Get Caught Up in the Social Web – Getting Started in Social Media Marketing
At this point, it is hard to believe that there is anyone out there who who has not heard statistics about how popular Facebook, Twitter and other social marketing web sites have become. These sites have accumulated incredibly large followings of extremely loyal users. But just because a web site has huge volumes of traffic pouring in, that does automatically make it a good place for your brand to be? Does your brand need to engage in social media marketing, and if so how do you get started?
To answer the above questions, we will start with the first one – "Just because a web site has huge volumes of traffic pouring in, does that automatically make it a good place for your brand to be?" The simple answer to this question is NO. You see, while huge volumes of traffic are impressive, one must consider the INTENT of those visitors. Can you answer the question of WHY someone visits a site? For a long time, that was the biggest problem markets were facing in regards to social media sites.
Sure Facebook and MySpace had tons of unique visitors every day, but the problem was (and still is), those visitors were not coming to the site to buy products or think about buying products – they were coming to the sites to communicate with existing friends and make new ones. So how do you advertise to people who are not just uninterested in your product, but all products in general, during the time they are spending on the site?
The secret is to understand how your brand can contribute something positive to the experience. So rather than hitting someone over the head with an advertising saying – "we do a great job and you can get 10% off of our services" – brands must take a softer approach to advertising on social media sites.
In fact, it should not even be called advertising. Really what a brand needs to do on these sites is establish a presence and then contribute to the continuing dialogue where possible. For instance, imagine you represent a cell phone service. Rather than posting ads all over Facebook saying that you have a great deal, a much more effective stance is to create a Facebook fan page, fill it with information that is really useful to consumers, and then monitor conversations for instances of your brand or industry so that when the chance arises you can add value to the conversation.
You can see from this example that social media marketing is not a platform by which you are going to win new customers overnight. But it is a powerful way to, over time, build a very loyal following of consumers who will in turn tell their friends and family how much they believe in your brand.
An important disclaimer about social media marketing is that if you are going to venture into it, you need to fully commit to doing so. That means creating a strategy around it – where will you create a profile, who will manage it, what will they say? How will you deal with an angry customer? How will you lease a happy customer? And those questions are just the tip of the iceberg.
Now you may look at Twitter and say – "why would I need to put so much thought into something that looks to be short bursts of conversation?" The answer is simple – while these may be short bursts of communication, all a consumer needs to have a positive positive or negative experience with a brand is a short burst. Sometimes a single sentence can turn a customer off for life, so if you do not know what to say and then you are setting yourself up for failure.
Additionally, social media marketing is a platform in which the media is the message. What does this mean? Well, users of social media expect communication to occur instantaneously and consistently. So if you do not post often or you do not get back to them quickly enough when they ask you a question, they will quickly write you off and you'll lose all momentum in this arena. You must be prepared to offer new, valuable content on a very regular basis if you wish to keep a social media audience engaged. That could mean posting interesting articles and links, promoting special offers and asking for customer feedback, answering user questions, or a mix of all of these tactics. It is a large commitment to say the least, but the potential rewards are significant as well. Be sure you carefully consider the opportunity, do your research to understand the medium, and carefully develop a strategy if you wish to enter the world of social media marketing.