No longer viewed as a passing trend, having a social media presence is now an essential part of marketing for any business looking to secure a place in the digital market. Websites are no longer enough; all online marketing needs to be supported by a responsive utilization of the tools offered by social media. In order to get the most out of social media platforms we need to first understand what each of them represents and how they can benefit our business; more importantly, we need to develop an innate understanding of our customer, what they need and the reasons why.
It’s also essential that we understand the value of sharing, collaborating and connecting with similar businesses and related industries. Not all platforms will suit your business and trying to market on all of them can be extremely time consuming, expensive and confusing, so think carefully before deciding which ones are going to be most relevant to you. Webheads can obviously consult and help you with but it’s a great starting point if you have a basic understanding of the Social Media landscape before with sit down with you.
Facebook is the most widely viewed social media platform with over 1 billion users. Facebook offers several marketing avenues but the easiest and cheapest option is to build a business page or profile, upload photographs and information about your business and then personalise it to suit your needs. The advantage of this is that users are able to comment on the content; the downside is that Facebook uses EdgeRank to determine the visibility of posts and the only way to overcome this is by posting content which people are likely to interact with.
Twitter has recently overtaken Facebook as the brand marketing platform of choice because it offers unique opportunities for website integration and allows brands to engage with customers in a viral way, helping your company stand out and allowing it an opportunity to grow in personality and popularity. The difficulty is that there is an unwritten rulebook to being a leader of the ‘twittersphere’; it’s an art form, a precarious balancing act between too much and not enough, and finding that balance is entirely dependent on your ability to engage your desired audience.
Linkedin is a more business focussed social media platform and has become extremely popular with the recruitment companies because individuals use linkedin as an online Curriculum Vitae, while businesses are able to upload a company profile and generate links to their website as well as start discussions within their given industry as well as among employees and peers. In terms of SEO (search engine optimisation), it can create a greater presence than your twitter or facebook page; if the company name or name of an employee is searched for, you will almost certainly find your linkedin page in the first page of search results.
Google+ had been developed as a sharing platform using the integration of all of the available Google services and has several facets which other platforms do not. It’s ‘promote’ option allows you to customise promotional content and direct this at certain groups of followers, while the ‘measure’ feature provides an analysis of how the page is being used. It is also particularly useful for SEO because using the Google platform allows search results to be more relevant. Successful Inbound Marketing is predicated on being found when relevant prospects conduct an Internet search; Google+ is a great way to increase your chances.
YouTube uses video sharing to allow you to engage with your audience visually; it’s a powerful marketing tool and allows businesses to format and brand their own channel however, it is often overlooked as a business resource and only a handful of brands have managed to create successful viral video advertising campaigns. Often this is because businesses think that the cost of video is much higher; this is often true but not always the case, all it takes is a little careful planning and smart production. If a picture can speak a thousand words, how much can you convey in a video?
Here’s a great infographic from Internet and Social Media guru, Guy Kawasaki. Guy is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and was one of the Apple employees originally responsible for marketing the Macintosh in 1984!
Pinterest is an image sharing facility which allows the user to create ‘pin boards’ with different category headings and to then ‘pin’ interesting images to them with links, either to their own website where the image is stored, or to other websites where images have been found. Pinterest users are able to ‘re-pin’ your images which is a great way to spread brand awareness through a simple visual which can then be linked back to your company website. There is also a ‘Pin It’ tool for browsers which makes it easy to share items and which is a huge contributing factor in the platforms popularity.
Tumblr is both an image sharing site and micro-blogging social platform; it is most popular with under 25’s and is not a very popular business marketing tool but can be useful depending on the brand. Flickr is yet another image sharing site; it is a great place to store images to use on other platforms or in your blog or website as the images stored on Flickr cannot be copied and are often shown higher in search results. Blogs can also be useful if you have the time and ideas required to write one, but developing content and ensuring that your blog stays relevant and up to date can be hard work.
Maintaining a presence across all the platforms is difficult so it’s really important to choose a few which are most relevant to your business and which are most used by your target audience, and then to manage these efficiently. The key to successful social media marketing is to know your own business; a large corporation is going to have different needs and will require a very different approach to social media marketing than a small business will in order to be successful. Some companies are afraid of using social media because they are concerned about being ‘naked’ and ‘exposed’ and there is a fear that negative comments about the company which are viewed by the public will have a disastrous impact. It may be worth considering that if your company can be badly affected by the opinions of a few, then perhaps there are bigger issues to address internally before you embark on a journey into the unfamiliar territory of social media marketing.
Talk is cheap, as they say, but effective talk is extremely valuable and the only way to be effective is to understand the people you are talking to and know how to engage them; if a brand doesn’t know who their fans are, how can they have an engaging conversation with them? Marketing through interactive dialogue can be challenging but also very rewarding; social media marketing is focussed on creating content which encourages readers to interact with it and share it amongst themselves.
It is an easily accessible marketing platform which has increased communication among organisations and which helps to improve brand awareness and customer service once the brand begins to identify and engage with its consumer. It is also a cost effective platform for marketing campaigns and can be hugely beneficial when attempting to reach a larger audience. With such huge potential benefits, it really is worth taking the time to invest in understanding social media and developing your social media marketing.