If you are an individual or small business who is looking to get started with social media marketing, you have your work cut out for you. You must first examine the landscape to see if marketing, using social media is even a viable solution. If your current or potential customers are engaging online, odds are you need to be as well. Before you get started, have you asked the right questions? Done all your homework? Using the five W's, and the occasional H, I decided to put that into the context of social media marketing.
The keyword here is demographics. Who exactly are you trying to market to, single women, generation X'ers, parents etc? What are their household incomes, and can they afford your product? By knowing as much as you can about your customer's profile, you can target your marketing efforts more efficiently, and minimize wasted costs. This is more true with a niche product than anything else.
Advertising budgets are tightening today more then ever. You need to spend that money more wisely and effectively. Consider buying advertising on blogs, as opposed to a traditional and rather costly PPC campaign. First and foremost, search engine traffic is still king, but you can not rely on it solely as your pot of gold. Staying consistent with your marketing efforts in social media by default increases your visibility in search. Play your cards right and you can eventually start to lower the cost ofPPC spending, and in time totally eliminate it.
Don't get me wrong, social media is not the viable and end-all solution for every business. Search engine traffic, whether it's organic or paid always needs to be a top area of focus and never overlooked. The fact of the matter is, when people are looking for something, they resort to search engines first. How will you fare in the search results? Social media is an excellent link building tool, learn some of the SEO basics and be consistent, and you will achieve better search results.
The other part of the who, is who are the influencers? In social media we refer to influencers such as Robert Scoble, Chris Brogan,and Louis Gray. Build relationships and target the specific thought-leaders that are related to your industry. Influencers in their own respect have broad reach and influence over potential buyers. Influential marketing is a gateway, seed it small, and it will grow fast. Remember the name of the game with this is time, forming relationships meaningful at that, takes plenty of it. In addition to influencers, target and focus efforts on the "New Influencers ". These are power social media consumers. These are the prominent bloggers, people who upload the most videos to YouTube, the power diggers and stumblers. They are the most vocal and active on their social networks and so forth. They have to some extent a loyal and large following, and with that comes a certain degree of power and influence. YOU might even be a new influencer, and you don't even know it.
What are the tools, mechanisms and channels that you will use? A grassroots marketing campaign will require pulling out all the stops. Starting a blog is mandatory, choosing the platform is next, WordPress or Blogger, self hosted or service hosted? What social networking sites/communities should my business be participating on, Facebook, MySpace, or both? Which is better targeted for my product? Do we need to set up a Twitter account? What will the Twitter account be used for,conversing or broadcasting? Explore and try new channels, podcasting, and creating original video are some examples. Something I touched upon in the beginning was search engine traffic. What is more effective cost wise, time invested in pay per click campaigns, or time invested with human social media efforts, or both? What channels, if any should we spend marketing dollars on, banner/text links on blogs, ads on Youtube, on Facebook, branded audio spots on podcasts ? I'm sure I'm leaving plenty out, but you see where I'm headed on this one. Find use and learn the essential tools that you will require for publishing, promoting and listening.
Consider what amount of time you are willing to commit to your marketing efforts. What are your objectives, a hard sell, creating brand awareness, buzz, or recognition? What markets am I going after? Should I focus on international, domestic or both?
The time is now. A majority of smaller and medium sized businesses are not engaging in social media. Are you one of them? Don't hesitate any longer. Your competitors are using it and there is no reason why you shouldn't be too. The traditional and costly marketing methods such as print are becoming less and less effective. Consumers have adapted with the times, so don't get left behind. You can achieve better results with a social media advertising campaign for a fraction of the costs, compared to old school traditional ways of marketing.
Where is the conversation taking place? Where should you respond and engage on, Twitter, your blog, Facebook? Where should you create outposts? Go where the existing and potential user-base is and establish a presence, it's that simple. Never spread yourself too thin, but don't go overboard either, otherwise you end up creating more work than really needs to be done.
The question should read more like why not? Your customers are using it. With the current economic crisis, a recession, and no sign of things getting better, marketing budgets are being slashed. What are your alternatives? I have already talked about some of the positives, such as it's cheaper and more effective than the old school traditional ways of marketing. Social media, because of it's medium, brings globalization to your company's front door. It's easy and anyone can do it, just as long as they are willing to invest their time into it by learning, and participating. Your competitors, especially the ones in the know, are already are using social media. Have you noticed? Social media is about conversation. You want people talking about your product, spreading the word, and creating brand awareness in the process.
Social media is not a rush job. It's not about creating a website, Twitter or Facebook account and calling it a day. Don't be fooled or mislead by the hype, the tools are only the facilitators of the message. Yes they are important, but without a basic understanding of how to use them, they are in effect rendered useless and become nothing more than a one way megaphone, with no one listening at the other end.
I will end with a little more food for thought:
- How are we going to participate?
- How are we going to create openness?
- How are we going to create, find and react to the conversation?
- How do we find and create community around our product?
Image by Leo Reynolds under Creative Commons license.
Read more by Mike Fruchter at MichaelFruchter.com.