Social Media Marketing 101

by Ron Jones

PART 1

When people hear about social media marketing, many tend to think about popular social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace and YouTube. YouTube has about 258 million users, and more than 50 percent of them log in weekly. Facebook has about 101 million users with more than 50 percent who log in daily. If you haven't spent any time on these sites, I highly recommend setting up an account and jumping into a conversation or community. It's one thing to talk about social media marketing and another to experience it firsthand. You'll be a more effective social media marketer if you're already a participant.

What is Social Media?

Social media essentially is a category of online media where people are talking, participating, sharing, networking, and bookmarking online. Most social media services encourage discussion, feedback, voting, comments, and sharing of information from all interested parties.

It's more of a two-way conversation, rather than a one-way broadcast like traditional media. Another unique aspect of social media is the idea of staying connected or linked to other sites, resources, and people.

Kinds of Social Media

Many social media sites come in the form of a blog, microblog, podcast, videocast, forum, wiki, or some kind of content community. To help you understand social media better, let's break them down into basic forms or groups.
  • Social news: Sites like Digg, Sphinn, Newsvine, and BallHype let you read about news topics and then vote and/or comment on the articles. Articles with more votes get promoted to a more prominent position.

  • Social sharing: Sites like Flickr, Snapfish, YouTube, and Jumpcut let you create, upload, and share videos or photos with others.

  • Social networks: Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter allow you to find and link to other people. Once linked or connected, you can keep up to date with that person's contact info, interests, posts, etc. Many people are connecting to friends and business associates with whom they had fallen out of touch. It's bringing the world together like nothing else has.

  • Social bookmarking: Sites like Delicious, Faves, StumbleUpon, BlogMarks and Diigo allow you to find and bookmark sites and information of interest. You can save your bookmarks online and access them from anywhere or share them with others.
This is just a sampling of social media sites. More are added daily. Breaking them down into these categories or groups will help you understand their focus and to consider which avenue is right for your approach to social media marketing.

Social Media Benefits

Let's look at the general scope of social media universe. Did you know:
  • Five of the top 10 fastest-growing Web brands are user-generated content sites?

  • Sixty-seven percent of businesses say that the best source for advice on products and services are their consumers?

  • Forty-five percent of adult Internet users have created content online?

  • There are about 1.2 million blog posts per day?
So do you think it would benefit you to tap into this ever-growing universe of social media? Absolutely! Many companies are trying to figure out how to get involved. They're shifting money from traditional marketing budgets to social media marketing because it:
  • Helps manage your company's or brand's reputation.
  • Builds brand awareness and helps improve how people view your brand.
  • Gets you closer to your customers. Learn about their needs then respond. Discuss converse, debate.
  • Offers creative and effective ways to learn insights not previously available.
  • Features new and inexpensive ways to support your clients.
  • Is typically less expensive than traditional advertising.
  • Offers various ways to measure and track performance.
A good corporate example to illustrate many of these principles is from Dell. They started IdeaStorm, where people can post ideas and have them voted on. Can you say free market research? Who better to tell you how to create or improve your products and services than your customers? Cool, huh?

Now that we have a basic understanding of what social media marketing is and its benefits, the next step is to learn more about how to build your own social media strategy. That's next in Part 2.

In the meantime, take a look at some of the Social Media Marketing columns here at Search Engine Watch to learn more on this topic.

PART 2

Social Media Marketing (SMM) can be a great arrow in your quiver of marketing tools. To leverage it correctly, you must consider first what you want to accomplish. How will it fit in with, or complement your overall marketing plan?

Your SMM efforts will be more productive if you take time developing a plan or strategy. Lee Odden has a nice article about social media marketing strategy where he shares some ideas that could be useful.

Listen -- Conversation Mining

One way to develop a plan or strategy: listen to what's being said. Do some conversation mining. How do people feel about you and your brand? What are their points of view?

Identify who the key influentials are, and which ones should you cooperate with. What are the various topics? Is the tone of the conversation heated? Do people favor one point of view over the other, or is it mixed?

To start the conversation mining process, you should subscribe to RSS feeds of news alerts related to your company and brands on Google News, as well as saved searches on Technorati. Then identify other blogs, forums, or review sites that are related to your business. Where possible, subscribe to RSS feeds from these sites, so that you'll be able to keep updated on many sites at the same time. What you learn from this process will help you refine your strategy.

Social Media Types and Tools

At this point, it's a good idea to figure out the best social media type or tool to help your campaign. In Part 1, I reviewed four types of social media tools/sites. Decide which ones can best help you accomplish your goals.

Experiment with them and see how they work. Does one have the right features or seem to cater to a more suitable audience for your campaign? Do you need special technology in place before you begin? Do you need to produce a video or a podcast before you start the campaign? What kind of content do you need to create?

As you try to answer these questions, take a look at a very nice list of social media marketing examples that Peter Kim has organized. His list can be sorted by brand, industry, social media type and SMM example. This should help you as you decide which type is best for your strategy.

Start or Participate in the Conversation -- Engage

Armed with the right social media type(s), now's the time to start the blog or launch the Facebook page. Engage in the conversation and ignite a debate or express your point of view.

As you become a proactive participant, it's important to note here that you need to be prepared to invest the time to keep the conversation going. Social media marketing isn't something to get involved in for the short term. Make sure you have the resources and time available before you begin.

If you've found that your company is being discussed, especially if it's negative, don't be passive. Be respectful and state your case. Many times your critics might become advocates if you honestly address the complaints, thus turning a negative into a positive. This is one of the ways social media marketing can help with reputation management.

Measuring Social Media Marketing

The ability to measure the effectiveness of marketing activities and calculating ROI is imperative to any company's marketing strategy. Social media marketing isn't as easy to measure as other online vehicles, but it can be done.

If you've already identified your success metrics, then you're ahead of the game. Assigning monetary values to these metrics will help you in assigning an ROI value.

Depending on your success metrics, you might look at content consumption. Who's reading your content and where are they coming from?

You can also look at how much or little is being contributed and the number of visitors who are interacting with your content. Take a look at a click report to see how many people are adding you to social bookmarking sites like Delicious or StumbleUpon. To get an idea of who's talking about you, do a blog search on Technorati or search your domain name in the major search engines with "link:http://www.yoursite.com" (substituting "yoursite.com" with your actual URL, of course).

Because most SMM campaigns are designed to drive traffic to your Web site, you should get a traffic source report from your Web analytics tool. For more information, see my columns on Wen analytics. From those traffic sources that are coming from SMM efforts, look at unique visitors, page views, time spent on site, frequency of visits and conversions.

If you have a profile on LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace, you can always monitor the number of friends or profile visits you have to get a pulse on the vitality of your profile.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Because SMM takes time to nurture and grow, it's important that you follow this cycle of listening, engaging, and then measuring. Then make course corrections to your strategy and repeat. I'm sure that social media marketing will become a very powerful marketing tool for you.


BIOGRAPHY

Ron is President/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, which provides strategic SEM consulting and training. Ron is actively involved in the SEM community and speaks at conferences and seminars, as well as hosting regional SEM events where he provides participants SEM training and education best practices. Ron also serves on the Board of Directors for SEMPO and is also one of the authors for the SEMPO Institute Fundamentals and Advanced courses.



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