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A Beginners Guide to Social Media Marketing

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     For those seeking a guide on how to implement Social Media Marketing (SMM) I would like to save you some time and direct you to an article I wrote called, “Social Media Best Practices – Twitter & Facebook”. For those seeking a guide on what is SMM and how to use it, keep reading. This article will cover:

Different types of Social Media – Choosing the best option for your company
Getting started with Social Media – Account set-up and initiation
Common Pitfalls of Social Media – Misunderstandings and Myths

     Different types of Social Media      
Social Media Marketing is in essence using any social outlet such as Facebook or Twitter to promote/marketing a business, product or service. You yourself probably already use one or more of these social services. But did you know there is over 230 different types of social media outlets? These range in services from Blogs and Social Networking sites like Wordpress and LinkedIn to Video and Photo Sharing sites like YouTube and Flickr. By this point I'm sure its like drinking water from a fire hydrant. Let's break down your needs by category:

     Media Sharing
Sites like YouTube and Flickr offer to not only upload media directly to their site for free hosting, but offer many ways to promote your media on other websites as well as your own. Media sites like these are plentiful and are best utilized when companies:
Have numerous videos/photos to share
Uploading directly to your website can quickly drain space on your site not to mention dramatically slow load time for visitors.

Need a quick, cost efficient way to add media to their website
Most media sharing sites are free and offer a good bit of storage for free and even more for  a reasonable price.

Desire to promote their media on other social outlets
A lot of media sites are allowing uploaded files to be easily shared on other social media sites like Facebook.
Types of companies that may use these outlets would include photography and video companies in addition to non-profits and individuals seeking to maintain an online portfolio. But don't let these characteristics keep you from using these services. If you have just one video to upload or a few photos to share, a good media site is easy to use.

      Blogs
 Its not big secret that blogs have become a popular way to communicate with consumers. A free way to have a voice in a muffled environment. Not to mention the backlinks your site could get. Blogs are best used when companies:
Need another outlet to speak directly to their customers
The main purpose of your company website is to provide information (even if its selling you are still providing information about products/services), rather than email with consumers a blog allows you to communicate openly which holds your company accountable to respond.

Desire to build the number of backlinks to the company's main website
Blogs are a great resource to gain backlinks, but the value only comes with time

Have the time to maintain and update a blog
Nothing says disorganized like an unkempt blog. When people see a blog they expect it to be updated regularly, whether they are already customers or not. If you can't knowingly update a blog on a regular basis then I suggest going a less time consuming route until you can make time.
Just about any company can use blogs to further their online presence. However, I can't stress enough the importance of keeping posts regular and professional. If you feel you might not be able to meet a deadline, invite a guest blogger or even re-post the most popular blog your company has written (let the audience know what your doing).

      Social Networking
I'm willing to bet that 95% of the people who read this already have a Facebook account, and that 65% have a Twitter account, and that 99% have or were apart of a popular social network. These sites not only offer a chance to connect with friends online and reconnect with friends lost, but offer businesses a chance to lure in like-minded consumers who haven't heard of said business. Networking sites are good for companies:
Looking for a quick way to update in order to minimize time online.
These sites typically take less time to maintain and are easier to get started.

Seeking to tap into a larger audience.
While there are many social outlets, and many people use them, sites like Facebook are used daily. Facebook in fact was the #1 visited site on Chirstmas!

Wanting to use consumer accounts to advertise.
Two friends are on Twitter, friend A is following 'Dan's Ice Cream Shop', friend B isn't. Friend B likes ice cream and sees Friend A is following Dan's Ice Cream Shop, so he goes to Dan's Ice Cream Shop's Twitter page and sees a special is going on.  Friend B most likely would never have heard of this place had he not seen it on his friends Twitter page. When people follow or become fans on Facebook thats free advertising on their account your getting.
Social Networking sites have gotten really popular with non-profits and small businesses due to their ease of use and potential of grass roots marketing. However, any company can use these outlets to connect with consumers in the same fashion. No matter the size of the company, never underestimate the power of grass roots marketing.

      Getting Started with Social Media
Now that you've narrowed down what areas to focus on, you need to get accounts set up. One would think it would be easy to get an account started, but there are some important areas to pay attention to when setting up the account:
Username (Handle)
This is vital. When you have to pick a username make sure its synonymous with your company name (or use the company name if character spacing allows). Even if you aren't using the account right away but plan to later, grab the username while its still available. You don't want to manufacture an odd username later.

Contact Information
This section covers First and Last Name, and in some cases address. If there is a point person for the company make sure they know you will be placing yourself as contact person for the account unless you are told otherwise. Like all good organizations keep it consistent, and keep good communication with all the body parts.

Email Address
Don't use the info@mycompany.com, this email is so if someone wants to contact the company via the social outlet it will go directly to a person, not the catch all. I would also go so far as to remind those reading this if you are using this to promote your business, use your business email address. This will be a reminder every time you log in that its time to be professional, not post comments on friend's pages.

Website
If your company has a website now is a good opportunity to gain a link to your site. If you don't have one up yet, link it to your blog. If you don't have one or the other, GET ONE! You should have one of these before diving into the social media realm.
The next step in getting started is to plan. Silly as it may seem social outlets need to have updates planned in advance. As the day progresses work piles up, and the deadline to post an update grows shorter, having a plan in place will keep things sane and organized.

      Common Pitfalls of Social Media
Social Media can be a great resource for your company, but it can also be a big hindrance if certain mistakes are made or certain impressions are had about Social Media. A few things to avoid are:
Thinking this is the only way to gain customers
This is merely another avenue to pursue clients at an incredibly affordable rate

Thinking that your big business is already 'big online'
If your just now getting into social media you've got zero credibility online. Only through time and networking will you gain the respect you seek.

Not keeping consistent
So you start out posting once a day, then it goes to once a week, then once a month. Make it certain to your audience when they can expect your posts. Its actually okay to post updates once a month if your clients understand it.

Working for your social media
Your social media should be working for you! While you are spending your time online at the social media site the intended purpose is to make the site work for your company. If you feel it isn't working out they way you intended it, take a small break to re-organize, re-think and re-plan your strategy.

In closing, to this point many of you are ready to get going and set up accounts. I urge you to plan. Social Media Marketing has incredible potential to boost your company to the next level, but without a plan in place it will fail. If you need more information on SMM I recommend reading, 'Social Media Best Practices – Twitter & Facebook'. Even though its targeted at Twitter and Facebook, the facts are applicable to any form of Social Media.
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LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:lherrou
Nice "starter" article. It has my YES vote!
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LVL 6

Expert Comment

by:Jenn Prentice
This article does a great job of breaking down what people need to know about the basic types of social media. I feel confident that I could send this article to my mom (who can barely send an email) and she would have a basic understanding of what social media is and how she can use it.  (Believe me. That is a HUGE compliment!) =)
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LVL 12

Author Comment

by:Joshua Titsworth
Its all about K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple Sailor.
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Expert Comment

by:Jim_Seo
Social Networking is becoming equally popular as Search Engine Optimization.
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