While the social networking websites have really generated a lot of appreciation for the Social Media and Internet Marketing in the business community, a lot of small business owners still do not appreciate this phenomena. A lot of successful businesses (while they succeeded using traditional marketing methods which still work), still do not value the value of Social Media Marketing.
To many people, social media means create a bunch of profiles at a few social networking websites, connect with a few people, follow some people and put some status updates and you are all set. I see a lot of business talk about internet marketing, E-Commerce business, but they do not have any systematic way to market themselves online, they have no strategy to generate leads or attract prospects using online methods.
Sometimes it's lack of knowledge, sometimes it's lack of willingness to learn and change. But a smart business owner will not leave any stone unturned to grow their business, to capture the market utilizing the trends. Having a profile on social media is great, but using the social media to establish you as a brand in the marketplace, taking care of your online reputation and growing your business online requires some thinking and discipline.
I don’t mean to suggest that it is a complex arena or it requires a lot of time, money or expertize. With a little guidance and willingness to adapt, I am fairly certain anybody can take control of their online marketing campaign. It is not a rocket science. Actually it's a lot of fun making money if done right. However, there are rules for this game and successful social media marketing is possible only if one follows a few simple rules.
Good Social Media Marketing Practices
Your online profile on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn (and any other social networking website that you might want to use) must have a genuine detail about yourself. Your real picture, description about yourself, your business should be represented exactly the way you will answer if somebody asked you in a networking event, "What do you do for living?"
One way to build a strong social network online is to do online exactly what you do in real life. There should never be a disconnect between how you act online and how you appear offline. The more genuine you are online, the more credibility you have and the better trust your network will have in you.
Another important aspect of building strong network is, interacting with your connections, engaging them in dialogue. Be creative, ask questions, add value to others with your contributions and you will have a large following online. This approach has been tremendously successful for many. You can do it too!
People who have no company have a website today. Do you have a well designed website for your business? Does it have ability to engage your audience on social media?
Do you have a blog on your website? Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to continue to improve and drive a social media campaign without a blog. You have no way to keep your customers, associates, partners, prospects engaged with your brand if you don't have a way to share regular updates or news with them. Integrate a blog into your site and update it regularly with good content.
Being aware of all the changes happening around you on the web is absolutely important for your reputation management. It is not just important for your social media marketing, but any kind of marketing on line. Setup the Google Alerts to keep track of latest happening around your business or your industry.
Social media marketing can hardly be possible unless you are willing to be social. Subscribe to feeds from relevant sites, use an RSS reader and comment on posts you like or find particularly relevant to your interest. Commenting on posts is great way to get you the opportunity to initiate a discussion. This activity is one of the most important activity if you want to drive traffic and comments to your own blog and create some buzz around your website.
Every business needs potential new customers. Just because you have a social network on Facebook or Twitter doesn't guarantee you will start to have more sales. Having a website of your own and allowing people to become part of your own brand's online community is the first step towards generating your own system of lead generation.
It may be your quality of content, or may be the discounts or offers on your website, but people will be happy to sign up on your website and to become part of your community if you have a facility to allow them to register to become part of your mailing list.
Having a mailing list can be as easy as using Feedburner service by Google that is abslutely free. Get that integrated with your website and start building your list.
It is important to keep your social profiles live and updated. Make sure you have fresh content, fresh update keeps coming on your website and your profile at your selected interval. Sure, you can have a different interval for your website than your social profiles – but you must keep them live. A lot of business owners get excited about social media and start practicing some or all of the good practices, but as life happens, they drop the ball in the middle.
If you don't finish what you started and you don't have discipline to stay the course, you better don't start it because your failure is guaranteed.
Social Media Marketing - Bad Practices (DON'T DO THESE)
A very simple rule to follow in this regard is, "What is bad offline, is bad online too". It is just a common sense! If you keep keep tweeting and advertizing your product or service on social media, you are engaging in social spamming. If you are posting unsolicited self promotional content on other people's walls on Facebook (I see some people do consistently), you will see your marketing campaign die an extremely quick death. Not only you lose your credibility, social or otherwise, but all your efforts will go in vain.
Social spamming isn’t limited to offering unsolicited irrelevant links on social sites; posting promotional comments (with or without links), even sending automated self promotional Direct Messages on twitter are considered spam. You better don't do it.
Don't try to do too much too fast. Just because you figured you got into the game a little too late, don’t try to make up for it by working over time.
Investing too much time to post too many updates, too many tweets, too much of anything is bad. Let your social media and brand establishment efforts take their natural course. Enjoy the process one step at a time.
Battling it out with a competition can do more harm than good to your business. Be respecful of others and use your social media creativity to drive traffic to your website and build your online brand.