How Social Media Can Help With Your Online Marketing Strategies

May 27th, 2008

How social media can helpWhat is social media?

Looking back to the ‘70s or before, some marketers recognize that hanging around the water cooler at work, talking about happenings and experiences was a form of social media. So, technically, we can say that social media has really been around for decades!

Wikipedia equates social media as the newer age interaction with regards to technology and the Internet:

“Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and “building” of shared meaning, as people share their stories, and understandings.”

Recently, I attended a British Columbia Association of Integrated Marketers (BCAIM) luncheon seminar and wanted to share useful insights when considering social media for corporate goals and implementations. The topic was “The Many-Armed Starfish: Social Media Marketing 101” with Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo of Capulet Communications.

So why is there such a buzz with social media with marketers?

  • Because it really works.
  • Many online marketers have found that they can leverage social media to get the word out about their company, product or services at a larger scale.
  • If executed right, it can have a great return on investment and be an integral part of growing a business online.
  • Social media has much more impact and can scale up easier than traditional advertising tactics.
  • Social media has lower costs than traditional marketing tactics – with barely any technological setup or subscription costs attributed to it. Beware though, a major misconception is that social media is 100 percent free. That is totally incorrect, social media needs the human factor to massage, tweak, and invest time in. It is an ongoing project that will need love and attention, which in return can be employee salaries or outsourcing costs to manage such campaigns. If you really think it is magic and it’s only a matter of setting up a Facebook or blog account and walking away from it – you’re mistaken!
  • More people are participating and hanging around social media because the tools are more assessable for the average person (cheaper laptops, cameras and camcorders) as well as the free or cheap delivery forms available (blogs, wikis, forums, podcasts, video and image-sharing portals, micro-blogs [like twitter], social networks like Facebook and MySpace).
  • These social mediums allow users to communicate with the masses and more important with silo communities (people with the same likes and dislikes as you). And these silos may not be obtainable within your physical community, so the online availability just snowballs and allows you to reach audiences you never had before.

Julie and Darren shared with us that social media can help your company with:

  • Media relations
  • Customer engagement
  • Market research
  • Advertising
  • Competitor intelligence
  • Word-of-mouth
  • Public relations

How social media helps with your corporate goals may depend on what mix of forms you choose to participate in. These forms are changing and new ones will always be introduced. Keeping that in mind, you may need to adapt to the protocols for each medium.

If you follow some of the basic tips (some are from the seminar I attended and some are also from my own experiences and other readings); you should be able to reap the benefits of social media:

  • Be authentic and transparent – Don’t try to hide behind anything or a customer persona (like a fake happy customer). You’ll always be found out and it will harm you. If you don’t agree, read more about the Wal-mart fake blogs; also known as “Flogs” .
  • Listen before you leap – Understand how and why others use the medium. Feel comfortable first before jumping in. Lurk and check out how others are using the medium. Once, I was pressured by my boss to jump in and comment on the blog sphere and I sort of spammed it (didn’t know the rules yet). I was called on it right away by another comment and they were appalled. That is a great sample of what not to do! I realized that I had to learn more on how to better interact in the blog sphere.
  • Monitor the web – Keep track of who is talking about you and what they are saying. Use tools that help for your company’s reputation management. I use Blogpulse and Google Alerts, they are both free tools. If you are a larger company global company you may consider a reputation management service that is more robust and a subscription service (like Meltwater News or Sentiment Metrics).
  • Participate in the conversation – Jump in and get involved, especially when it is negative. If you don’t participate or own up to negative comments, it will not leave a good impression and you cannot rectify and turn the situation around. In the social sphere, negative comments can be embedded everywhere. If you show some sincerity and honesty when responding to a negative comment, you will be respected – everyone knows you are human. Don’t ignore negative situations or it will snowball. Kryptonite Lock did exactly what not to do, read more about it here on how it harmed them.
  • Try different forms of social media and integrate them – Try at least two to three different forms of social media tactics and cross-promote each of them. For example, have a Facebook group and cross-promote your company blog. Twitter about your new blog posts. Connect your twitter to your blog and Facebook status Feed.
  • Commit to social media and be realistic – It takes more than just opening an account with a tool and waiting for people to come find you. This is the hard part, only commit to ones that you can really nurture and spend time with. Book time every day or week to participate, massage and learn from it. Make a true commitment.

I really think Social Media should be a part of your online marketing strategy, read my blog on “Multi-dimensional Online Marketing.” I have found some effective tactics with Facebook, blogging, social tagging and micro-blogging. I still have lots to learn as this is such an evolving medium, so I may also pick up Barefoot’s new book to learn more from an expert, once it’s published (probably early 2009).

If you want to share similar experiences on this topic, I encourage you to leave a comment!

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