Social media is about more than just Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and can be an important digital marketing channel for extending your company’s brand online.
Social media is an effective marketing channel for communicating with current and potential customers alongside more established methods like search engine marketing and email marketing. But being a relatively new marketing channel, it’s also one where many companies are either still learning how to make the most of it or aren’t using social media at all.
Here are the basics of understanding how to use social media in the digital marketing activities of your company.
So, What Is Social Media?
The core foundation of social media, and so-called Web 2.0, allows an interactive dialogue to be initiated online. This can be in the form of user-generated content, such as blogs and photos, or communicating via sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are key examples of social media, allowing relationships to be built among people with similar interests. Now location-based services, such as Foursquare and Facebook Places, are taking this even further by allowing users with mobile phones to communicate their geographical position as well. Many digital companies offer specialist social media services to guide you through the whole process should you need professional assistance
Blogs are another popular example of social media. You can integrate them into your company’s Web site to provide a more informal way for the MD and others to communicate to visitors than allowed in news stories, press releases, and so on. Tools such as Blogger or WordPress are commonly used to create these blogs, and visitors typically can comment on each blog post so a two-way dialogue can occur.
A variation of this are microblogging sites, such as Twitter and Yammer, which restrict posts to short entries.
With Wikipedia being the most famous example, Wikis are also key examples of social media and allow users to collaborate on content. In contrast, social bookmarking sites, such as Delicious and StumbleUpon, allow users to share links from other sites.
There are also content communities, with Flickr and YouTube being well-known examples, which allow users to share a range of multimedia content, including photos, videos, music, and presentations.
Your Company and Social Media
Adding a business blog to your company’s website can build relationships and gain trust and allow visitors to interact with your brand by adding comments and even steering future blog entries. The blog can also help the company build credibility, retain readers, and help with search engine ranking by providing compelling content that can be indexed frequently.
You can also include social bookmarking functionality on your website so visitors can syndicate your content on sites like Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Twitter. This gets your customers, in part, doing your promotion for you.
Both Facebook and Twitter should be used as a means of regularly communicating offers and new products to your existing and prospective customers and providing a way for them to respond to your posts. A business can also use twitter proactively to engage with customers who tweet about your company, both positively and negatively. For example, if a customer has tweeted about a poor experience they’ve had with your company, there’s an opportunity to contact them and hopefully resolve the situation. This may then lead to that customer tweeting positive feedback, resulting in some of their followers or other Twitter users becoming customers.
Companies can utilise YouTube to share videos that have been created, and this can support your SEM activities as they too will be indexed in search engines like Google.
Ways to Measure and Track Social Media Success
Unlike digital marketing activities, such as search engine marketing or email marketing which you can easily measure, the success of social media activities can be a bit more difficult to measure. But there are a few simple metrics that can be used.
The success of your business blog, for example, can be measured by the number of blog posts published, how many visitors each post receives and audience growth. Other metrics include how many comments have been posted, how many sites have added links to your posts, and how often your post is shared on social media sites.
The success of YouTube videos can be easily measured using page views, comments, likes, and channel subscriptions (if you set up a channel in YouTube for your company).
The number of fans of your company’s page on Facebook and the number of followers on Twitter are also important measurements, as are the number of comments received and, in Twitter, retweets. Another important measurement is how many referrals your site receives from people clicking on links from Facebook and Twitter.
Tools also exist that can pull together all mentions of your brand on social media sites, including blogs and Twitter, and give you a real-time picture of how your brand is perceived by analysing conversations and sentiment. This could become even more advanced as the Web becomes more intelligent.