Social Media Marketing Guide for Beginners

Social Media Marketing is the process of gaining attention and web traffic through the social media sites. During this process, usually creative content to reach the masses through publicity coming from a third-party trusted source needs to be created in order for people to share the content of their interest with others and create a vicious chain that would make business cover and go beyond the market audience intended. Every online marketer needs to have a goal, a product, a service and a cause to promote through the vast and overwhelming World Wide Web. If you already have those things defined in your mind, then congratulations! That could be probably the hardest part of entering into the social media challenge, and from now on, every single effort will contribute to reach those goals efficiently and flawlessly until you put your feet on the Social Media Guru status.

The Social Media world is wide and more extensive than ever. It is a very strategic marketing platform that reaches different cultures, ages, religion, sexes, locations, interests and such, therefore it makes it the perfect vehicle to reach and target the right audience and achieve total success. The whole world won’t care about video games, for example, but only the people that video games is part of their interests. If you target male audience with ads of high heels on sale, maybe some of them would go and buy a pair or 2 for their wives, but a pair or 2 is not exactly the kind of impact you want to have. Therefore, you focus on certain group ages and certain other factors that cause some services and products, videos and news to go “viral”

First, we need to know the basic social media sites

Facebook
Holding more than 900 million users, if you’re already a Facebook user this might not be really new to you, but there are lots of features worth mentioning. You can create a dedicated business page and interact directly, and free, with your customers uploading free pictures, products and videos of the service you intend to provide or the product you are trying to sell. That way, you can build a data base of people that will share your posts to their friends and therefore create the never ending chain. Most of these social media sites have seamlessly mobile integration so people whether it is a portable PC, a desktop, tablet or mobile phone get always connected with media in a way that you should take advantage of. People log in to Facebook, in any situation, while commuting, in the park, at home, at school, at work. Then you’re there, promoting your business for it to be displayed in the news feeds, and you would be there, constantly doing the mind trick game to the point that people will find something attractive and worth checking according to their interests. Many big corporations like Starbucks, Microsoft, Apple, Rockstar, Pepsi etc. are doing the same, and it works perfectly!

Blogs
Blogs are an easy way for people to communicate in a semi-professional way when it comes to quality of content. Quality content is always the key to a good writing and therefore, a good blogging. There are many blogger CMS (content management service) where you can get yours up and running for free in less than 5 minutes, some of these are Blogger, WordPress and probably the most user friendly one, Tumblr. One of the tricks here is knowing your audience, your market, who you are targeting and what you want to accomplish with that. Now this has to do with some SEO or Search Engine Optimization knowledge, which is in other words, using the right keywords to rank as high as possible in a search engine i.e. Google, Bing. It has to be related to your posts and at the same time, you have to make sure you use a keyword search tool to check the competition and number of search this given keyword has. The lowest the competition and highest number of searches it gets in a month, the more convenient for you. If you were to advertise your website holding a service of technical support chat, you would have to make the keywords very specific so people that are looking for your service would find you first. It is, for example technical support for Windows, then you’ll have to include specific words, as going a little more straight to the point. Since the competition would be really high and Windows technical support is a wide content, you would focus and go further the specific services your product offers, therefore, adding additional keywords to go straight to the point would be the most successful way to do it and you would rank higher in a search engine and people would find your product easily. From “Technical Support Chat” to “Technical Support Chat for Windows 7 and XP” you can see how we are narrowing the concept of the service you offer making it more specific, detailed and then competition of support for mobile operating systems, cellphones, Mac, iPhone, Windows Vista, Windows 8 and such, are left behind and those sites offering the services you’re not related to won’t steal your chances to be found for people that are merely looking for chat support for Windows 7 and XP. Once understood the keyword concept you can proceed and create content on a blog that would be easy to find on a search engine by including the right tags.

Then we have the Social Media integration again in the blog space. There are many options to share the content of your blog. Many Content Manager Services like Tumblr have the social media buttons to share and like or dislike. You need to look for the options to enable them (in the rare case they are not enabled by default) so every post of yours would have the buttons for share on Tweeter, Google+, Facebook etc. and Reblog within the blogging network you are affiliated to. With great quality and eye catching content you are encouraging people to share your stories on other media sites like the ones mentioned above plus you sharing them and there you have outstanding chances to reach a wider audience.

Twitter
A fast growing, very popular social media site. With over 340,000,000 tweets a day and around 140,00,000 users worldwide, this platform is pretty appealing to business and companies as well as for celebrities, musicians, actors, everybody! A tweet is a message of 140 characters maximum that one can write and post and followers can read and see any time in their news feeds. Talk about it, interact directly and start new conversations is one of the things that make this platform extremely successful. The way they follow Kim Kardashian and read and talk about everything she tweets in a day, the same way they can do with advertising and marketing campaigns about brands and products of their interest.

