Social media marketing is a term getting batted around pretty regularly in big-business circles these days. In the Facebook Age it can come as no surprise that advertisers, entrepreneurs, and vendors are turning their sights on social media giants like Zuckerberg’s (in)famous super-platform, as well as other market staples like Twitter and the faltering Google+. The sheer volume of traffic on these sites, combined with their heavy interconnectedness (live feeds shared between Twitter, Blogspot, Facebook, etc), creates an environment friendly to advertisers who can contrive ways to make their brands stand out.
To break it down, social media marketing is the process of accruing traffic for a website via advertising, backlinks, or word of mouth on social media sites like Facebook. Programs related to or contracted by social media marketers place their focus, usually, on creating attention-getting content conducive to being shared, going viral, and generally making the rounds throughout the wider sphere of online social networking.
Once a brand’s or agency’s message is picked up, whether from a feed or from their page, and shared by a fan, the message acquires the legitimacy of personal contact. While market research suggests that a “professional” or “corporate” media distribution venue can contribute to users’ feelings of distrust for the brand, personal third-party shares, retweets, and recommendations help to alleviate this distrust and inspire confidence. The message’s resonance with others in the social media community will then increase, making social media marketing a word-of-mouth marketing technique that leads to earned media (free exposure) as opposed to paid media (placed ads, banner ads, etc).
Social media platforms are accessible, in the current technological climate, to anyone with a working internet connection, and low expenses mean that as a platform for agencies to approach as a marketing medium, social media is uniquely suitable. By exposing a brand to social media networking, organizers can improve their relationship with customers and increase brand awareness, keeping a finger on the internet community’s metaphorical pulse.
iMarket: Smartphones & Mobile Networking
One could hardly ask for a bigger boost to market message saturation than the one provided by the sudden spike in internet-capable cell phones. Most major providers offer cell phones capable of engaging with social networking from virtually anywhere, and the phone’s users are kept up to date with what their friends and their favorite brands are doing by real-time feeds. Continuous contact with social networking sites provides brands and agencies with a great opportunity to stay on the public mind, reasserting their importance and relevance at regular intervals.
Advertisements, given this constant connection to social media, are always present for cell phone users. Increasingly, direct purchase of goods or services and brand engagement directly from the phone has become a common feature for service providers to include. A huge percentage of phones carry the capability to serve as mobile stores, customer service centers, and banner ads. The potential, obviously, is massive and still ripe for exploration.
Engaging Your Public
Engagement is a blanket term referring to stakeholders and customers becoming participants in a brand’s social web presence, as opposed to just observers. Social media is an ideal platform for getting a business’s adherents, be they fans, customers, enthusiasts or otherwise, into the process of making and maintaining that business’s viability online. Every customer who elects to participate in the brand’s online presence is, in effect, a sales agent engaging with other customers through commentary and reviews.
The importance of engagement with your target audience can’t be overstated. Rewards in free exposure, positive word-of-mouth press, and revenues from said exposure, can be considerable when engagement is properly handled. Try to get your target audience into the game!
Using the Platforms Effectively
Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and the blogosphere all have their unique strengths and weaknesses as social media marketing tools. As social networking websites, of course, they all present an opportunity for individuals and brands to get to know each other through online interaction. The introduction of brands and businesses to social media platforms is a fortuitous development, as the feeling of direct interaction between individuals fostered by social media has carried over well to user interactions with branded presences on these sites. Experiences with brands on platforms like Facebook feel close and personal to users because of their prior experience in user-to-user interaction.
Retweeting and reposting comments and brand-related material is another key component in the machine that is social media marketing. Exponential exposure growth is a realistic prospect when every repost reaches a brand-new audience of media users, and even a low percentage of engagement adds large numbers of individuals exposed to the reblogged material. It follows that if this word of e-mouth marketing takes hold, traffic to the company’s website(s) and services often increases considerably. Synergistic interactions between different types of platform can lead to a strong network of cross-linked brand presence.
Promoting products at an individual level is where Twitter really shines as a social media marketing platform. A product’s utility and central features can be presented concisely in Twitter’s easily-readable 150-word format, making followers much more likely to absorb the information presented. Messages occupy followers’ home pages, and can easily pull double duty as links to the brand or product’s profile, website, video databank, etc. Regular link availability with mutable formatting creates a high degree of regular interaction between the product’s online presence and its followers. Prolonged interaction creates a sense of loyalty and, under the right circumstances, can lead to further opportunities in advertising. The real-time promotion provided by Twitter is a proven way to get customers involved.
Blogs, especially when linked to more readily accessible accounts like Twitter, Facebook pages, Google+, and others, can provide a great venue for dispensing useful information and education about a brand, products, or services. Blogs convey an impression of studious professionalism and credible investment, and opportunities for longer descriptions of products can also include important information like uses, availability, and relevant news.
Linking to more traveled mediums is very important to running a successful social media marketing blog, as without good exposure it’ll be difficult to get the endeavor off the ground. Frequent, high-quality updating with plenty of information and multimedia considerations helps to keep customers engaged. Blogs also pull double duty as a way to shuttle users between platforms via multiple links.
While Twitter offers succinctness and rapid dissemination of information, Facebook provides many of the same benefits with the added advantage of detailed profiles and direct access to multi-media information like videos and photography. A video library hosted on Youtube or another major media provider can provide a convenient source for tutorials, product explanations, or testimonials both in video form and in the video’s comments. Facebook and Twitter synergize particularly well, easily linking back and forth to create a sense of immediacy and relevance for users.
Advertisement spending for social media marketing has increased sharply since the latter half of the 2000’s, rising by more than 25% since 2009. Successful brands making good use of social media’s advantages can expect a monthly increase in fans of close to 10%, constituting a yearly growth of more than double. Facebook’s genial, communal atmosphere also lends an air of authenticity to corporate advertising. Facebook’s massive popularity also makes it a no-brainer for brands trying to reach large, general audiences, and its specialty groups provide good inroads to more specific market sectors.
Print, radio, and television were advertising in the twentieth century. Now, the Internet has superseded both and stands as the single largest advertising market. No television or radio commercial airs without a website slipped in, and when was the last time you saw a business advertise in the newspaper without offering its Web address? Some even incorporate barcodes scannable by cell phones and specialized computer hardware, directing consumers straight to the product’s website. Banner ads, pop-ups, rich media, and more are increasingly a fixture of the Web both in and outside of social media sites. Even social media sites lacking ads (like Google+) allow products and brands to host informational pages capable of interacting with the site’s users.
Awareness of the shift in media focus is key to achieving success in social media marketing. The highly competitive arena of Facebook can’t even be considered without strong tech direction, quality copy writers, and a dedicated staff to manage online content and fan engagement. If you’re going to engage with social media, make sure you do it right, because this is a field just begging to be revolutionized.
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