There is no doubt about it; social media is here to stay. While the thought of venturing in into the realm of social media can be intimidating, the thing to remember is to start small, start with a purpose, and work to grow your social media marketing strategy over time.
The trajectory of social networking continues to rise and gain momentum.
In fact, in 2010, 9 out of every 10 U.S. Internet users visited a social networking site each month and in 2010 social networking sites accounted for 12 percent of all time spent online, with an average Internet user spending more than 4.5 hours on these sites each month.
Social networking has become ingrained in our lives and is quickly becoming the preferred form of communication for countless individuals.
Facebook, the social networking behemoth, accounted for 10 percent of U.S. page views in 2010, and three out of every ten Internet sessions included a visit to this site.
(2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review: A Recap of the Year in Digital Media)
Why Use Social Media?
Aside from the fact that these sites are widely popular, they do provide numerous benefits to companies and organizations that are willing to invest in this type of marketing strategy.
These sites can assist in recruiting new employees, helping to establish trust with customers, working to build positive word of mouth buzz and establishing your company as an authority in your field of business. They can also assist with garnering research on your customers and testing out new product ideas.
Internally, they can also increase employee communication and feedback, assist with business process improvements and work to streamline project management efforts.
Where to Begin
As stated earlier, start small, but start smart.
Determine which sites to target
Figure out which sites your current and potential clients are visiting and focus on utilizing those for your social media efforts. Also assess what your competition is doing and don’t be afraid to review the efforts of large, successful companies. You can often glean tips and tricks to utilize on a smaller scale.
Establish goals and set metrics
Are you trying to raise brand awareness, sell more products, build relationships, position yourself as a thought leader, or all of the above? It is extremely important to evaluate how successful your strategy is. Measure how much your social media sites are being utilized and survey customers about their knowledge of them.
Align your tone and messaging
Since your vehicle for communication is changing, you also have to consider how you should change the tone of your messaging. Social media is much more casual than traditional marketing and it is also much more indirect.
Become a thought leader
Individuals see right through a campaign that is all about you and your business, instead, focus on sharing how your products and services can make the lives of your customers better and easier.
Don’t be afraid to share information that isn’t specifically about your company. Sharing valuable information establishes trust with your customer base; it shows them that you care about their success.
Make the time commitment and be timely
Social media is about starting and maintaining a conversation. You need to be active in order for social media to benefit your business. Set aside time each day to review what people are saying and to partake in the conversation.
Integrate your social media strategies with each other and with your traditional marketing plans
Ensure your messaging and branding remains consist. The last thing you want to do is jeopardize, weaken or dilute your brand.
Take a deep breath and jump right in because you have to start somewhere. As long as your content is valuable, you will see that people are interested in what you have to say.
Keith Barrett is a leading search engine optimization expert, with specific interest in social media marketing. His company, Search South, offers small business SEO services, as well as a wider range of approaches for businesses of all sizes.
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