140,000,000 users to target the right audience might sound like a difficult task, but seen it from the other side of the coin, that means more potential customers for a business. Once you get into the already mentioned vicious chain of any social media site, things just keep coming along by themselves and first thing you’ll notice is hundreds of hundreds of people engaged in your brand, talking about it, reviewing it and telling others about events, broadcast and such.

Linkedin
Possibly a not so popular platform making it boring for some people, but a very professional and strategic one for the rest. Some people won’t spend long hours chatting or talking to other about silly, trivial things, instead, this social network goes straight to the point. People on Facebook and Twitter for example, follow anyone of their interest for the sake of simply socialize as well as businesses and companies, but Linkedin is intended to filter and leave the fun behind to focus deeper in professionalism in social media.

In Linkedin, you can be part of the people looking for a job/ service, or part of a company offering a job/ service. You can create either a personal profile with your professional information about yourself, studies, contact information, interests, certifications, identifications etc. or, create a business or company page, same way as you do it on Facebook or Twitter sufficing the same purpose: share information about your brand, service, product and keep your audience and followers up to date with the latest information about your company.

YouTube
YouTube is a very interesting platform. People go watch videos of any kind or gets redirected by any website that has a backlink to it or search engines. Once people is there on a given there you have some more “Related Videos” on a column on the right side of the screen. Clicking from video to video makes you find things you never thought you would find, interesting topics, funny videos, how-to kind of videos, publicity etc. Your chances to be seen are overwhelming and you can also get people subscribe to your Channel, which is in other terms, your own YouTube space where you upload your videos. Some people find it way more interesting and easier to just watch a video rather than reading a whole article. You have the resource of visuals. If you were to promote fashion clothes and that is the purpose of your whole social media marketing, you can, along with other options, upload a video with people modeling your clothes, redirect people to your main business site, recommend people to share your video, to subscribe for future video updates, to visit your “fashion blog”, like your page on Facebook, follow you on Tweeter, Google+, Linkedin, etc. Close your eyes and try to visualize the Tree Diagram of the whole Social Media marketing strategy and how it gets to potentially reach every single corner of the World Wide Web. Ambitious, isn’t it?

Google+
A fairly new comer on the social media site battle, Google+ offers integration of a variety of services including Gmail, Google+ Basics, Google+ Circles that let you share information or “statuses” in a way Facebook does, but has less popularity so far. You have the “Stream” feature similar to Facebook’s News Feed that would let you see what others are up to, an option for following very similar as well to Tweeter.

The service is very appealing to professionals and business networks because of the exclusivity and integration of services. You create a Gmail account for example, and unless you disable it, by default you have access to all these service and a profile ready to be edited with a picture, contact information, etc. You have access to the whole Google+ network including already mention Gmail, YouTube, You+, Circles, Basics and even the well-known search engine saving and displaying results to the most relevant things to you. It is convenient to have a spare Google+ account for any Social Media Marketer because it’s potential functionality and because no source is too little or too much in marketing. Might not have the same impact, a 30 seconds ad on TV than a small billboard on a bus, but the more you get the message sent the better results you will accomplish.

Social Media Stats

According the new 87 studies perform on social media marketing up to 2012, this approach from companies to customers called B2C or Business to Community has grown and reached 16% of customer engagement but has potential to grow to 57% in the next 5 years. More than 30% of the worldwide population is now online permanently or have some sort of eventual access to the web. More than 1/5 of consumer’s free time is being spent on the social media sites, reaching an approximate of 250 million tweets and 800 million Facebook statuses updated every single day. Only in the United States, more than 80% of online active users spend their on social media sites or blogs. 60% of people uses 3 or more digital forms of research product comparison, prices and information about intended purchases, being 40% of those done via social media sites like Facebook or simply redirected from one of these sites leading to even direct interactions with retailers about offers posted. Around 56% Americans have one to three profiles in a social media site being 55% of them aged between 45-55 and having at least one profile

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) facts

70% of the links search users click on are organic. 46% of all searches are for information about products or services. Half of all local searches are performed on mobile devices. 66% of new customers use search and online research to find local businesses. There are 863 million websites globally that mention “SEO.” There are 9.1 million searchs conducted including the acronym each month, with the top two phrases being “SEO services” and “SEO company.” More than 60,000 Twitter users include “SEO” in their bios, there have been 13 million blog posts published that include “SEO” in the title, and Amazon.com carries almost 2,700 different books about SEO 75% of searchers never scroll past the first page of results. 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. B2B companies that maintain active content like blogging and SEO programs increased their total website traffic, on average, by 25% in the past year, while those who neglected SEO experienced an average 15% decline in overall visits. 21% of all time spent online is spent on web searches. The big three search engines Google, Bing and Yahoo! are among the five most-visited sites on the Internet. Considering that AOL is #7 and Ask is #10; five of the top 10 most-visited sites on the web are search engines.

