What is Social Media?
Social media are sites on the web, mobile or online that people use to interact with friends and other people or entities who are participants on the social media sites. The most popular social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The purpose of social media marketing is to be connected and engaged with your market, your prospective customers, and/or your existing customers. It is a means for you to have a two-way communication with your market. In social media marketing, not only do you talk to your market but you listen to what your market is telling you.
People engage in social media sites through their desktop computers, laptops, tablets, or mobile devices. In fact, an increasing number of people are using social media sites mainly through their smart phones.
When marketing your business online, look at social media as only a part of your overall effort. It supplements and does not replace creating or managing a marketing-effective Web site, content updates, search engine optimization (SEO), inbound link campaigns, online press releases, event calendar postings, e-mail newsletters, testimonials and reviews, affiliate or loyalty programs, online events or promotions, pay-per-click ads, banners, sponsorships, and others.
What are the Social Media Outlets?
Facebook is a web site where people join and connect with friends. With Facebook, people can update their status (or share what is going on with them), share and recommend news, videos, pictures, web sites they found, and more.
People and businesses can also set up accounts called Facebook Pages. These are not personal accounts, but accounts of businesses, organizations or a group of people with the same interests. It is through these Pages that businesses interact with their market. When a person “likes” a Page, he receives updates and communication on his profile page. He is also able to post any message on the Page, if the Page owner allows it.
It is through these Facebook Page that businesses are able to interact with their market.
Twitter is a social network that streams real-time information posted by other people or people representing businesses or entities. Twitter users get this information when they “follow” other people or entities. This information is in a form of 140 characters maximum posts called “tweets”. The tweets can contain announcements, updates, questions, or links to the business website, video, pictures, and more. Followers can tweet the businesses back with responses.
LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. It LinkedIn connects you to your trusted contacts and helps you exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with a broader network of professionals. LinkedIn is used by small businesses to build their industry network and keep in touch with people relevant to their businesses.
Smaller or niche-related social media sites include MySpace, Friendster, Google Buzz, Meetup, Ning, Tumblr, and a lot more. Location-based social networking includes Foursquare and Gowalla.
Advantages of Social Media
Social media marketing carries many benefits.
- Social media is free. You do not have to pay to sign-in to the most popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
- The audience for social media is huge… and getting larger every day. Furthermore, many people visit these sites many times a day, and spends a lot of time in these sites. Many of the users are your customers and prospective customers!
- Social media is a great place to build your brand. It is a great way to present to your audience what your brand is about. It gives you an opportunity to give your brand a favorable image. Are you hip? Do you strive for product excellence? Dedicated to customer service? Not only do social media take your brand in front of your audience, it also makes your audience a part of your brand. This happens when you share with your audience what’s going on with your brand and when your audience shares with you and other people their love for your brand.
- Social media builds relationship with your market. Relationship with your customers results in customers’ loyalty. If you have great relationship with your customer, your customers tend to recommend you to their friends and social circle.
- Social media enables you to do informal market research. With social media, you can learn how customers perceive your products, how they use your products, ways on how to improve your products based on customers’ input, and many things that you used to learn from expensive market research.
- Social media helps you improve business processes and customer service. Your social media audience tends to be more vocal about your product, and provides valuable feedback to improve your product. Promptly acting on their feedback will improve your product and if your product has a problem, save you from losing customers.
- Social media enables you to sell when opportunity arises. Although social media is mainly for establishing relationships with your customers for the long term, there will always be opportunities to recommend your product and directly produce sales. Through the social sites, you can also encourage your audience to go to your site or page with promotional pitch. You can also offer discounts, special offers, and coupons and hold promotions. Make sure however that when you engage in social media, you do not use it flagrantly sell your product, as you would be seen as spam, and thus turn off your audience.
- Social media can drive “captive audience” to your website. Your website should be the hub of your online marketing efforts, and you should make use of all the ways to drive traffic to your site. It is not a good idea to be dependent on just one way to drive traffic to your site, like from search engines because search engines change their ranking rules or algorithms and may affect your ranking anytime. Next to search engine marketing, social media is one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your web site.
- Social media improves your web site’s search engine ranking. Search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo look at links from social media and social media buzz to determine your brand’s standing in the market. Positive mentions about your brands and social media link to your site can boost your ranking in the search engines for keyword that people use to search for your product or service.
Look at social media as a long-term ongoing effort. The benefit may not come immediately, but will be for the long term.
Disadvantages of Social Media
- If you make a mistake online, it may hurt your brand or even damage your reputation for good. Things said in social media is easily passed around (or gets viral), and it would be difficult or impossible to control its spread.
- It may require time and effort to engage with your audience.
- As social media gets more popular, with many companies and businesses joining in, it is becoming harder to gain visibility among its hundreds of millions of users (this is especially true with Twitter).
When Social Media Makes Sense for your Business
The benefits of social media depend on the business. For some businesses, it does not make sense to spend time and effort in it, since these are better spent on other online marketing efforts. Also, social media marketing does not make sense to businesses that cater to customers who are typically not involved in social media.