Ford recently withdrew their advertisements from the US Super Bowl for 2011, redirecting that part of their advertising budget towards a social media marketing strategy. One of the most watched tv broadcasts in the United States, Super Bowl is known for its high profile and high budget advertising. So when a powerful company with a large advertising budget starts shifting the focus of its marketing spend away from this traditional form of advertising towards social media marketing, it’s time to take notice.
So what is Social Media Marketing and how can you develop a Social Media Strategy that will suit your business? This post will walk you through a basic strategy that will get you started.
But first of all, what is Social Media?
Wikipedia defines “Social Media” as “media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media uses web-based technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogues….. A common thread running through all definitions of social media is a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value.”
So, what does all this mean and how can we harness the power of social media marketing strategies in our business?
The Essence Of Social Media Marketing
Building “social authority” is THE most important component of any successful social media marketing campaign and basically means an individual or company establishing itself as an expert or authority on a particular subject.
“Building social authority” is key to effective social media marketing and is achieved through participation in the “conversation” on social media sites. Social media marketing therefore requires a big shift in mindset from more traditional forms of marketing and advertising….it is simply a question of getting out there, being genuine, natural and cleverly participating in conversations without an obvious marketing angle…offering solutions to people’s problems, providing valuable information and a genuine opinion. People are resistant to marketing in general and even more so to ovbious marketing or selling through social platforms. The Edelman Trust Barometer report of 2008 reported that 58% of respondents trusted product information coming from industry experts and authorities over and above any other source and this figure climbed to 64% in the 2010 report, reflecting the continuing rise in popularity of social media sites over that time.
Applying Social Media Marketing To Your Business
We’ve already established that building social authority is paramount for our social media marketing strategy. Social media incorporates everything from Blogging, Microblogging, Social Networking, Events, Forums, to Articles and Press Releases and the list goes on. So where to begin? Here are a few tips on how to determine which forms of Social Media will best suit your business:
1. Identify Your Customer And Your Brand
Craft a compelling brand based on your customers’ needs. In so doing you will identify the format your customers are most likely to be receptive to receiving information in. Then find the social media that corresponds to their needs and your brand.
Ask yourself, do they want straight news, such as delivered by Mashable, or will they respond better in a forum type environment where you can give direct advice and answer questions?
In most cases a combination of social sites is likely to be most appropriate and there are litereally hundreds, if not thousands of sites to choose from. Some, such as Facebook, have a very broad appeal, whilst others are targeted at particular niches.
2. Identify Social Networks
Find the Social Networks your audience participates in on a regular basis. Facebook has over 500 million useres. and Mark Zuckerberg, one of the founding members, forcasts that it will reach 1 billion users next year. Facebook therefore enjoys a very broad appeal and most market segments will be represented here, making it a MUST for most businesses.
But you should not rely on Facebook alone. Look at your niche and find sites that are a good match. For example if you have a need to get news updates out to your customers on a regular basis, Twitter will serve that purpose. Similarly a photographer might want to be on Flickr or Tublr. It is a question of finding the social media sites that not only correspond to your brand, but where your customers are likely to “hang out”.
Once you’ve established your customer identity and brand, and identified which social networks will suit your customers and brand, it is time to start building the brand’s social profile.
3. Establish Your Brand In Your Chosen Social Communities
It’s now time to get on to these social sites and start establishing your reputation as an authority on your subject, as we have already discussed above. Find community leaders on your chosen social sites and establish whether or not there is room for your product or service on the site, and think about how you can distinguish yourself from your competitors.
4. Grow Your Followers
Typically your initial followers will be made up from both on-line and offline existing customers and contacts, but as word spreads, your customers’ contacts will be added to the mix.
Morepace conducted a survey in 2010, asking Facebook users why they had joined the site: 41% said they had joined to “let my friends know what products I support”. And 68% ansered “yes” to the question: “Would a positive referral from a Facebook friend make you more likely to buy a specific product or visit a certain retailer?” This is all good news for any marketer on Facebook and reinforces the value of building social authority discussed earlier!
5. Incentivise Your Followers To Join Your Site
The same survey found that 37% of Facebook users joined the site “to receive coupons and discount offers”. So, providing an incentive, such as a freebie or discount voucher will encourage people to join you and grow your following.
6. Participate In Discussions And Forums
Develop content relevant to your followers, based on their needs….think about how you can engage them. Interact with your community, be present in your community and reply to comments where relevant. Offer advice and share relevant information. Build that social authority and become the first port of call for advice on your given niche.
7. Analyse The Results
It can be difficult to measure the direct results of a social media marketing campaign, but there are plenty of tools out there to help analyze traffic, the most obvious one being “Google Analytics“. This site will help you measure the level of traffic to your site and most importantly, the source of the traffic, allowing you to judge the effectiveness of your social media presence. In terms of calculating the actual return on investment, be sure to ask all buyers how they found you.
8. Refine Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
Using the information gathered in 7 above, you may come to realise that one particular social site is proving far more successful than another. Have a look at why that might be, tweak your social media campaign or even leave a particular site that is not working for you.
So, there you have it….a basic Social Media Marketing Strategy that any business can implement to get started in social media. There can be little doubt that we are witnessing a fundamental shift in the way big companies spend their advertising budget, which means social media is here to stay and not just a passing fad, as has been voiced by some. The beauty about social media marketing is that there are no barriers to entry in terms of budget requirements. Big or small, all can get a slice of the pie and harness the power that this form of marketing has to offer!
If you got this far, thank you for reading such a long article …..I appreciate your valuable time. Please share with your friends on facebook, twitter and wherever else you hang out.
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