In conclusion, Social Media Marketing is a field where professionals and amateurs in advertising can come across and put their own ideas and plans implementing their own techniques. There is no Social Media Marketer university or college degree, this knowledge that should be acquired by extensive research, it needs to be constantly employed and tested in the desired field. It is a revolutionary strategy that has taken down the old TV advertising tactics shifting it to the online market. The percentage of people that prefer to go online on a computer or capable device versus people that watches TV grows steadily every single day. Statistics show Social Media Marketing in a lower impact percentage compared to the legacy ways for advertising, but the potential it has and room for growth is in no doubt overwhelming and could be much more improved and interactive than TV has been for the past decades.

Social Media Marketing, Truth and Lies

Social Media Marketing seems to be the latest buzz word for anyone looking to increase their online presence and sales, but is Social Media Marketing (SMM) all it is cracked up to be?

S.M.M companies are now springing up all over the place these days and they are telling anyone that will listen about how incredibly important social media like Facebook twitter and YouTube are to your business but, for the average small to medium sized business, does marketing to social networks really live up to all the hype? Is spending a small fortune on hiring a SMM company really worth it? And has anyone really done their research on this before they hired someone to set up there Facebook business page? Some SMM companies are setting up things like Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or more and telling their clients that they don’t need a website because Facebook is the biggest social network in the world and everybody has a Facebook account. Now while it may be true that Facebook is the largest social network in the world and yes, Facebook’s members are potential consumers, the real question is are they actually buying? Social media marketing companies are all too happy to point out the positives of social media like how many people use Facebook or how many tweets were sent out last year and how many people watch YouTube videos etc. but are you getting the full picture? I once sat next to a SMM “expert” at a business seminar who was spruiking to anyone who came within earshot about the amazing benefits of setting up a Facebook business page for small business (with him of course) and selling on Facebook. So, intrigued by the aforementioned “experts” advice I looked him up on Facebook only to find he had only 11 Facebook friends (not a good start). So being the research nut that I am, I decided to take a good look into SMM in regard to selling to see if it actually worked, who did it work for and if it did why did Social Media Marketing work for them? And should business rely so heavily on social networks for sales?

As a web developer I was constantly (and now increasingly) confronted with several social networking challenges when potential clients would say that having a website sounds good but they had a Facebook business page and had been told by various sources (the ever present yet anonymous “they”) that social networks were the thing to do, but after discussing their needs it became quite clear that those potential clients didn’t actually know why they needed social networks or SMM to generate online sales, They just wanted it. For small and medium sized business I always recommended building a quality website over any type of social network, why? Well it’s simple really because social media is Social Media, and social Networks are Social Networks they are not business media and business networks (that would be more like LinkedIn). I know that sounds simple but it’s true and the statistics back it up. The fact is that social media marketing fails to tell you that Facebook is a social network not a search engine and despite the number of Facebook users and Google users being around the same, people don’t use Facebook in the same way that they use a search engine like Google (which has around half the search engine market), Yahoo and Bing to search for business or products. They use it to keep in touch with family and friends or for news and entertainment. In a recent study done by the IBM Institute for Business Value around 55% of all social media users stated that they do not engage with brands over social media at all and only around 23% actually purposefully use social media to interact with brands. Now out of all the people who do use social media and who do interact with brands whether purposefully or not, the majority (66%) say they need to feel a company is communicating honestly before they will interact.

So how do you use social media marketing? And is it even worth doing?

Well first of all I would say that having a well optimized website is still going to bring you far more business that social media in most cases especially if you are a small to medium sized local business because far more people are going to type in “hairdresser Port Macquarie” into a search engine like Google, Yahoo and Bing than they ever will on any Social Media Site and if you don’t have a website you’re missing out on all of that potential business. However despite all the (not so good) statistics I still think it is still a good idea for business to use social media just not in the same way that a lot of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not working in the way they claim it does. Basically SMM Companies and Business as a whole looked at social networks like Facebook as a fresh market ripe for the picking and when Facebook started getting users measured by the millions PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel invested US$500,000 for 7% of the company (in June 2004) and since them a few venture capital firms have made investments into Facebook and in October 2007, Microsoft announced that it had purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million. However since Facebook’s humble beginnings up until now (2012) both SMM Companies and Business have failed to truly capitalise on the huge number of Facebook users online. The truth is numbers does not equal buyers. Is it in a Social Media Marketing company’s best interest to talk social networks up? Absolutely. Is it in a Social Network like Facebook’s best interests for people to believe that companies can sell en masse by advertising and marketing with them? Of course it is. In early 2012, Facebook disclosed that its profits had jumped 65% to $1 billion in the previous year as its revenue which is mainly from advertising had jumped almost 90% to $3.71 billion so clearly the concept of SMM is working out for them but it is working out for you? Well… statistically no, but that does not necessarily mean that it never will.

I believe the major difference between social networks and search engines is intent. People who use Google are deliberately searching for something so if they do a search for hairdressers that’s what they are looking for at that particular time. With something like Facebook the primary intent is usually to connect with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I don’t think social networks can be monetized in the same way that search (Search Engines) did… In three years from now we have to figure out what the optimum model is. But that is not our primary focus today”. One of the biggest problems business face with social networks and SMM is perception. According to the IBM Institute for Business Value study there were “significant gaps between what businesses think consumers care about and what consumers say they want from their social media interactions with companies.” For example in today’s society people are not just going to hand you over there recommendations, Facebook likes, comments or details without getting something back for it, so the old adage “what’s in it for me?” comes into play. So the primary reason most people give for interacting with brands or business on social media is to receive discounts, yet the brands and business themselves think the main reason people interact with them on social media is to learn about new products. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on their list of reasons why people interact with them. Most businesses believe social media will increase advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.

Companies need to find more innovative ways to connect with social media if they want to see some sort of result from it. There were some good initiatives shown in the IBM study of companies that had gotten some sort of a handle on how to use social media to their advantage, keeping in mind that when asked what they do when they interact with businesses or brands via social media, consumers list “getting discounts or coupons” and “purchasing products and services” as the top two activities, respectively a U.S ice cream company called Cold Stone Creamery offered discounts on their products on their Facebook page. Alternatively there is a great program launched by Best Buys in the U.S called Twelpforce where employees can respond to customer’s questions via Twitter. With both Cold Stone Creamery and Twelpforce the benefit is clearly in the favour of the potential customer & the great trick to social media marketing is to sell without trying to sell (or looking like your selling) unfortunately most social media marketing is focused the wrong way.

Building a tangible buyer to consumer relationship via social media is not easy and probably the most benefit to business’ using social media to boost their websites Google rankings. But business’ need to understand that you can’t just setup a Facebook business page and hope for the best. SMM requires effort and potential customers need to see value in what you have to offer via your social media efforts give them something worth their social interaction and time and then you may get better results.

Now just as a footnote Facebook shares have dropped to under $20 per share, that’s half their original price… and the lawsuits are flying

Anti-Social Media Marketing

Marketing professionals are feverishly obsessed with “social media marketing.” Social media includes websites where huge numbers of users provide their own content and create connections and relationships by sharing information and following each other’s updates. There are dozens, and perhaps hundreds of these sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, Spoke, ecademy, Classmates.com, Friendster and Flickr, where people exchange business and personal information, status updates, photographs, videos, news articles, political views, resumes, sexual interests, sports opinions, recipes, health facts and endless amounts of other data.

It doesn’t end there. Social media marketing also includes the use of blogs, online videos, discussion forums and creating ways to allow customers to provide feedback and ratings on the pages of your websites. And a lot more. It’s tremendously valuable and some organizations have done a great job getting real value out of their social media marketing efforts.

Without a doubt, there are massive marketing benefits available to marketers who can figure out how to harness the attention and preferences of audiences using social media tools. Everywhere you turn in the marketing world, people are promoting the value of engaging social media for businesses purposes. I quickly went through a week’s worth of emails to find invitations to attend or view whitepapers, webinars and conferences. Here is a sampling of what I’ve received over the last seven days:

  • How to Develop a Social Media Strategy That Works For Your Brand
  • Connecting Constant Contact and Social Media for Internet Marketing Success
  • Free webinar – Webcasting + Social Media Increase Attendance: An UNLEASH09 Case Study
  • The Best of Both Worlds: How to Effectively Leverage Social Media Relationships with Real-Time Collaboration Tools
  • Email Gone Viral: How To Extend Email Reach Through Social Sharing
  • 2009 B2B Social Media Benchmarketing Study
  • Service in the Time of the Social Customer
  • Understanding Your Online Reach
  • Generate a Buzz for Your Business Through Social Media Marketing. Convert that Buzz into Revenue.
  • 5 Killer Ways to Promote Your Facebook Fan Page

Now, I subscribe to several marketing newsletters, but there are hundreds of others and this list represents just a week of emails — and I probably missed some. Marketing via social media is white hot — the level of excitement is off the charts.

