Social media is the tool and Social Media Marketing is the art of wielding that tool to grow and create effective business marketing and increase sales in a global market.
Social media is the blanket term used for the media outlets that are used by consumers for social interaction. Social media utilizes the internet, mobile phones and even newer technologies such as the Apple Ipad. SM uses highly accessible and innovative publishing techniques.
While social media is recognized by those who use it as an entertaining and instantaneous way to connect with friends, family and the world at large via the internet, smart businesses have recognized the opportunity to connect with a gigantic pool of possible customers.
Social Media is appealing to people of all walks of life and so also appeal to all levels of business regardless of their model. Taking Twitter as an example, Twitter is now a global Social Media application that brings together people from all over the world, including the US and Canada, Mexico, Europe, Indonesia and Japan.
Social Media Marketing
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Much like the chicken and the egg, the debate over which came first is debatable. Whichever development drove the growth of other, there is no debating the amazing results that instituting Social Media Marketing has had on the world of business. Social Media Marketing can be summed up in the most general of ways as a basic plan or strategy for using Social Media as an advertising and sales driven platform for your business. In other words, it is an integral piece of any integrated marketing communications plan.
An integrated marketing communications plan combines advertising, public relations and publicity, personal selling, direct marketing and sales promotion in one customer focused message. The innovations in Social Media have made this revolutionary marketing approach not only possible, but simple and accessible to all levels of business from the single contractor to a large corporation. You can now use this approach to reach a global market or create traffic in your very own neighborhood.
Advantages of Social Media Marketing
Social Media is global, it's intimate and it's free. You are connecting with people from all levels of society in a myriad of socio-economic climbs. From business people, to parents, to college students, doctors, lawyers, and farmers, the possible exposure for you and your business is fantastic and there are no limits to the possible benefits you can reap from such a platform. One of the biggest advantages to Social Media is the ability to create a conversation with your target market.
The world of the internet is immediate and instantaneous. Using Social Media you can now have instant communication and feedback between you and your target audience. More and more, society moves at the speed of information and your quick response could mean the difference between a sale for you, or for the next business with a handy answer to a consumer's inquiry.
Social Media is free and the cost of implementing Social Media Marketing is negligable, being really only the time it takes to manage. It is possible to replace most of a traditional marketing strategy with using Social Media Marketing, at a fraction of the cost.
Impact on Search Engine Rankings
Using social media creates a large amount of backlinks that assist in your ranking on search engines. Search engines results are still a primary point of exposure for business online. The higher the ranking, the more likely you will be to gain new businesses and even greater exposure.
Complementary to Traditional Marketing
SMM campaigns are completely compatible with traditional marketing methods. As a matter of fact, you can use them a little or a lot depending on your personal preferences and your business goals.
Avoids Ad Blindness
Using Social Media Marketing moves your business out of the "Ad Zone" and into a conversation. Your business becomes more than a business, but a brand represented by a living, breathing person. Using this strategy, allows you to move through the automatic avoidance that most consumers have of the deluge of advertising that surrounds them every day.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Disadvantages of Social Media Marketing
While exposure is one of the greatest advantages, it is also one of the biggest possible disadvantages. It is easy to forget your purpose for entering into the social media arena while caught up in the whirl of Twitter, Facebook and Myspace. It can be all to easy to forget that you are not there to "make friends" but to build a business, while using that as a tool. The instantaneous nature of the platform makes embarrassing and often damaging social missteps all to real a danger. This can be easily avoided by remembering at all times that you are running a business and to keep all public displays professional, while maintaining a casual feel.
Consequences to not following through
As Social Media is immediate, a business that does not follow through with stated contests, content or merchandise can be immediately disregarded by their target audience. It is important to remember that while it is simple for consumers to reach you, it is just a simple for them to find the thousands of other businesses just like your. Keep your presence on the Social Media platforms active. Make it a priority to have some kind of interaction every business day at the very least.
