Regardless of where a business stands, chances are that if the Internet has anything to do with its success, there is a place for social media marketing in the business plan. New companies, old companies, big companies, small companies — they could all use social media marketing to some extent. Whether they sell online or even if they don’t sell anything at all, Web 2.0 is a place that can help to make or break a company.
The real questions is this: “What is social media marketing and why do I need it?”
There are several different manifestations that can be considered social media marketing. Knowing which one is good for your company makes all the difference in the world in determining how to integrate it into a business plan.
“I want 100,000 extra visitors to my website this week.”
While this is the most commonly known part of social media marketing, it is often the one that goes in with the highest expectations and the lowest yield in results. Content of some sort is created — a story, a video, an image, or even a tool — and it is submitted on the top social media sites and promoted through various means. If successful, the page of the client’s website normally lands on the front page of one of the high traffic driving websites, including:
StumbleUpon is the real wild card in the equation, as the traffic potential is the highest over a longer period of time. Websites do not have to hit the “front page” of SU to get a tremendous amount of traffic, though it helps in getting huge numbers.
There are other forms of viral marketing that can happen without these social media sites. For example, YouTube videos that become popular can get a ton of views, but normally the video has to be exceptional and may not send much traffic to the client website itself. Still, the branding can be exceptional.
Benefits of Viral Marketing:
- Branding, branding, branding — Getting name and logo in front of a lot of people is very easy to do through viral marketing. Whether it registers consciously or not, they will most likely see who you are somewhere in their mind.
- Positive Association — Putting your brand on a page that associates it with something positive can result in good feelings towards your company. For example, a story about companies planting trees can create interest in the company’s products.
- Links — For driving future traffic and for search engine optimization benefits, having a piece of media going viral will create tons of natural links, normally from relevant websites.
- Bookmarks and Subscribers — There is normally a nice burst of bookmarks and feed subscriptions associated with a viral story. Even if the initial burst does little in the way of conversions (see below) there is a chance for future conversions through these bookmarks and feeds.
Drawbacks of Viral Marketing:
- Limited conversion of traffic into sales — Social media users are normally quick in, quick out visitors. While StumbleUpon users are inclined to explore sites that they are interested in after landing on them, the other sites rarely result in more than a single page view per visitor. Depending on the products for sale, it is possible to have hundreds of thousand of social media views and convert none of them intos sales.
- Servers slowing and crashing — Before hitting the front page of Buzz, Digg, or some of the other sites listed above, it is important to make sure you have a strong hosting plan or tools to help handle the traffic bursts. Going viral without the ability to handle it is the worst possible scenario.
Search Engine Optimization through Social Media Marketing
Just when it started getting popular a few months ago, the effects started becoming harder to achieve. For a while, social media has been a tremendous link-building tool that allowed SEOs to get a website or page of the website ranked quickly for competitive keywords. It seems that the search engines, Google in particular, have started to pull back on the amazing strength they were giving to “spammy” styles of using social media marketing for search engine optimization.
For many companies, this is a great thing.
It seems that submissions are starting to need more votes to achieve results on the search engines. Where once someone could submit to Digg and a few other social media sites and expect to get ranked for their “headline” within hours, it appears that submissions need more than the initial Digg to get true credibility.
For social media marketing firms that use strong, established accounts to submit their clients’ stuff, this is a great thing. For marketing firms that have relied on spam or automated submission services, the game is just about up.
Online Reputation Management through Social Media Marketing
If you search Google for “JD Rucker“, you will notice a trend. Most of the listings are social media profiles associated with the name. This is an important and often overlooked (or misused) aspect of social media marketing.
Because of the relevance that social media and social bookmarking are given by the search engines, a company can control their image, and more importantly their search engine presence, through these websites. Getting the profiles and/or submissions ranked is an exceptional tool that can drive negative reviews or competitors off of certain searches. Sometimes, it’s the customers that are lost before they ever make it to a website that are the hardest for a company to swallow because they don’t even know what they lost and why they lost it.
Spam Social Media Marketing
Bad, bad, bad, bad, and bad.
The majority of services out there use spamming techniques to “market” a website through social media. The short term benefits can be good, but in the end, they normally hurt both the SMM company’s reputation and that of their client. Some social media sites have even started banning users and (gulp) their clients’ websites because of an abundance of spam. Once banned, it’s tough to get back on.
Make sure that there are real users who add real value to these websites before letting anyone submit for you. Spamming is much easier and can often be done based upon ignorance. If a social media marketing firm does things the wrong way, it can be permanently damaging to everyone involved.
There are many other good and bad uses and styles of social media marketing. We did not even cover social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. Sadly, most who offer this type of service would argue that they are all essentially the same. In reality, they are not the same and social media marketing is actually multi-faceted and impossible to properly quantify into styles. Deciding what your goal for your company is and working towards those goals through a professional social media marketing firm is the key to being successful in this segment of the industry.
Read more about social media marketing on this blog.