Before discussing how to use social media for marketing purposes, let’s get our definitions straight so that we are all on the same page.
According to Wikipedia,
Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service. .
The same esteemed source defines social media as:
Defining The Definitions
What is inherent in the above definitions is the following:
- Marketing is a dual purpose tool used for both communicating with people and for sales
- Social media is a platform for the virtual gathering of people
The logical conclusion to be drawn from this is that, even though social media has been around for the blink of an eye relative to the existence of marketing, it is almost as though social media has been created as the perfect marketing tool. And so it has come to pass.
The Social Media Phenomenon
Social media may have been developed as a medium to encourage social interaction but the monetization of these platforms is currently perhaps the hottest trend in the world. Incredible valuations are given to the better known companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and not a day goes by when a fledgling social media company is either acquired by one of the online behemoths or is on the way to its own IPO.
So what is the big attraction of social media from a marketer’s perspective? The ability to target billions of users from around the world quickly and cheaply is nothing short of a marketer’s wet dream…and nightmare.
Every Positive Has A Negative
It is rare to find a product, no matter how brilliant or revolutionary it is, that doesn’t also have a negative element.
Whereas social media has helped lower barriers to entry in almost every market by enabling sole traders or small companies to quickly and easily access market data that would previously have been prohibitively expensive and do this from the comfort of their kitchen; it has also given everyone with something to sell the impression that they are born marketers and can circumvent dealing with experts in the field.
Marketing is a specialist profession, and even though it can be done competently by those with the desire, ability, and time to invest in the task, simply having a blog will not pass muster in the highly competitive world in which we live. As for the downside for specialist marketers, well, it seems as though that is their problem.
Getting Your Feet Wet
Notwithstanding that using social media for marketing, if done properly, does take time and an element of expertise, it can be done. And if you, like most small businesses are strapped for cash and must watch every dollar you spend, it is a great way for you to market your wares. But how do you go about it?
It was mentioned earlier that a blog is simply not enough, and that is correct; however, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have one and that it shouldn’t be regularly updated. A blog is a basic yet important tool in your social media strategy as it is a place where you will attract followers, allowing you to build your own community.
In a world where everyone with a computer and Internet access can become a potent force for marketing, building your own community will result in you not having to do the heavy lifting of your marketing alone. Treat your community right and you can quickly have hundreds or even thousands of followers singing your praises online. And the importance of personal recommendations cannot be underestimated as it brings a human element to cyberspace that helps to reduce cynicism and build trust.
It’s Never Too Early to Start
Social media must be used from the earliest stages of your marketing endeavors. It can and should be used to gather information about your market and competitors. This is done by visiting relevant websites, blogs, and online communities.
At first, take in what goes on and, once you get the lie of the land, start to contribute. When you contribute and show your knowledge, you start to be a “go to” member of the community where you become trusted by its members – and the key to marketing your product, especially online, is by building trust. Use the community to start to promote yourself and your product.
Use social media to organize a targeted survey so as to help formulate your marketing strategy. The information gathered from such surveys can be pure gold in helping you get to know about your market. In the past, gathering this data was the exclusive preserve of marketing firms and firmly out of the financial possibilities of sole practitioners or even small companies. These days, thanks to social media, such data is within the financial reach of everyone.
Of course, a social media presence on a site or sites conducive to what you are trying to sell is necessary. And “conducive” means not using a site like LinkedIn to market toys. Just as you target whatever you sell to a certain demographic, so too you must use social media wisely by finding out where your market “hangs out” and “meeting” it where it feels most at home.
The Final Word
Social media has been a literal godsend for marketing absolutely everything. What other platform enables you to connect with so many people in so many countries, so cheaply? However, it is imperative that you know that it will take time and effort to use social media so as to best utilize its power.
Although you can use social media for marketing, never forget that, just because it is a platform that is open to everyone, doesn’t mean that everyone is capable of using it to its full potential. Learning to do so takes time and effort and even that is no guarantee that your marketing efforts will bear fruit.
[Images - Main: Despicable Me, Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment, Wet Feet: Alex, Creative Commons Attribution Licence]