With businesses looking for the best ways to reach their customers, social media marketing has quickly become one of the easiest and most cost effective options.
Social media marketing enables businesses of all sizes the opportunity to reach consumers where they are spending an increased amount of time — social networking sites. Social media marketing entails marketing or trying to sell a product by advertising on social networking or social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram.
Social media marketing revolves around creating original, free, content on the sites in order to generate buzz about a brand. The objective is to create content that followers will find interesting enough to share with their friends in family. The end goal is to produce a larger circle of consumers taking interest in a business.
Editor's Note: Looking for information on social media marketing services for your business? Use the questionnaire below, and get quickly connected to our vendor partners to learn more about a customized strategy and pricing for your business:
Mashable defines social media marketing as the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites.
"A corporate message spreads from user to user and presumably resonates because it appears to come from a trusted, third-party source, as opposed to the brand or company itself," Mashable writes on its website. "Hence, this form of marketing is driven by word-of-mouth, meaning it results in earned media rather than paid media."
One of the reasons consumers have taken a liking to social media marketing is that it gives them not only a chance to learn more about businesses, it also allows them to interact with them. Social media marketing opens up a two-way street for consumers to ask questions, voice complaints and share positive feedback in a way other marketing doesn't allow for. This open form of communication gives businesses the chance to show consumers they are listening to what they have to say and take their opinions seriously.
One of the reasons this type of marketing has become so popular with businesses is that it doesn't cost a lot to get started. Getting started with social media marketing is very easy and something anyone can do. While you will get better results if you do some research to train yourself on the tactics of social media marketing, interacting with people is a skill that most are born with.
Social media marketing plans
The first step in creating a social media marketing plan is determining the social networks worth being active on. With so many social networks out there, businesses need to focus on the ones where they know their customers are. It is important to gauge your customers on the social networks they use most often in order to not waste time on sites consumers aren't paying attention to.
Some of the most popular social networking sites for social media today are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google +. To launch social media marketing campaigns, all businesses need to do is sign up for free with each social network they want to use. Once registered, businesses can create individual profiles for their business and start posting content, such as industry trends, company news and promotional information right away.
Once a business has created profiles on each site, it is important that they define the goals they are trying to achieve. Do they want to use social media marketing to sell a certain product, create buzz about the business in general or drive more consumers to their website? By knowing the goal of the plan, it will be easier to determine the type of strategy and content that should be used.
Another main component of any social media marketing plan is figuring out how to attract fans, friends or followers. One quick way to do so is by tapping into the current customer base. Encouraging current customers to "friend" or follow along in exchange for a coupon or free gift is an easy to start building up a following.
Once current customers are in the mix, ideally they will start sharing the posted content with their friends and family, who then will in turn start following along as well.
In addition to content, businesses must decide if they want customer service to be a part of their social media strategy. If it is, they need to keep constant tabs on their social media pages so they can respond to customer questions and complaints. Not responding will only make companies lose credibility in the eyes of those whose business they are trying to attract.
Besides posting their own content and responding to questions and complaints, an organization should make customer engagement a key part of their social media strategy. Ask them questions about what they like and dislike about the brand. This is a tremendous source of information that shouldn't go untapped.
Social media marketing services
Since many small business owners don't have the time or the insight on how to best create social media marketing plans, they hire outside services to do it for them. Social media marketing companies can not only use each platform to a business's advantage, but they also can teach owners and other employees how to manage the content that goes on each site and how to evaluate where their views are coming from.
When choosing a social media marketing service, businesses should look for those that have s solid reputation and experience, as well as those that are well versed not only in the major social networks, but those that are new to the scene.
Among the other sites they should be experienced with include Digg, Blogger, YouTube, Reddit, Wikis, and Stumbleupon.
Businesses also want a social media marketing company that can provide monthly reports that show which social marketing campaigns are getting the most hits. A good social networking company will tell you what they are doing and how they are doing it, while the best companies will continue to be active in making sure your business is noticed on the Web.
To help small businesses choose the right service, Business News Daily's sister site, Business.com conducted extensive in-depth reviews of social media marketing companies. Among the companies they recommend as best for businesses include WebiMax, Oracle, Sysomos, Portent, OrangeSoda and Datasift. Visit Business.com's best picks page to read reviews of each of these vendors and more.
Editor's note: Looking for information on social media marketing services for your business? Use the questionnaire below, and get quickly connected to our vendor partners to learn more about a customized strategy and pricing for your business: