Friday, August 12, 2011

Social Networking and Your Marketing Strategy - Part 2

In part 1 of Social Networking and Your Marketing Strategy, we discussed the uses of social media sites in society today and how it is a viable option to consider including as part of a business marketing strategy. Now, I want to give you an overview of the more familiar social media outlets and explain how they can be used in your overall marketing strategy.

According to a recent marketing poll conducted by social marketing platform Roost, most local businesses prefer a social marketing (71.4%) to other marketing channels such as search engine optimization (57.9%), print advertising (20.7%), paid search marketing (15%), review sites (10%), and display advertising (5.7%). Furthermore, most businesses feel that social media is an important piece of any successful marketing strategy.

Here is a brief look at a few of the more familiar social networking sites and how they can be used for marketing your business:

Blogs are basically a journal on the web. They consist of regular entries of opinions, information, comments, etc. arranged in chronological order from the most recent “post”. They aren’t necessarily as cool as Facebook and Twitter but are important as a marketing strategy for small businesses in that they are a means of controlling communication from your company. You can control the look, feel, and content of your blogs. They can be used to deliver company messages from the owners, create a conversation with folks who have something to say about your company, collect feedback from customers, and even serve as a means of damage control. There are many blogging websites including Wordpress, TypePad, Xanga, as well as the one we use at Kardon Technology, Blogger.

Facebook is the largest social network in the world today with over 750 million active users. Users create a profile, add other users as friends, exchange messages, even receive automatic notifications when someone changes their profile or posts a new message. Also, users can join groups in which they share a common interest, play games, upload pictures, post upcoming events, etc. When companies create Facebook pages, their friends are called fans. A fan can click a “Like” button on your company page, and are in essence advertising your company to all their friends – there’s that word of mouth advertising again. Facebook businesses profiles can perform all the same/similar functions as individual users can as well as create marketing campaigns such as photo contests for prizes, fun quizzes for their fans, and giveaways of apparel or other gear. It’s also fairly easy to get stats regarding user activity on a company page.

Twitter is another social networking and microblogging website. Users send and read messages called tweets, which are small posts (up to 140 characters) of text displayed on a user’s page. Twitter is used by those who want to find and follow interesting people or issues or who want to be that interesting person to be followed by others. Businesses can use Twitter to post corporate accomplishments, convey press release news, create buzz of a new product or service, distribute links that take followers back to the company website, or even just listen to what’s being said.

LinkedIn is considered more of a social network for business professionals. Users, typically white collar professionals, create a profile that lists their skills, education background, and current and previous jobs. A LinkedIn profile can allow you to have more control over what appears in Google results when people Google your name. Professionals can also stay in touch with colleagues and friends, find experts and exchange ideas, and explore career opportunities with other professionals. Businesses commonly use LinkedIn sites to find leads, grow their business, and find the right vendors to connect with. Other uses include finding industry associations and networks to participate in, find a company to outsource services that they aren’t experts on, keep in touch with people who care about your business, and obtain new customers through recommendations and word of mouth, get answers to business questions, acquire business referrals, and keep your friends close and your competition even closer.

YouTube is a video sharing website that allows users to upload, share and watch videos online. Most of the videos are considered homemade movies. I’m willing to bet you’ve seen 1 or 100 of them already. YouTube can provide an opportunity for businesses to market themselves to millions of people for next to nothing. It can also be used as a medium to reach potential customers and build more personal relationships with your current customers. If you have a video camera and a little creativity, YouTube can be a beneficial indirect marketing strategy for small businesses.

Foursquare is a location based social media network primarily used to let your friends know where you are and to figure out where they are. It is also a means for users to earn points, prize badges, and eventually coupons for simply going about your everyday business. Businesses can use Foursquare as a marketing tool by creating a special offer for users who frequent their establishment. You can promote a service in your store and make it a big deal by offering discounts when people check-in using Foursquare. Each time someone check-ins, the check-in updates go out to their friends – there’s that word of mouth thing again.

Google+ is a new entrant to the social network game. It isn’t ready for prime time yet, but the tires are being kicked for you by many lucky invitees around the world. So far, the word is that Google+ seems to be Google’s answer to Facebook. Here are five key features of Google+: Circles, Hangouts, Instant Upload, Sparks, and Huddle.

  • Circles makes it easy to segregate your family and friends from you business colleagues. You can post messages or photos to certain circles versus a broadcast post to everyone like Facebook does – you probably wouldn’t want to post your family reunion photos to your business colleagues circle but you would, of course, to your family circle.
  • Hangouts is a like an impromptu video conference between up to ten people within your circle. Using a web cam and browser, you can let your friends know that you are hanging out and are available to see who might want to have a face to face to face video chat.
  • Instant upload enables you to quickly upload photos and videos automatically to a private album and allows you to choose who to share them with. We all know that sometimes getting photos off your phone is a pain.
  • Sparks is a feature that allows you to have links, blogs, and info you are interested in streamed to you automatically so when you have time you will have something cool to watch, read, and share with people in your circles.
  • Huddle allows you to turn multiple conversations into a group chat. For instance, if you and four of your friends are planning to have dinner together and you need to decide on a restaurant, you can turn all the individual text messages into a group chat so everyone can participate together in the group discussion at once.

Although Google+ isn’t ready for company profiles yet, there are some good suggestions out there as to what would be desired. Some ideas from Ford Motor company include the capability to provide product information and offer giveaways to circles of people, using hangouts for company salesman circles or designer circles, the ability to interact with readers’ posts, and capability to upload short videos. It is also speculated that Google will integrate Google+ with its Search engine allowing businesses who create a site with a lot of content rich posts to have their Google+ site found in Google search results. Another rumor is that Google could integrate Google Checkout and Google Product Search into Google+ therefore making e-commerce a viable feature. Just think what they could do if they integrated Google Apps with Google+.

In the final installment of this Social Media Marketing topic, I will give you a few reasons why you will want to consider incorporating social media into your overall marketing strategy. Furthermore, I will touch on how using a combination of social marketing sites together can give you more bang for your buck.

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