Forgetting about Search Engine Optimization
The biggest mistake that many business owners make is to abandon Search Engine Optimization. Social Media Marketing is a wonderful tool, and can have widespread effects, but is most effective when used in conjunction with the many other marketing tools at your disposal.
Abandoning traditional marketing
While you can replace traditional marketing methods with Social Media Marketing strategies, it is never a good idea to limit yourself to only one approach. The strongest marketing strategy is a varied one, that uses as many outlets as possible.
Examples of Businesses Successfully Used Social Media Marketing
A recent example of the successful use of Social Media Marketing is the recent exposure that Old Spice has gained utilizing Twitter and YouTube to market their expanding line of bath and body products for men. The buzz began with their traditional marketing and a very clever advertising campaign featuring amusing and innovative commercials. A Twitter account was created for the 'character' and that was the beginning of an internet explosion.
The marketing gurus at Old Spice began to aggressively use Twitter to start a dialog on the basis of the commercials between followers on Twitter and the main character of the ad. This lead to ingenious video responses to Twitter mentions posted on YouTube which garnered the attention of celebrities and consumers alike. By taking advantage of the exposure on Twitter and aggressively responding to it, Old Spice created invaluable exposure and interest in their products.
The coffee giant recently rolled out another aggressive and proactive Social Media Marketing campaign in the shape of a website specifically for feedback of their customers. Sounds simple, right? The ingenious thing about this particular web portal is how interactive it is. Not only do they have discussion areas, with feedback and suggestions, but they went one step further and added an update area to share with customers the status of the ideas that have been internalized and will be acted on. This gives the consumers a feeling of connection, of ownership and creates brand loyalty.
Strategies for Using Social Media Marketing
Listen to Conversations - An effective marketing plan is one that takes into account the climate of the market. Listen to what the people you find on Social Media are saying. What do they want? What are they not happy with?
Establish Your Voice - You are representing a brand. Be consistent with your tone of voice and your reactions. In many ways you are creating a character to represent your business, unless you are representing yourself as the brand. Then consistency is key.
Goals, Goals, Goals - Without goals you have no way to mark your progress. Identifying your goals will help you establish the direction your SMM plan will move in.
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Join the Blogosphere - Bloggers are a large part of the online population and sentiment can spread quickly through their various communities. Find them and join them. Become one of them and you will have a valuable support base that can grow exponentially.
Find the Influence - Be aware of the experts in the Social Media communities. You do not want to offend someone who has influence over the digital community.
Content Strategy - Plan your content well in advance and you can plan your strategy through it. You can build your follower base and gradually move your audience toward your target goals.
Create the Content and Deliver it Regularly - If you write it, they will come. Remember to be consistent. If you have a blog, post regularly. There are a myriad of choices, and serious bloggers will not waste their time visiting a blog that has sporadic or unreliable content.
Start a Conversation - Engage with your followers. Become one of the masses. Make friendships and valuable connections. Being approachable is the key to success with this particular strategy.
Measure Your Results - Keep track of how your are doing. Awareness of the effects that different marketing tasks has on your audience and target market, sales and business growth is key to understanding how to maximize those effects, or avoid less than successful gambits.
How I plan to use Social Media Marketing
My plans for using SMM to further my own business are fairly straight forward. There are so many options, that I know it is important to have a general road map to keep me on track.
It is important to establish an online identity which is the beginning of building your brand, so I am committed to growing my Twitter, Facebook and Myspace communities.
I try to connect online at least once a day and I devote one day a week to SMM.
I am planning and developing YouTube content now that will expand my exposure.
I have contests and various promotions planned out for the next 6 months.
I am developing a feedback portal that I will use to interact with my followers and gain valuable market data.
Social Media Marketing is an invaluable tool that is easily accessible and easy for even the most novice of users to utilize. There is massive potential with the tools available today, that it is difficult to have a poor result when used in conjunction with Search Engine Optimization and traditional marketing methods. Remembering, above all that it is a "Marketing Tool" and not a personal outlet will ensure that you stay on track.