There is usually a hype-cycle that occurs during the early adoption phase of anything new. And in the Social Media Marketing (SMM) space, you will find a broad range of vendors, consultants and suppliers who have rushed in to take advantage of the “next big thing”. While most are honorable in their intentions, there is a subset of vendors who will:
- Make it sound so much more difficult than it is
- Promise unrealistic and over inflated results
This occurred during the early years of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and this hype is now occurring with social media. Do not be fooled by the “rainmakers”. There is a lot of snake oil being sold today. If you are going to use an outside agency or vendor to help you please make sure you vet their qualifications fully. The best way to not get taken advantage of by the Social Media Rainmakers is to do your homework first, develop a plan and even consider taking a marketing benchmark to see what your competition is doing. You may still get hounded, but the power of knowledge can help keep you from wasting your time.
Web 2.0 Marketing: For the last five to ten years, the Web was largely an informational channel. However in the past few years, the Internet has become increasingly interactive and social in nature. New forms of community-based channels, driven by a change in customer behavior, are starting to evolve the landscape of the Internet. Social Media Marketing (SMM) has now been added to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and other marketing practices that comprise Web 2.0 Marketing
5 Helpful Social Media Tips: As with any form of communications, if you follow sound marketing fundamentals, use good judgment and take the time to learn best practices, the use of Web 2.0 and Social Media Marketing does not take a rocket scientist to implement. Experienced marketing and corporate communications professionals can easily obtain the skills and knowledge to effectively take advantage of the benefits. There are a lot of free tools and sites available that you can use and learn from. But keep in mind, that while there is significant upside to this new media if done right, there are also documented case studies of companies doing it wrong that has hurt their brand reputation. It is important to approach this new media in the right way. Here are 5 helpful tips:
- Not all Social Media Sites Are Created Equally Creating connections with your target audience is important. However, are you making contact with the right ones that will provide you value? Each social media site has a slightly different brand, member make-up and topics they are interested in. Spend time to understand the sites that are out there and select the ones that attract the audiences you want to interact and build a relationship with.
- Focus on Giving Value First Social media is all about giving to the community. Before you get accepted you need to first give value. If you are seen as only there to sell or for your own self-interest, people will not respond to you. It is a great place to showcase to them your thought leadership. Look for ways to differentiate yourself by providing valuable content and they will seek you out.
- People Do Business with People They Like Customers want to buy from people they like and respect. Once they have an affinity for your expertise and what your company/product stands for they will reward you. It is OK to open up and show your personality. Social media is based on trust and making connections that create a mutual benefit. Like-minded contacts will follow you.
- Create a Fan Base Social media communities are becoming an important way where people trade stories and provide critiques on products, companies, people, etc. The people in your community can represent the best way to advertise – by word of mouth. Create a reason for your contacts to be a fan and to become a referral for you.
- You Can’t Evaluate What You Don’t Measure There are a variety of free tools that allow you to monitor the conversations that are taking place on various social media and blog sites. You need to monitor, evaluate and judge the dialog that is taking place regarding your company and products. When keeping a close watch on the dialog you can make corrections or change to the way you interact with your communities to create the greatest value.
Social Media is Different: While social media can be viewed as an extension or a component of Search Engine Marketing, it really is quite different. In many respects, it fits under the broader category of word-of-mouth marketing – which can either be online or offline driven. The key difference is that it relies on the collective nature of social groups that have similar interests, like to share information and who want to establish relationships. When integrated into your overall Web 2.0 marketing plans, it can be a powerful new strategy. There are many objectives achievable through Web 2.0 marketing and social media:
- Drive increased Web traffic
- Create relevant links to your Website
- Increase brand awareness
- Improve conversions
- Stimulate conversations
- Establish relationships and create brand affinity
Focus on Strategic Planning: While outside agencies can be a big help, do your homework first to learn what makes social media tick. Spend time visiting and participating in online communities and doing a little reading. It really is not that difficult to implement correctly. Before deciding on the social media path that best fits your business model, you need to gain a deeper understanding of your customers’ needs, wants, issues, passions, concerns, and the communities in which they participate in, and so on…
Benchmark Your Current Position: As part of your strategic development process you should also benchmark your current execution level, gain a better understanding of what your competition is doing and develop a road map focused on what you want to accomplish through social media channels.
Social Media Marketing is not as hard as it seems or in some cases portrayed by social media rainmakers. If you plan to use an outside resource, the more you know about social media yourself the better you can manage the value you gain from using agencies that focus on building your network/community/following. Social media is a new channel you can take advantage of. Do your homework first by developing a plan and you can achieve success.
Jim Arnold is a results-oriented marketing professional who has held leadership roles with IBM, EDS, Sabre/Travelocity and other notable companies. He is a forward-thinking strategist who has a passion for testing innovative ideas, developing new go-to-market strategies and leveraging the latest Web 2.0 marketing technologies to drive increased levels of business value. He recently co-founded MetricsBoard, a new Web 3.0 performance benchmarking company that is crowd-verified and crowd-generated.