Social Networking Opportunities
Social media marketing is fast becoming a business priority for many business owners, previously sceptical that social networks had anything to offer small companies...
What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is a process that enables users to share their recommendations about a business proposition, deal or company. The business process is facilitated by social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. They can send your website immense volumes of traffic due to enormous online viral communities. The main objective is to create some content about a promotion, that attracts the attention and encourages readers to share it with their preferred social network. It spreads virally because of trust. For example, as a consumer, do you trust an advertisement from a company you have never heard of before.... or would prefer to take up a personal recommendation from a friend whose judgement you implicitly trust? How many times have you heard about a deal from a friend and then told someone else you know? Do you know if that person subsequently told someone else that they knew about the same deal?
Many people have multiple social networking accounts which duplicate the potential upside of generating goodwill. You may notice many websites these days show social bookmarks into most of the leading social networks. This enables your web visitors to bookmark and share what they found on your website, with friends and colleagues linked to their social networking accounts. The process of personal recommendation may also take the form of an email message or text message to their entire collection of friends, or just to a single person.
Social activity is used by some search engines as a quality factor when delivering search results. These 'social indicators' are designed to determine the amount of excitement and real-time interest in a website, product, person or even idea! The merging and integration of mobile applications and social networks, means many forward thinking powerful brands can generate massive targeted traffic volumes.
Yet time and time again, SME owners complain they cannot easily calculate the financial return of being an active member of a social network - especially if they only run a small brochure website selling local goods or services. This is perfectly understandable if a business is selling industrial widgets to a local market. This activity probably has limited entertainment or celebrity interest value. Yet, this does not mean that firms selling 'uninspiring' or local products, should exclude themselves from making basic connections to social networks from their own website. Getting a press release out, announcing a new product launch, or just saying hello, can all be done by owners from their social networking accounts.
How Do Social Networks Function?
The main functions of a social networking site are to allow users to communicate with each other using shared member functions. These including tweets, posting on a Facebook Wall, personal web pages, chats, group video conferencing and so on. Social networking originated as a teenage phenomenon, and rapidly spread by geographic and age groups into of collective 'interests' including religion, business, politics, fan clubs, special interest groups, dating and relationships.
Once registered with a social networking website, members can interact with each other, depending upon their interests and needs. Online 'friends' can be created (even though these people may not have even met before). Most social networks prompt new users to register and create a profile explaining who they are, their interests and preferences, upload photos and invite others to join their 'circle'. By searching through and browsing other member 'profiles', friends can be 'added' into 'groups'. This functionality also provides the ability to reject friends from the group, just like the normal socialisation as groups form in the real world. The networks provide this functionality, free in the hope user will also click on contextual advertising (linked to trusted referrals or shared behavioural interests).
How Can Businesses Profit from Social Media Marketing?
For entrepreneurs and business owners, social networking provides a tremendous opportunity to sell using just the power of recommendation. For small businesses, the power of recommendation (via a social network) can be exploited in the following ways. Firstly, try and set up a virtual interest group. Post as much material including articles and video, related to issues facing your prospective customers. This aims to naturally increase the number of members of the network. Most social networks have advanced search features, that allow members to find groups or see what their friends also 'like'. Beware that negative endorsement is just as contagious as positive glowing references! As the group grows in size, you should post details of forthcoming events. You may discover group members telling other virtual 'friends' about your announcement. This is viral marketing.
Secondly, encourage the sharing of your information and 'networking'. By enticing existing customers to visit your page within social networks, customers can then exchange ideas with other like minded customers. With less and less free time, individuals can share experiences using your virtual network, (without having to travel to costly physical 'breakfast clubs' 'workshops' and seminars, where social barriers sometimes mean less confident people might not participate).
Lastly, add 'social bookmarks' icons or links to all your web pages. For example, please click on the 'Bookmark or Share' link at the top of this page, and you can recommend this site to one of your online friends in any social network. This is a practical example of how a straightforward 'bookmarklet' can pass a recommendation on virally.