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Getting started with social media marketing

December 1st, 2009 / By: / Feature, Marketing

Don’t know where (or why!) to embark on social media marketing efforts? Jeff Korhan walks tent rental pros through the basics.

Are you savvy to social media marketing or struggling to understand the phenomenon? While these methods are new (and possibly intimidating), the goals for marketing your business this way are networking and trust building—things that as a tent renter or event planner, you are already an expert at. Tent Conference 2010 keynote speaker Jeff Korhan answers a few questions about why your company needs to engage in these kinds of marketing efforts, and how to get started. Korhan is the creator of Strategic Social Media Marketing for Entrepreneurs: Take Control of Your Business Growth Now! on CD.

Q: What is “social media marketing,” and why do I need to use it?

Social media marketing, or new media, is a term that collectively includes blogs, micro-blogs and social networking sites. All of these sites, such as Facebook, Twitter™ and the millions of blogs, are interactive websites. This feature alone explains much of the explosion in social media marketing. When you create an environment that easily brings people together, it encourages a variety of activities. People are learning more about each other, they are building trust and readily sharing information, and this is leading to new business opportunities.

The one area where most of us find social media to be especially helpful is with search engine optimization (SEO). Google™ rewards websites that are interactive, so it will rate blogs higher than static websites. If your blog and social media sites are properly optimized for the right keywords and they point to your website, they will pull your company website up in the search engine rankings along with them. While there are many benefits to using social media, getting found on the Web by Google has to be near the top.

Q: Isn’t my website enough? I really prefer doing business face-to-face, and staying on top of the latest and “greatest” technology is time-consuming.

Getting face-to-face with prospects and customers is the best way to grow your business. Unfortunately, we are limited by the amount of time we have available to do this. We are all time starved, and the trend is to conduct research and make those initial connections online. In that regard, social media is a tool that better leverages your time by making face-to-face meetings more productive.

When you get comfortable with social media, the virtual reality easily merges with face-to-face conversations. I have communicated with clients for months through social networks and then unexpectedly run into them at business conferences or within the community. You soon discover that a virtual conversation has just as much value as the real one. The information being shared is exactly the same, so it all leads you closer to securing client relationships.

Q: Can you give me an example or hypothetical situation to show how I might use social media marketing to reach a new client?

Last week I gave a two-hour presentation to a client on how to use social media to enhance relationship selling. The entire event went well, with the sales manager making the suggestion to bring me back to reinforce the learning and take it deeper. Normally, I would do a standard email or telephone call follow-up. However, near the close of my presentation, one of the other managers asked me an important question. I believe I gave a valid answer, but it was a very good question and I wanted to be sure I had properly addressed his concern.

I reconsidered his question at length during my drive home, and the next morning I explored it with a new post on my blog. This allowed me to help his team further, while also sharing insights for the benefit of other entrepreneurs within my blog community. Using social media, I was able to show my client I cared enough to give his question its due while also sharing it with a larger audience that could provide additional perspectives, which is exactly what occurred through their comments to the post.

Sharing real stories is an ideal means for organically attracting new clients who will see their situation in that example. To further activate this, you “push” it out to your other social media sites through a link. And once in a while it may be appropriate to send it directly to a prospect you are hoping to engage with. It’s not always a speedy process, but I’ve found when you make that connection, you have a receptive prospect.

Q: Does social media marketing replace my traditional marketing strategies? How can they be used in tandem?

Many of us believe electronic newsletters are becoming passé. They are what some marketers refer to as “interruption marketing.” People already get too many emails, and an e-zine is just a longer, more polished email. Like emails, they are still a necessary interruption to our normal work, but that is changing.

The RSS feeds that control all of the social media subscriptions allow readers to “consume” the information on their own terms. They can subscribe to it in a reader or they can choose an email subscription. Most importantly, they can opt out and resubscribe as many times as they wish, with all of this done privately. This gives them a feeling of being in control, which is why we call this “permission marketing.” Notwithstanding this trend, you can still send e-zines, postcards and other traditional marketing pieces. I still do myself. Yet, you have to be aware of how the markets want to be served and start adapting to that now. The best approach is to experiment with a hybrid in which your traditional and new media methods complement each other. A simple way to get started incorporating social media into your traditional marketing methods is to add your LinkedIn®, Facebook and Twitter addresses to your business cards.

Q: How do I set goals for my social media marketing efforts, and how are those goals measured?

Social media marketing goals should have some element of community building as a primary component. Your community is your target market. Yet, a key difference from a marketing standpoint is recognizing you are now working with social networks, and are therefore socially marketing. Your goals are not necessarily sales, but those things that encourage sales. This includes adding value, enhancing your reputation and generating personal introductions.

The numbers game is still being sorted out on social networks, with viable methods being just around the corner. Right now, the most useful information I get comes from my blog. I monitor the number of times a post is read and where those readers are linking from. This information tells me which messages are resonating with my market, and that helps me to continuously adapt and enhance the value of my communications.

Q: OK, you’ve convinced me. Where do I get started?

Getting started often involves setting up a profile on LinkedIn, which is a professional social networking site that functions as a database. You can think of it as a large file drawer that contains everyone’s LinkedIn profile, which is much like a resume. You’ll find corporate executives, entrepreneurs and job seekers all equally using LinkedIn. Some people create their profile and stop there, which is certainly better than doing nothing at all. However, the real value is building your list of connections and occasionally updating your status to generate interaction. This is best accomplished by building a bio and making updates that get people thinking, “Hmm, that’s interesting, I’d like to know more.”

After you get the basic set-up done, search for people you know and learn how they are using LinkedIn. Notice both what information they are including and excluding. Then, just follow the crowd and learn the culture, which will vary from network to network. Start slow and increase your interaction when you get comfortable, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your community. They will gladly help you out. You just have to keep in mind that you want to be a giver first and a taker second. These are social networks, and they work to help your business after you show others you are there to help them too.

Learn more from Jeff Korhan at his blog, www.jeffkorhan.com.

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