Social media has evolved from amusement for kids to sophisticated channels for marketing businesses. Beginning your social media marketing may seem daunting, given the choices you have – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and many others. You may consider a blog as an additional marketing tool. Each allows you to share information and showcase what you know and sell.
Laying the Groundwork
As with any marketing campaign, you must first decide what you are marketing and who are your customers. This is especially important with online marketing, since the Internet allows you to reach a global market. Being focused on your target audience will help you build a network of followers who will ultimately become your friends and customers. Your object is to build relationships before you attempt to sell. The best way to do this is by sharing information and tips. The process is gradual -- you cannot plunge directly into marketing, or you will drive followers away. Supporting other people will invite reciprocity.
Attracting followers is the key to a successful social media marketing campaign. If you do not have social media accounts, it is easy to open one. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn all offer easy-to-follow directions on their websites. Whether you are “friending,” “connecting” or commenting on the posts of others, building a following is not difficult. In all four platforms you can join groups of people with shared interests and form your own group built around your business and interests.
Do not start selling immediately upon opening your various sites. No one knows who you are, and your reception will be cold. Instead, look for ways to provide information that is helpful to your followers. Twitter, with its 140-character limit per tweet, lends itself to quick, snappy bits of advice. Use YouTube to showcase products, offer demos and provide useful information. You can even set up your own YouTube channel. Social media requires two-way communication to be successful – so answer people's questions, like them on Facebook and retweet their comments on Twitter. Conducting polls is a popular way to gather followers. The interaction helps build a sense of community.
Blogging for Profit
Blogging is an easy way to build an online presence and to share your expertise. Wordpress and Blogger are the two largest blog platforms. Each offers you the ability to customize your site, add pictures, import YouTube videos and add Twitter feeds. As with all your social media outlets, two-way communication is vital. If readers make comments, respond to them. Reference your blog in your other media to attract readers to it. You can even include guest bloggers – experts who share their knowledge -- and you gain in reputation by your association with them.
You can quickly become overwhelmed managing multiple social media accounts and struggle to balance that with running your business. Fortunately, there is online help. With social media management sites such as HootSuite and Ping.fm, you can manage all of your accounts at one location. If you wish to send tweets on a scheduled basis, you can set up the schedule ahead of time and make it happen automatically. You can send identical messages with one command to all your account through your manager. Do not overuse this service – your followers may be turned off if they sense they are receiving automated communications. You also can use a social media manager to collect mentions of your company, industry or any search term you wish to use.
Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.