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If you follow the latest trends in online marketing, and maybe even if you don’t, you are probably hearing plenty of buzz about social media. Marketing professionals throughout the world are praising social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as the answer to all of our marketing prayers.
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So, what is social media marketing and should you jump on the bandwagon? In this article, my goal is to separate the hype from the helpful in social media marketing, so you can figure out if your business should dive in and integrate social media into your marketing mix. And if you decide to take the plunge, I will provide you with the secret to social media marketing success.
What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing involves leveraging social networks to share relevant and interesting social media content with your network of fans, followers and connections. Social media marketing campaigns typically focus on creating compelling content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks.
A simple way to understand social media marketing is to think of it as public relations. However, instead of pitching the media, you are pitching your peers. By sharing useful and relevant content with members of your network, your message can achieve a tremendous reach as your network shares your content with members of their networks, who shares it with members of their networks, and so on, and so on and so on.
The Secret to Success: You Need to Become a Content Marketer
The secret to success in social media marketing is to stop marketing your products and services. You need to stop thinking you are only in the business of wholesale distribution. You are also in the business of knowledge. You need to market your specialized knowledge to demonstrate to prospects and customers that you are the expert in your field. In other words, you need to become a content marketer.
Content marketing involves creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage clearly defined target audiences with the goal of driving action. Content marketing needs to serve as the cornerstone of your social media marketing strategy – creating educational items that are considered interesting, relevant and useful by your prospects and customers. The following social media should serve as your content marketing backbone:
Articles: Articles are a fantastic content marketing tool. By creating 500- to 1,000-word educational articles that demonstrate a best practice, you can showcase your expertise and demonstrate to your customers that you understand their needs.
Blog Posts: Blog posts are insightful and timely Web content highlighting important insights, industry news, observations and other useful content. Readers of your blog posts are encouraged to share their comments allowing for a two way dialogue. Your blog should be updated regularly with at least one new post per week or month. Blog posts offer a great opportunity to keep your Website content current and relevant.
Presentations: PowerPoint or similar software can be used to create educational presentations that are oriented toward a particular industry challenge, best practice or training topic. These presentations can be 5 to 50 pages in length – whatever it takes to make your point.
Whitepapers: Whitepapers are topical, educational reports or guides that are oriented toward a particular industry challenge, opportunity or best practice. Generally, whitepapers are 8 to 15 pages in length and can really help you demonstrate thought leadership on issues that are important to your customers.
E-Books: E-Books are like whitepapers on steroids. They generally range from 20 to 50 pages, and present complex information in a compelling and entertaining way.
Videos: If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. Use online video to demonstrate a product, illustrate a best practice, allow customers to see your company behind the scenes, etc. Online videos do not have to be professionally produced – a simple Flip camera will work well. The key is to film content your customers will find useful and actionable.
Webinars: A Webinar is a seminar that is conducted over the Web that participants can easily view from their office or home – either live or on-demand. Most Webinars include a visual slide presentation, as well as an audio broadcast that is accessed either over the computer or phone. Generally, Webinars are 30 to 90 minutes in length and can include an interactive portion to respond to attendee questions.
Podcasts: Podcasts are audio content that people can listen to on your Website or download and listen to on their MP3 devices, like iPods. Podcasts are easy to produce and provide an opportunity for you to speak directly to your audiences and share your knowledge.
Your Website should serve as the hub of your content marketing efforts. Create great content in a variety of social media formats and continually publish them on your Website. Then use your networks on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to spread the word. Future posts will focus on specific strategies to make the most of each of these social networks.
Bob DeStefano is an online marketing strategist and professional marketing speaker with more than 15 years experience helping industrial companies leverage online marketing to produce bottom-line results. Connect with Bob on the Web at www.bobdestefano.com and www.svmsolutions.com or by calling 1-877-786-3249 x3.