Social media, however, cannot yet substitute entirely for other, more traditional forms of marketing. Recently, I was on an “expert panel ” at a marketing event and the audience was breathlessly excited about social media. At one point, all of us panelists were asked to comment on the value of this new channel and when it was my turn, I stated that while I thought social media would someday provide enormous marketing value, I was concerned that people were focusing too much effort and attention on it. I said that, in my view, there was probably no huge “first mover advantage” in figuring out how to market successfully via social media and that it was important to continue to utilize email, direct mail, direct sales, telesales, advertising and other channels for now. I said that people should make sure they stayed current with what was happening in social media and they should be constantly experimenting, but, since no one has yet cracked the code on measuring the results of these new opportunities, it was important not to get distracted from demand generation methods we currently use that we know are effective.

These statements won me a large number dirty looks and I felt like I’d just announced that I was predicting a major comeback in Yellow Pages advertising. Several people in the audience probably dismissed any notion of hiring my company to do marketing consulting for them and I think there may have been murmurs of organizing a lynch mob.

The odd thing is that I actually am very excited about the potential of social media marketing and we use it in my company everyday. I just think that its value as a form of demand generation isn’t clearly understood yet and, since it’s not very measurable, it flies in the face of responsible marketing for most companies to devote inordinate amounts of resources to it.

We have a tendency in marketing to assume that new channels make old ones obsolete. For example, when email began to gain in popularity and effectiveness, many marketers concluded that direct mail was on its way out. Oddly enough, email marketing, to some extent, became a victim of its own success. Spam grew at a faster rate than quality email, and soon customers’ in-boxes were loaded with so much garbage that system administrators all over the country became more aggressive at filtering out unwanted email. Unfortunately, a lot of good quality email, much of which customers had subscribed to, got caught in spam filters. Deliverability rates of email marketing campaigns dropped precipitously and the whole medium has lost some of its effectiveness. The net result is that direct mail, good old fashioned printed offers sent through the USPS, has made somewhat of a comeback. The death of direct mail was highly exaggerated.

Something similar is likely to happen to social media marketing and I think it’s already started. For example, I get many emails telling me that people have started to follow me on Twitter. These emails contain no information about my new fans, just a cryptic user name, which I can click on if I want to see who it is. What I have discovered is that a growing number of these “followers” are providers of porn and are probably signing up to follow tens of thousands of unsuspecting Twitter users like me. If this continues unchecked, I will not be a Twitter user for long because, as it turns out, I am not actively seeking more junk mail in my in box. I suspect you are not, either.

My own company has yet to generate any business from our social media efforts. “Old” methods like telephone calls, emails, speaking at conferences and networking still drive most of our business. When I started Real Results Marketing five and a half years ago, I resolved to go through my contacts and either email or telephone people in my network every month. To this day, most of the business opportunities we uncover happen through this type of work and former colleagues are still the richest source of consulting deals. It’s a real struggle sometimes to make myself take time out of a busy day to make those calls or send those emails, but they’ve proven so vitally important to our revenue stream that I don’t dare let up on these efforts.

I realize that most businesses can’t rely on the founder’s professional network as a primary form of demand generation. Bigger companies have their own tried-and-true methods for driving growth. Your company may utilize a sales force, telesales personnel, advertising campaigns, sophisticated database marketing initiatives and other tools for creating sales opportunities and I’d argue that the importance of those approaches hasn’t diminished one bit in the face of social media growth.

Whatever has worked for you historically should still be the primary focus of your sales and marketing. You certainly want to stay plugged in to social media and, by all means, attend workshops, conferences and seminars on the subject. It might even be a smart investment to devote a headcount or two to doing nothing but experimenting with these exciting new marketing tools.

Someday, someone will master how to market effectively and measurably via social media. Once that happens, all of us in marketing will need to learn how to adapt those discoveries to our businesses and use them to drive sales and profits. Until that time, however, marketers should focus most of their resources on the tools they understand so they can live up to their primary responsibility of driving profitable, long term growth for their employers.

I have joked that I have become the leading advocate for “antisocial media marketing.” I’m actually a big supporter of these exciting new channels — just not at the expense of marketing techniques that have been proven to work. Nonetheless, my less extreme position on the subject probably means I won’t be voted the most popular speaker at marketing conferences in the future. I’ll just to have to be sure I stay one step ahead of the lynch mob and keep making my networking calls month after month.

I hope your business is thriving. You may be hearing from me soon.