With traditional marketing, exposure and popularity are directly related to your ability to spend money. A certain amount of performance is influenced by design and creativity, but the scope of the overall campaign is determined long before anything happens (it starts with $$).
Gaining popularity with social media is entirely dependent on your ability build relationships. Money plays a small factor (it helps if you can advertise some), but it is largely irrelevant.
Most small businesses don’t have the money for a big traditional advertising campaign; but, they might just have the time to become a social media celebrity. Social media is bringing about a fundamental shift in the advertising world—it’s leveling the playing field. Read more to see how you can use it to your advantage.
What is social media marketing anyway?
Social media is a term that’s used for a whole lot of different things on the web. You’ve probably heard of some of them: YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, and Flickr are different forms of social media. Blogging is another popular form of social media. In total, there are probably thousands of various social media websites, but all of them share a common theme of being interactive communities.
Social media marketing is the practice of using social media to create awareness, credibility, and eventually profit for your small business. I should mention though, that it isn’t just a one way street; how successful you are at marketing your small business with social media will depend on how much you put into it.
So how can I use social media to help my business?
The first thing to do is get your feet wet. Find a blog that you enjoy reading and start regularly posting comments on it. What you’re doing is starting a conversation with that blog’s owner and its readers; aka, you’re building relationships.
Once you understand the conversational nature of social media, you can really jump in and get going. Most small businesses already build relationships and network in the physical world, so it really isn’t a big stretch to take it digital.
An easy place to start is to create an account at MySpace, Facebook, or LinkedIn. With that account you can make friends, build relationships, and direct people to your company website.
A better way, in my opinion, would be to create a blog for your business. In one action you can give your company a web presence and start building popularity.
I’d love to start a blog, but isn’t it hard?
Well, yes, it is hard. You don’t actually expect anything about running a small business to be easy, do you? Starting a blog is basically like anything else; it takes a lot of hard work, time, and effort. Thankfully, though, the payoff is worth every minute of it.
The three best ways to get started blogging are to:
- Contact a professional to help you (you know my recommendation ;-) )
- Read a book about it. One of my personal favorites is Blogging for Business
- Learn about blogging from other blogs. Some good resources are available: here, here, and the ultimate resource here
From any of those launching points it’s just a matter of trial and error. As with any new project, there will be a considerable amount of learning when you get started. The key is to get going and keep getting better.
Actually, I already have a blog. But it’s not doing as much as I want.
Here are some thoughts for those of you who are more advanced at marketing with social media.
Social media is about relationships. If you want to be successful, you need to understand how to build and use those relationships. In much the same way you would create a social network in person, you’ll need to create one for your blog. This means that you need to find other authors to become friends with (even if they might be competitors), you’ll need to engage your readers in conversation, you’ll need to be seen and noticed in the right places (face time), and you should generally be a good resource for other people. Success really comes about when you establish yourself as a valuable part of the community.
Some quick tips:
- Be consistent. You wouldn’t wait a month to return a phone call, so don’t do it in your comments or your email.
- Make sure your blog design is the best it can be. If you’re looking for help, this is the best blog design resource I know.
- What goes around comes around. Help out other bloggers with comments and links, and they’ll help you..
- Don’t hard sell your products. The point of your blog is to build popularity, authority, exposure, and to create a community—not to make a quick buck.
- Be a resource. People naturally flock to things of value. By becoming a resource, you’ll be able to charge more, and you’ll never have a shortage of demand.
- Above all: be friendly! If you want people to spend time on your blog, be nice to them. Friends will always help you out, so make as many as you can.
Social media isn’t for everyone
As great as social media is, there are some places it just doesn’t fit. Some businesses, for example, have a target market that simply isn’t online at all. But for most small businesses, there is a way to use social media.
At this point, I’m going to open the floor to all of you. Do you have any questions about how you might use social media for your business? Do you already have a blog you’d like to show off? Leave a comment, and I promise I’ll do my best to answer your question. If you’ve got a blog already, use this as an opportunity to introduce it to some new people (me and my readers).