Social Media is definitely a hot topic when I talk to people about interactive marketing. When someone asks me about Social Media, it’s typically one of these two questions:What in the world is Social Media?Does my business need to focus on it?Let’s dive into both of these questions a little deeper.
What in the world is Social Media?
Social Media simply put is the two-way sharing of information through the Web via groups of people that share a common link. This process typically starts with someone creating content (article, blog post, video, audio, etc) and introducing to social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Digg, etc). People in the social networks contribute to the content either by creating additional content (comments) or by lending credibility to it (voting, linking, or forwarding). In essence, the social network promotes the content if they want to. Social Media works on a permission model by people first opting into the social network, and by the members being able to give the content a thumbs up or down.
Currently, Social Media can be categorized into five basic types:Wikis – (Wikipedia) -sites that allow users to create articles, add edits or comments, and vote on quality of content.Networking -(LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace) – sites where people can create a profile, comment to each other, join groups, etc.Bookmarking -(Del.icio.us, Stumbleupon) – sites where users bookmark content that they like. Other can peruse the bookmarks by searching for topics.Media Sharing- (Youtube, Flickr, blip.TV) – sites where people can upload rich media, such as video and pictures, and share them with friends or family.News – (Digg, Newsvine, reddit) – sites where people can identify, share and vote on articles.Does my Business need to focus on Social Media?
The first goal of any internet marketing initiative is to get potential customers to come to your website. The only way to do that is to have content on the site that these potential customers perceive as valuable. There’s really no reason to worry about Social Media until you have a fairly compelling site that can convert prospects to customers. After you have done the initial work of creating a user-friendly site with some good content and done some basic website optimization, Social Media might make sense for you. Virtually all business can benefit from Social Media, but do the potential benefits outweigh the costs? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of Social Media.
Improve Brand Recognition
Social Media can help you promote your brand without spending a ton of money. It does take time and effort to build and manage a social network online, just like it does offline, so be sure to take that time cost into account and put someone in your company in charge of that effort. Many social media sites don’t provide links that improve search ranking, but can provide traffic to your site. Also, bloggers and other social network members may link to you because of your promotion efforts, and this will improve search engine ranking. Social Media content also has value due to the fact that the creator or promoter of the content is part of the social network. There is trust in their relationship with the recipient, and the promoter’s credibility can transfer to you and your product. Have you ever looked at customer reviews of electronics or researched customer testimonials or service issues prior to buying something online? If you have, you’ve experienced the power of social networks.
Create and Identify a Qualified Market
Ever wonder why businesses have a Facebook page? The answer is simple. It provides them with a captive audience that they can market to and solicit information from. This provides an avenue to test products, marketing concepts, promotions, etc with folks that will give them feedback. Social Networks can provide a “crystal ball” to see into the minds of your marketplace through the sampling of people in your network.
Increase Search Rankings
Social Media can also increase links, which can dramatically improve the search rankings for any site, making it easier for customers to find you. As we mentioned earlier, most Social Media sites don’t provide the type of links that improve your rankings online. They do, however, provide distribution of your content to bloggers and other folks who will provide those precious links that increase rank. A strong word of caution here: Social Networks will magnify whatever it is that you are doing. If your message, products, services, and ability to deliver are great or poor, social media will broadcast that fact to a wide audience – which could springboard or crush your business in short order.
What are the Costs of Social Media?
The biggest cost of Social Media is time. Someone has to focus on it and keep it alive through continuous content creation. This time component equates into opportunity cost. If you don’t have a good handle on who you are targeting on the web, it may be a good idea to step back and consider whether or not a Social Media campaign is appropriate for you.
If you have done a good job of content creation and website optimization, Social Media can be a useful tool to market to potential or existing customers. If your business is looking for the benefits we discuss above, consider Social Media Marketing for your business.