As the global economy continues to become more tightly integrated, businesses are looking for innovative ways to spread brand awareness and market themselves. While the power of social media has been over-hyped to some extent by pundits and snake oil salesmen, the truth is that social media campaigns can be an effective way to improve your bottom line. When implemented properly, social media marketing efforts can do wonders for any company. Many firms fail when it comes to launching a social media campaign because they go into it unprepared. Here’s a quick primer on how to make social media work for you.
Obviously, the first thing to do is set up accounts on a variety of social media platforms. Most people assume that social media begins and ends with the heavyweights like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. Those sites are a great start, but there are plenty of other sites you can use to increase your visibility online depending on what kind of business you run. Q&A sites like Quora are another subtle way to market your business, and Pinterest is a rising social media star that can do wonders for any brand regardless of the industry it’s in.
Networking with Your Followers
As soon as you’re up and running with your chosen social media accounts, it’s time to start gaining followers and interacting with your fan base. The key is to create synergy by networking with like-minded individuals and businesses in your field. If you run an industrial sheet metal company, you’re probably not going to get much out of your social media efforts by going after people who follow Kim Kardashian’s Twitter account. Think about what your customers are interested in besides your specific brand or product, and “like” or “follow” other companies that provide those goods and services.
Building the Brand with Giveaways
Far too many people assume that social media is all about interacting and nothing else. Communication is all well and good, but you should really be using your social media reach to provide additional value to current and potential customers. If you provide value to customers and followers, they’ll keep coming back for more and decide to do business with you eventually. Publishing links to helpful articles, tutorials and resources like e-books that you publish on your website or at other locations is a surefire way to attract a following.
One of the surest ways to pull in new followers and fans on your social media accounts is through contest-based promotions. Even the U.S. State Department is getting in on the act. Try to avoid hokey promotions like an essay contest where people write a “Top Ten” list of things they love about your brand. A better route to take is to run a promotion where users submit a creative use for one of your products or services, and the winner gets a prize. Everybody loves free stuff, and giving away something that has trivial value in the long run can more than pay for itself in terms of new clients.
The Brass Ring: Viral Marketing
If you want to really start cooking with gas, the most explosive way to raise your profile online and pull in new customers is through viral marketing. The wildfire-like spread of Internet memes is a perfect, non-commercial example of how quickly an idea can take hold in the public consciousness and become a part of the greater pop culture. Viral marketing is quite frankly the most difficult promotion technique to execute successfully, and quite a few viral marketing campaigns have fallen flat on their face. It’s sort of a moon shot, but a well-crafted viral campaign can significantly increase your visibility online if done properly.
Test, Test and Test Some More
Nowadays, online marketing has gotten so competitive that there’s really no way to succeed without extensive use of web analytics to gauge the effectiveness of your efforts. Alongside split testing, web analytics give you deep insights into what’s working and what’s not. It’s easy to set up a web analytics program with free services like Google Analytics and Piwik. If you need a more full-featured solution, there are plenty of managed analytics services that’ll do all the grunt work for you for a reasonable price.
Reevaluate and Modify
Using the feedback culled from your analytics and split testing, you can switch up your social media efforts and try some different tactics for better results. Keep what works, and ditch what doesn’t. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The important thing to remember is that social media shouldn’t take more out of you than you’re putting into it. Many SMBs make the mistake of shelling out thousands of dollars over the course of months with little to show for it. The beauty of social media is that it can do wonders for your business on a shoestring budget. Invest your time in using social media for brand promotion, but don’t allow it to become a money pit.
At the end of the day, social media marketing isn’t really that different from traditional, offline “word of mouth” marketing of the kind that existed before the World Wide Web became a part of our lives. Instant, real time communication as facilitated by the Internet just speeds up the process of communicating with your pool of potential customers. Remember that being honest and upfront with your clients, your colleagues and your competition is the best policy, and you’ll find that online marketing through social platforms can be extremely lucrative once you get the swing of things.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and may not reflect the views of Webaholic.
Jeff G. is a freelance writer and web marketing enthusiast who enjoys spreading the word about the opportunities of social media campaigns. He has helped with a car insurance guide to help people find inexpensive car insurance companies.