Sometimes referred to as new media, social media marketing (SMM) is a collective term that includes blogs, micro-blogs, and social media networking and marketing sites. You may know them better by their brand names. The most popular micro-blog is Twitter®. Social networking sites include LinkedIn®, Facebook® and Plaxo®. YouTube® is popular for social marketing, as are Stumbleupon®, and Digg®. You can use some or all of these and other social media marketing sites to positively impact your bottom line!
Using SMM requires a clear understanding of strategy, which we’ll get to. For now, just know that using social media effectively is a process of connecting, communicating, and then building community. You need to connect with people so you can tell your story. All of those sites mentioned above help you make that connection in different ways. To get started, you need to make an introduction. If you are meeting someone in person, you may ask: “Tell me about yourself (or your business).” Using SMM, you’ll accomplish this with a bio – a descriptive biography of you and your business, whose sole purpose is to get the online conversation going in the right direction. For example, you may be wondering how I came to write this column and if we have anything in common. So, here goes. I’ve been a marketer my entire career. My first job after earning my MBA was in sales and marketing with Conoco Phillips. I advanced to Regional Marketing Manager before leaving after 10 years to launch my landscape contracting business. Everything I knew about marketing to corporations was of little value in my residential landscape business, except for one. I needed customers, and the only way to get them is to get out and meet people. I joined organizations in my community like Rotary International and the Chamber of Commerce, and as a result, everything worked out fine. That’s my story. When I hear yours, we’ll have something to talk about. We’ll just need a place where we can communicate.
When I was growing my landscape business, I had a lot of meetings on job sites. In my corporate work, we met at the water cooler in the office, in airports and at conferences, or wherever we could get together. There are all kinds of places to meet and build relationships with people. These places are called platforms. They are where people get together to share valuable information and build relationships that encourage business deals. That’s what social media will do for you. It’s a digital platform that helps you get your message out – in words, images, videos, and more. It’s important to remember that social media doesn’t replace what you are doing now that is working; it complements it. Social media just works to connect you with more people, more frequently, to get more business accomplished.
Everyone has a story to tell. The challenge is making it interesting so that people want to hang around and learn more. Social media sites allow you to have a dialogue. This is what makes them better than websites for promoting your business. Websites are a monologue – just you talking. Blah, blah, blah. That’s boring! So, lighten it up. Don’t push your product. Just help us get to know you so we want to buy your product. Get us excited. Make us laugh. Dazzle us with information about something nobody has told us about. Tell us how you got here, where you came from, and who helped you along the way. Use whatever makes you more genuine, authentic, and real. This is part of the magic of successfully marketing with social media.
Some of you are making progress with social media marketing now, while others haven’t yet started. Don’t worry; we’ll bring everyone together in the next column when we start to learn the unique qualities of each individual platform and how to use them more effectively. For now, let’s focus on strategy. To be successful with any marketing medium, you have to be clear about your objective and have a means to measure your success. Obviously, you have business objectives for revenue and profit. Now consider how social media can help you accomplish those objectives. For example, if your business success depends on having lots of customers, you may wish to focus on growing a larger ‘fan base’ of people that are familiar with your business and what it has to offer. If your projects are specialized, you may prefer to carve out a tight niche for a specialty in which you are the most likely to succeed. Finally, you may be seeking to establish a new identity to rejuvenate your brand. One obvious one that comes to mind is being the green business leader in your market.