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Getting Started with Social Media Marketing
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Getting Started with Social Media Marketing
One of the fastest growing channels for business to reach out to existing customers and potential customers is social media. As Business.gov blogger Caron Beesley found, more and more small businesses are adopting social media as a way to market themselves.
That’s no surprise when you consider how quickly social networking sites have become part of people’s lives. OPEN Forum’s Julia Rogers notes that Facebook alone has well over 300 million users, half of whom log in daily to track what their friends—and in some cases, favorite businesses and brands—are doing and saying. But with the world of social networks, blogs, and online communities exploding so rapidly, where is a small business to begin?
Many of us live in a networked world—we use our connections with people through other media all the time to reach out to potential customers, partners, and vendors. Whether or not you already use social media, you already likely have an electronic extension of your social and business network--whether it be through something as simple as a contact lists on your mobile phone, or the inbox of your email.
The key is understanding that social media is just an extension of your existing efforts to reach out to those same people, and others like them— but allows you to cast a much larger net. But don’t think that just jumping on one of the social networks or starting a blog is going to be a magic bullet for your business’ marketing needs.
Success in social media marketing depends on the same sort of planning, understanding of customers and hard work that more traditional marketing channels require. Here are some tips on where to start, and how to succeed:
Start small. When you start out with social media, expect there to be a learning curve as you figure out how things work. Blogging and using social networking sites can become a time-consuming process, and it’s best to take baby steps first and build on your successes rather than going big right out of the gate. You should grow your social media presence naturally as part of your overall marketing efforts, focusing on what works best to reach potential customers and increase your business’ profile. If your first effort isn’t successful, don’t be reluctant to drop it and move onto the next one.
Pick the network or networks that match your customers. Understand the demographics of each social network, and focus on the ones where your customer base will most likely be—when they’re most receptive to being pitched by you. For example, if you’re in a professional services business or sell mostly to other businesses, LinkedIn may be the best community to start with—it’s focused on business networking, and users should be more receptive to being approached through LinkedIn than they might be on their personal Facebook account.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to reach a group of consumers—upper-income women with children, for example --- Facebook might be your best network choice. According to Quantcast.com’s demographics, 58% of Facebook’s audience makes over $60,000 a year, 47% of its audience have children under 18, and 55% are women.
Find communities that match your product—or start your own. Business.gov guest blogger Craig Colgan says you should look for communities that are a close match to your product and participate in them – or, if you can’t find one, build a community of your own within an existing social network. Facebook and Twitter provide search tools that can help you to find people with interests that would make them more likely to follow what you’re up to—and buy your product. Once you’ve located them, you can invite them to join a “fan” page on Facebook (either for your product itself, or, more likely, a general topic of interest that aligns with your marketing efforts) or “follow” them on Twitter.
Keep an eye out for word of mouth. Because of the nature of social media, you can’t control what people are saying about your business. But if you don’t pay attention to it, and actively seek out what people are saying, you may find your reputation is being damaged. Watch social review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and UrbanSpoon to track customer sentiment before it bites you. And search Twitter for comments about your business so that you can engage customers and show you’re interested in their opinions.
Lastly, don’t forget the “work” part of network—it takes real labor and thought to use social media to reach the right people and turn them into customers or business partners. If you aren’t actively creating content for a blog, a social network page, or community site, you don’t exist to your potential customers. Keep talking to people who leave comments and “follow” your content, making the connection personal. Don’t be afraid to test different marketing strategies in different social media—and walk away from the ones that don’t work.