Social Media Marketing (SMM) – Definition:
Using social networking and user-generated content services to promote a product, service or content. It often involves starting or participating in a dialogue with the target audience.
SMM is about establishing credibility and trust so that people want to do business with you, rather than trying to persuade them through advertising and other traditional marketing methods.
Social Media Marketing has taken the Internet by storm. Suddenly everyone is talking about it.
Search on Google and you’ll find dozens of articles and websites about these new techniques. Some of the stuff you’ll find is excellent, most is average and the rest is just plain wrong.
This document is not by any means an exhaustive look at the subject. That would need a book. It is a guide to the essentials.
Most people fail at SMM because they drown trying to do too much. My advice is to do a few things really well and then expand your activities from this strong foundation.
If you follow the advice in this article you will have a very effective SMM campaign up and running very quickly. Everything I talk about is tried and tested and proven to work.
Marketing on the Internet is continually evolving.
In the early days (late ‘90’s) online advertisers focused on reaching the largest possible audience. The thinking was if they threw enough mud against the wall some of it would stick. Headline making deals were done for banner ads and sponsorships on the major portals, but the little guy didn’t get a look in.
Then in 2003 Google introduced Adwords. This was a genuine revolution.
Ads were only served to pages with relevant content and advertisers only paid if their ads were clicked on. The shotgun had been swapped for a rifle; relevant ads aimed at a relevant audience. Suddenly small businesses were able to get out of the car park and onto the ball park.
But the more people that used Adwords, the higher the price and the less cost-effective it became (today Adwords remains popular but once again it’s the big advertisers who have muscled in).
This led to many of the early adopters to look elsewhere.
They re-focused their attention to optimizing their websites for the search engines to generate free traffic. Free search engine listings tended to generate better quality traffic, but this too had its limitations and risks. Google could play God; one day you are on page one of the search results, then next day … poof… like Houdini in a mirrored box, you’ve disappeared. And there is nothing you can do about it, except plead and beg to be re-listed.
Entrepreneurs and marketers needed to find a cost effective way of getting relevant traffic without over-dependence on Google.
The answer was to build up a good reputation on the Internet amongst the people who were most interested in your subject. These people would then become your followers, evangelists and ultimately bring new customers to your door.
And so Social Media Marketing was born (although the title came along long after it was established).
SMM is about:
• Making yourself VISIBLE amongst your target audience
• Building CREDIBILITY amongst your followers
• Turning the trust and relationship into PROFIT
Traditional marketing is focused on interrupting an audience to grab their attention. Social media marketing is about interacting with an audience to gain their trust.
Visibility => Credibility => Profitability
Visibility is all about getting a presence in as many places as possible where your target audience hangs out. Your aim is to get your name about so it is associated with your area of expertise.
Once visible you need to establish credibility.
This is about engaging in a deeper way with your core audience.
You need to let people know just how well informed you are and more importantly how happy you are to share what you know.
At the heart of SMM is the belief that you will reap what you sow; give and you will receive; treat others how you want others to treat you; to have friends, you’ve got to be a friend … you get my point!
The leading SMM practitioners I know always say look after the visibility and credibility and the profitability will look after itself.
That said, you must have a clear commercial goal, preferably measured in dollars.
The Three Types of Social Media
Within SMM there are three broad activities which you should be involved with. There is quite a bit of overlap between them:
• Publishing – you publish information for others to read, watch or listen to. You can publish on sites or using tools you control such as a blog, or you can publish on third party sites such as Wikipedia or YouTube
• Sharing – you share with your friends and followers third-party sites and content that you find interesting and valuable. Sharing is done via bookmarking sites such as Digg, Stumbleupon and Del.icio.us or through the likes of Twitter
• Networking – networking is about joining and interacting with groups of people who have common interests. Some network sites cover all interests such as FaceBook and MySpace. Others are built around niche interests such as Ecademy, a network for entrepreneurs
The Three-Part Social Media Marketing Plan
Visibility is about being ‘seen’ in the places your audience hang out.
You need to become a valuable and high profile contributor to the community. This means asking and answering questions; offering advice; and supporting others.
The first thing you need to do (if you haven’t done it already) is identify the sites where your audience go.
• Blogs (search on Google for Your Subject + Blog)
o Add comments (publishing)
o Write guest articles (publishing)
o Bookmark good blogs (sharing)
• Forums (search on Google for Your Subject + Forum)
• Add reviews to relevant books on Amazon
• Add videos to YouTube
• Add photos to Flickr
• Add articles to experts sites (Squidoo, Hubpages, eHow, About.com)
• Participate in any active communities related to your niche
To cover a wide range of sites you need to use your time wisely.
• Eliminate duplication
• Bookmark all the sites you regularly use
• Cluster activity together into regular daily or weekly slots
• Go to the most active sites daily, the fairly active sites weekly and don’t bother with the least active
• Always try to find a reason to link to your own sites
• Remember it is better to create one or two well thought out posts than dozens of superficial comments
• Continually review the sites you visit and keep an eye out for new sites
• Use services that bring all this information into one place (see below)
If visibility is about reaching as many people as possible, credibility is about building depth within your target audience.
If visibility is about being seen on other people’s websites and in the broad community; credibility is about publishing on sites where you have control.
Building credibility is far more time-consuming than visibility creating activities. However, it is also far more valuable. Once you establish yourself as a leading expert in your niche the world will beat a path to your door.
Content needs to be well thought-out and professionally presented.
On the Internet you are what you write.
Whatever you publish on your credibility sites, it needs to engage, excite and build trust with your audience.
There are dozens of sites where you can publish your own profile, build lists of friends and interact with your community. However I believe that the maximum number you can actively participate in is between three and five.
The ones I recommend for everyone are:
• LinkedIn – business networking site (networking)
• Facebook – publish your profile and network (networking)
• Twitter – the ability to send short messages to your friends and community (publishing/sharing/networking)
• Set up a blog – the blog can either be your only website or it can be complimentary to your business website (publishing)
Optionally you can find a networking site which is dedicated to your niche or area of interest. I use:
• Ecademy – a community for entrepreneurs and small businesses (networking)
All the activity you undertake to build visibility and credibility should have a commercial goal. If it doesn’t then it is just a leisure activity and should be treated as such. It should be kept out of your working day.
I recommend to entrepreneurs and small business owners that they have a website which is solely focused on whatever makes them money. This could be:
• a membership website which charges a subscription for access to premium content
• a shop selling physical products
• a shop selling digital downloads (ebooks, software, music, etc)
• design, development or consultancy services
• promotion of workshops or other events
• lead generation for offline businesses
By having a separate website it minimizes conflicts of interest when building visibility and credibility. If all your blog posts are on a website with big ‘Buy Now’ buttons everywhere, visitors naturally question your independence and motives.
If you do a good enough job at building visibility and credibility, your followers will naturally become paying customers. You won’t need to sell to them because by the time they come to buy they will know all about you, your expertise and the value they are likely to receive from your product or service.
Good social media marketers are never short of business.
Next: Part 2 - How to Get Started with Social Media Marketing