You’ve got your small business or online e-commerce website up and running, but the sales haven’t poured in yet. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on television, Internet and newspaper ads, consider social media to market your products and services. Social media gets information directly to the people (your potential customers) using a multitude of social media networks. Here are five of the most basic Social Media to Market Yourself.

#1- Create Your Brand Identity

Creating your brand is more than concocting some cute jingle or designing a nifty logo. Your brand is the icon that personally connects your product or service with the audience. In other words, your brand is more than a visual information tag, it’s an identity—a unique description of the personality or quality behind your product or service, and how it fulfills a particular need. When you are marketing via word of mouth, personality and quality are everything.

Social networking is largely image-based, so the first step in creating a brand image is creating a clear, descriptive logo. The best logos contain singular objects with limited color or a focal point amongst a simple backdrop. Create a catchy tagline that describes your business in a few words. Social media is hyperactive, flitting from one topic to another. Your brand should grab your audience in a few seconds. Once you have created your brand, stick with it and use it everywhere you promote your business.

#2- Know Your Audience

Studies indicate that most social media followers are educated with middle-class incomes, but from there the demographics deviate. For example, Facebook users are split even amongst the genders, but females dominate Pinterest while males largely prefer Google+. People with college degrees on LinkedIn outnumber Pinterest users two to one. Age groups are divided evenly on Twitter, Digg, Pinterest and Facebook, but younger people flock to Google+ and LinkedIn. When promoting your brand on social media, be all things to all people. Emphasis the “hip” component of your brand on Digg and Google+ while highlighting durability and customer service on Facebook and Pinterest.

Additionally, know what to suggest and when. For example, people generally use Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends, Twitter for news and events, LinkedIn to network amongst professionals, and Pinterest for hobbies and crafts. If your business sells microchips, you will get more interest from Google+ and Digg whose users are primarily interested in technology. If you sell jewelry and homemade gifts, appeal to the users of Pinterest and Facebook.

#3- Never Nag, Never Spam

Social media is all about offering suggestions through word of mouth. Never push or nag your followers or prospective buyers with multitudes of unsolicited material, or your strategy will backfire. Instead, make timely suggestions. Apply the “need recognition” strategy by first describing the need or the problem, or making suggestions when a follower asks a question. Once the need is established, discuss how your product or service meets the need or solves the problem. Watch for opportunities to present your solutions. Social media marketing is not slamming readers with advertisements, it is befriending people and offering your product or service to fill a need.

#4. Purchase Ad Space on Social Networks and Blogs

While this technique may not be as effective as the direct word-of-mouth media marketing, buying ad space on some of the big networks such as Facebook and other big-name websites can give your business some exposure. Studies show that people in their 50s and older prefer recommendations from people they know while the younger generations are more likely to follow an advertisement. Networks such as Facebook and Twitter provide you with recommendations for targeting a particular audience and offer suggestions.

Sponsored posts on blogs may give you a boost, too, as well as improve your search engine optimization ranking in some cases. Consider exchanging a free product or service in exchange for a review. Most bloggers are connected with Facebook, Twitter and other networks, and they do tend to share their posts and ideas within their own social networking circle. In this way, your brand is presented to a very diverse web of readers who otherwise might skim over a blurb on Twitter or a banner ad on Facebook.

#5. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help From The Pros

If your social strategies are falling short, consider a consultation with a professional social media marketing strategist. These pros know some of the most common pitfalls of social media marketing as well as what brings success. They also maintain more inroads into venues that are otherwise hidden from the homeopathic marketing approach.

Some professionals offer a free consultation with no-cost estimate. So if you decide against working with a company, you can at least glean some tidbits of information to apply to your own efforts. Another benefit is that most pros give you the ability to analyze your marketing statistics in real time to see if the strategy is working and what strategy is better than the others.

Social media marketing is the new wave in business and brand promotion. Not only does Internet marketing get the word instantly long before the print media catches up, it has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people very quickly and inexpensively. As you develop your social media strategy, be sure to monitor your progress with analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Reinvigorate, Twitter Web Analytics, TwentyFeet and others. Watching your stats will help you determine what strategy is working and for how long.

What do you think? Do you have any social media marketing skills that have helped you develop your business or venture?

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