Essentially, social media marketing boils down to something simple: find out where people online are talking about your brand, or could be. And then, join the conversation
Bellingham, WA (Vocus) May 23, 2009
These days, it's hard to know what's a new trend and what's a temporary fad. But expert opinion and thorough case studies agree: social media marketing is a cost-effective way to combine marketing and market research, and it's here to stay.
"Essentially, social media marketing boils down to something simple: find out where people online are talking about your brand, or could be. And then, join the conversation," said Gabriel Shaoolian, Creative Director of Blue Fountain Media (bluefountainmedia.com). The persistent nature of online interaction means that this has the long-lasting effects of traditional advertising, but the immediate interaction means it also has the revenue-driving power of traditional sales.
A social media strategy can be executed on any highly interactive website, but here are a few of the best and what is both positive about each and what the downfall is:
- Facebook. As the largest social network in the world, Facebook allows you to create groups that focus on your company and products, and to engage your customers through them.
- Positive: Since everyone on Facebook uses their real name, there's built-in trust. But Facebook makes it more difficult to reach out to new customers.
- Negative: With the hundreds of applications requests, group invites, and other distractions, the website has become very difficult to penetrate unless through friend-to-friend messaging. This is very time consuming and less cost-effective.
- Twitter. One of the fastest growing social networks, Twitter is on its way to becoming as big as Facebook.
- Positive: Gabriel Shaoolian says "Imagine being able to overhear every conversation about your brand, or your competitors. Twitter isn't quite that, but it's pretty close: the site allows you to monitor the discussions of millions of people, and to respond to anyone if you think you can help them out." You can track mentions of any keyword using Twitter's search tools, and the site's open culture makes it easy to jump into new conversations.
- Negative: Just like any room full of people, it can get very noisy and difficult to get people to pay attention. Some subjects are very rarely discussed on Twitter.
- Forums, Answers Sites, Etc. No matter how obscure your product is, chances are there are dozens of online venues full of potential or actual customers. Finding a good forum or answers site where your brand is being discussed might take some time, but if you can find one, you can be an active advocate for your own brand.
- Blogs. Finding passionate people (and convincing them to write about your company) is difficult and time-consuming, but it's one of the most rewarding kinds of marketing you can do. With a good blogger outreach plan, you can have a sales force, research team, and ombudsman, all working for free.
Gabriel Shaoolian is optimistic about the long-term future of Social Media: "It can be tough to navigate at first, but once you start really talking to your customers, that dialogue is priceless." The social media marketing world keeps on changing, but these sites are all great ways to get a good start. Social media marketing isn't for every business, or every marketer, but its impact is hard to ignore. At Blue Fountain Media, some of the most successful marketing campaigns have had a strong social component, and more and more of our clients are embracing online discussion as a great way to get their product traction and open up new markets.
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