Social media marketing is a powerful, economical and effective way of gaining exposure for your small or medium enterprise. However, getting started in the realm of social media can be a bit daunting. There are thousands of social media tools and web sites available and it might be difficult to choose which ones will work best for your company. Generally, there are a few staples of social media that every business should have.
An essential part of any social media marketing campaign is a blog. Blogging is often overlooked by businesses, large and small alike. They incorrectly assume that blogging is too informal a medium to get their message across. The truth is that blogging is what you make of it. It can be as formal, relevant, appropriate and informative as you chose to make it. Some very successful international businesses have helped to make their name in blogging. IBM, for example has a huge network of employee blogs. IBM blogs about just about every aspect of their business, getting the message across that they are experts in their field.
Blogs offer a great way of adding relevant content to a web site and a good opportunity to use keywords appropriately and frequently – an essential element of getting Google to rank your web site high. Blogs are a useful tool in gaining or retaining respect in your industry, increasing web traffic and attracting new clients by showing that you know what you’re talking about. Preferably, a blog should be hosted within a subfolder of the same domain as the rest of the web site, for example ‘yourwebsite.com/blog’. If that’s not possible, there are free blogging platforms available where a user can create and host their own blog on the fly, these include Blogger and WordPress.
Micro-blogging is a bit like the name suggests, it’s made up of tiny snippets of information sent in reverse chronological order on a micro-blogging site. Twitter is a a popular micro-blogging web site that allows its users to send and read updates from ‘followers’. These updates are called ‘tweets’, which are posts of up to 140 characters long. Tweets are displayed on the user’s profile page and sent to the home pages other users who have decided to ‘follow’ them. Users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter website, through several external applications and via cell phone.
Twitter is useful to businesses by allowing them a platform to talk about industry news and trends, to promote their brand and services and to gain online exposure. A successful Twitter account can easily glean several thousand followers, which in turn drives traffic to the user’s web site and increases sales.
Social Networking Web Sites
Social networking web sites allow you to create personal profiles where you can enter in personal information, pictures and video. Users make ‘friends’ or ‘connections’ with other users, creating a virtual network of online friends.
Facebook is a highly popular and free social networking web site with about 250 million users. Users can join networks (by city, workplace, school and region) and connect and interact with other people. Users add friends, send both public and private messages, and update their personal profiles to connect with their friends.
Businesses promote themselves on Facebook by creating Facebook Pages, a fan page where users can follow and show interest and support for a business. Good Facebook pages that attract fans and clients are those that incorporate great pictures, lots of relevant content and even some videos. This is a great place to add links to your blog, photos of your product, videos (if possible), discount coupons and links to any other social media accounts that you may have on other web sites.
Social Bookmarking Web Sites
Del.icio.us, StubleUpon, Mixx, Digg, Reddit and other similar sites are termed social bookmarking web sites. Social bookmarking sites allow you to submit web pages, articles, blogs and other online content. Other users will vote on them and rank them. The number of votes determines which entries are presented highest in the list of content. The highest ranked items gain the most exposure and the most page hits. These types of sites often generate a lot of traffic for the owner’s web pages. Businesses successfully use these sites for promotion purposes by entering their own web content and promoting it. Great content will get great reviews and with luck, will become online phenomenon.
Photo and Video Sharing
Video sharing allows you to upload and share videos web sites such as YouTube. Other users can watch the videos, share them, rate them and comment on them. Similarly, photo sharing tools allow you to upload and post photographs online to share them with other users. Photos or videos done in creative, unique or entertaining ways, often return great amounts of web site traffic and clientele to the originating company. For example, Blendtec, a blender manufacturer, created the ‘Will it Blend?’ YouTube campaign. The campaign is funny and engaging and subsequently got a lot of attention. Blendtec’s sales have risen 700% since the campaign’s inception.
There are a wide range of social media tools businesses can use for online marketing. Although not all available sources of social media marketing are mentioned here, this is a great start. Web 2.0 savvy businesses are using these must-have tools as a part of their marketing plans as they begin to recognize that social media is an effective and inexpensive way to reach clients and increase sales.