The use of social media tools and technology is not a new phenomenon. Newsgroups and forums have been in use on the world wide web since Netscape and Alta Vista ruled the roost. These platforms were used by people with common interests to share and often debate a wide variety of subjects. The web has been social in its nature since day one. But when it comes to using this technology as a marketing tool, we have only really seen this since the mid 2000’s, and major platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have had a massive part to play in this.

Social Media Marketing Today

So what is social media marketing for? I’ll break it down it to a number of key uses:

  • Communicating with customers and prospective customers
  • Raising brand or product awareness
  • Research
  • Reaching new markets (both geographically and demographically)
  • Displaying expertise, thought leadership and opinion
  • Attracting leads and sales

None of the above are shiny new functions of marketing, however social media has changed the way that businesses can go about these activities. Traditionally, businesses would push their message to their customers and prospects, with little coming back to them from that audience. Even with the dawn of the internet, promotion tended to be very one-way, perhaps via a website, banner ads and email. Social media has opened the process up – now your customer base can constantly feedback to you and communicate with you across a number of social media platforms. That is of course if your business is present in those. If you aren’t present, then the conversations are no doubt happening behind your back. Social media allows you to (carefully!) listen to and participate in those conversations. Not being actively involved seems to make little sense. Social media has created a flowing loop between consumers and businesses, and in many ways, put the power in the hands of the customer. The social media platforms represent a plethora of new shop-fronts for businesses of all types. A place to show what you are good at, listen to and converse with  your customers and if done correctly, grow. It is all of the functions of marketing and communications rolled in to one.

The Platforms

Social media is a term for any online tool that allows for conversation and the sharing of information. The diagram below shows just how many social tools and platforms exist:

 

Click to expand! (Courtesy of Brian Solis)

Now, while there are a staggering amount of social media platforms out there, social media marketing as a rule revolves around a smaller number. A basic model for guidance can be seen below:

 

Your website and ideally a blog act as the hub of your social media activity. The platforms that surround this act as drivers of conversation, content and ultimately traffic back to your owned assets, i.e. your website and blog. Facebook and Twitter are regarded as the giants and are suited to the majority of social media marketing activities (both sit very well in a B2C environment, while Facebook is not always suitable in a B2B sense). Video content is a hugely effective tool (when done well!) in social media marketing and platforms like YouTube allow businesses to distribute their content to a potentially large audience. The final ‘spokes’ on this diagram are Instagram and Pinterest. These are relative new kids on the block and revolve around the publishing and sharing of imagery, which again is a key component of successful social media marketing activities. These two platforms may not be suitable for all businesses, however the importance of imagery should not be underestimated.

Key Platform Points

  • Not all platforms are suitable for all businesses and all purposes.
  • You don’t have to be using numerous platforms in order to offer a valuable social media experience (and to achieve strong results for your business). Each platform should be assessed for suitability.
  • Each platform needs to have a tailored approach, they all work differently and should be treated with that in mind.
  • There is nothing worse than a business having a presence on a platform that is stale and unused, it gives off a terrible impression. If you can’t support its use, don’t go there in the first place.

Remember, the platforms are merely the places that deliver your social media strategy. There is a huge amount of planning that needs to take place before a business steps in to the social media space. If there is not a strategy and forward plan in place, the likelihood of success and return are low. It is crucial to identify what you are looking to achieve from this activity and of course, to set targets. Never forget to take a holistic view of your businesses marketing activity, all functions should be ultimately pushing in the right direction.

Principles of Social Media

It is impossible to cover everything you need to know about social media marketing in one blog post, however this has hopefully helped you to understand what social media marketing is and what it can achieve. There are a number of principles that underpin correct and successful use of social media marketing and I will end this post with those:

Content is king – it is now considered a cliche, however in order to attract an audience, create conversation and ultimately an interest in your business and what you sell, you must be creating engaging and compelling content. This content forms the basis of all of your activity across your platforms (spokes).
Be helpful – today’s consumer expects to be able to communicate with businesses via social media. They may praise you or complain to you via one of the platforms and it is your duty to respond to this in an appropriate manner and help them with their needs. Social media can be an extension of your customer service function and a highly rewarding one at that.
Show passion – If (and I hope you are!) you are passionate about your business and its product, you need to harness this and let it show in your social media communications. Social media is all about people. Give your activities a human touch and show some emotion and you will increase your chances of success.
Be innovative – Always strive to break the mould and bring new things to the table, the tools and technology are there – think how you can make eye-catching use of those.
Don’t oversell – The social media purists out there will tell you that you should never look to sell via social media. I say that you can absolutely sell via social, but never make it the key aim of your activity. You need to educate, entertain and engage and serve first, and sell second. Its all about striking the right balance.

We hope that was a useful read. At Velocity Digital we can work with businesses of all shapes and sizes to help you understand and make the most of social media. We also work with businesses who are already active in social media, helping them to maximise their success. To find our more, you can contact us, or visit our services page.

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