Social media interaction can mean different things to businesses. Some choose to use the platform for customer service and to announce news. Others want to focus on things like: building brand loyalty, networking, getting feedback, or deepening relationships. While the ultimate (social marketing) goal is to do more business, it is not about directly selling a product or service. Internet Marketing Advertising is different: it is social.
Whatever focus the business chooses, it is all about engagement: online conversations with people who are interested in some way about the product or service the business represents. What is important is to learn how to communicate with people inside the places they hang out online.
From Twitter to Facebook or youtube, to bookmarking communities or industry specific groups, there are many places to find prospective customers. The key point to understand is that social media is about being social, engaging in conversation, and providing value. Even though it is NOT about selling, there are some remarkable ROI results being documented.
Today, people want to find more information about products and services they are considering to buy because there is more of it available to access than ever before. They want to talk to other people in social sites they belong to about products or services they are interested in and get feedback from these people they trust, and they even want to connect directly with company personnel.
All of this is available today because of social media. There are CEO’s who are blogging and have Twitter accounts. Others are afraid of internet marketing advertising with social media. Companies have staff participating in conversation in social sites, some all day long. In fact, every day that a company or business does not participate in this new brand of marketing, is another day that their competition, national or local, gets ahead of them.
It is not enough to have a web site. An interactive presence is becoming a requirement. Part of the decision to start a social media system must include a commitment to be active with it. It won’t be effective if it is set up and forgotten.
Social media also includes blogs that are active with new posts and comments. Blogs, and forums also, exist for every market or industry and are great places that businesses can go to engage with people who have similar interests and to use them as a tool to gather a social following for their business.
This is accomplished by participating in the conversation in these blogs and forums, being helpful by providing answers to questions and being part of the conversation. Each reply that is made contains a link back to the business website where people can go and begin to track what the business is doing.
When trying to understand the scope of social media, there are three types of destination sites: content sharing, content publishing, and social networking. Note the first two are centered around developing and syndicating the content, and the third involves people talking about the content. Valuable content is the only kind that will be rewarded with referrals and loyalty.
Businesses have taken notice of the explosive growth and influence of social media. There are daily success stories (just Google to find them). By participating in social engagement with the goal to ‘give’ and not to ‘sell’, companies and brands who are active in their efforts are reporting very successful results.
Let’s get back to the original question posted: Why should a business have a social media marketing system in place? One of the most prominent reasons would be that, even though social media is not about selling, is not about internet marketing advertising, it does give a business the opportunity to reach a target audience that are potential buyers or re-buyers of their product or service.
Another important consideration is in regard to the other way that people look for a business online: through the search engines. Part of social media involves maintaining a website that gets updated with new content often. Search engines reward that. Also, search engines Google are now giving the sites like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, bookmarking sites and others, first page listings.
A social media system should also be integrated with the business’s overall marketing and communication strategies because they can promote each other. Offline advertising can point viewers to the online presence, and the social ‘word of mouth’ component in communities online can spread quickly and become very powerful in many places both online and offline.
The bottom line is that social media marketing has benefits that can no longer be ignored. First page listings of a business website, or its blog or social site, in Google and other search engines can bring lots of new visitors to a business website. Social engagement for business online is already proven, and is the marketing of the present and the future.
It is worth repeating the fact that social media is primarily about engaging with people through content the business provides (written, audio, video), giving value to the conversations taking place online, and not contain a sales pitch. Content that educates, enlightens, or entertains, will lead people to what the business represents.
Giving someone a reason to want to hear more from the business (valuable content), making it easy for them to find the business, building their trust and loyalty, and ‘caring’ – can deliver massive success to a social media marketing system.