
  • Better search engine optimization and an improved Google ranking
  • More genuine interactions with your customers

Is Social Media Marketing For You?

So, you're convinced that social media marketing is for you. That's great, we're glad you're inspired. But, before you jump head first into the social media sphere, please consider the following to make sure that a social media marketing program is really right for your organization:

  • Where are your peeps? Are your customers online? One of the reasons social media marketing has taken off so quickly in the high tech space is because many technology products can be purchased online and immediately downloaded. The Internet is an ideal marketing medium for companies selling products online. If you've got a website with a shopping cart or reservation system, then social media marketing should definitely be on your to do' list. On the other hand, if you're a corner store with a very niche market (say, the people who live within a five-block radius of your store), then you'll find limited returns from social media marketing. Remember, social media marketing is about building reputation online and bringing more people to your website. If you website doesn't play a key role in your sales and marketing efforts, then think twice before starting down this garden path.
  • What are your competitors doing? It's a good marketing rule of thumb to pay attention to what your competitors are up to. If they're all attending the same tradeshows, you should be there too. If they're blogging up a storm on their corporate blogs and showing up in the comment threads of the right industry websites, then you should be doing the same. Gauging your competitors' online activities is a litmus test for the value of social media marketing in your industry. If your competitors are already reaping the benefits, don't wait another year to get in the game.
  • Do you have the resources? Getting a social media marketing program off the ground takes significant time and effort. You must dedicate time every day to monitoring the web, participating in ongoing discussions, posting to your blog and developing new campaign ideas. If you're a one-person marketing department and already feel overworked and resent the time you spend online answering email and doing web research, then social media marketing may just be too painful to stick.

Hitting the Trail: Here's What You'll Need to Get Started

If we didn't just scare you off then keep reading because your first step to social media immersion starts here. To get you started, here's a checklist of the big-ticket items you'll need to get your campaigns off the ground.

Time, Time and More Time

Setting up and running social media marketing can be significantly less expensive than ad buys, traditional PR and big trade shows. But, if time is money then social media marketing is gonna cost you. Time is a commodity that none of us seem to have enough of and social media marketing campaigns don't run themselves. They're not like lead generation programs that you pay for and then get a tidy Excel sheet of names at the end. For social media marketing to pay off you need to get down and dirty. You must monitor the web daily for mentions of you and your company; you must comment on related blog posts; you must contact online influencers on a one-to-one basis. For social media marketing to pay off, we suggest you dedicate somewhere around 25% of your marketing time to making it work. Anything less just won't garner results.

Boss Buy-In

Is dedicating a quarter of your time to social media marketing going to fly with the boss? Depending on the size of your organization, selling a marketing program in-house can be the hardest part of getting social media marketing off the ground. It's really quite understandable. After all, legal doesn't want to expose the company to risk, and the Marketing VP doesn't want to invite criticism. But, hiding under the covers hoping social media will go away isn't going to work.

  • If you need to get your boss onside, start by highlighting the measurable outcomes:
  • More website visitors
  • More incoming links
  • Better search engine optimization
  • Better customer interactions and engagement.

And, if that doesn't work, you can try old school peer pressure. If your competitors are active online, then try this tactic. Go to Google and in the search field type in "link:http://www.(yoururl).com". On the right side of the screen you'll see the number of incoming links Google sees for your home page. Now, do the same with three of your largest competitors. How do you rank against them? Who's got the biggest web presence? Hopefully the numbers are convincing enough to get your boss onboard, at least for a pilot program.

Conclusion

A critical part of social media marketing is thinking creatively. Apply creativity to every campaign and program, and don't rely on a single strategy for success. Plan your campaign carefully. Be authentic. Be original. And if you're lucky, you might hit a homerun.


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