Social Media and Marketing 101 for Business--What you need to know to get started

Tracy Marlowe  |  April 14, 2009

I just realized the other day that, while I've been steamrolling ahead, embracing social media and marketing, learning all that I can and putting those learnings into practice for our clients, a great deal of the business world is still at square one.

At a meeting last week, a client asked "I've been hearing about this social marketing stuff.  It seems important.  Do we need it?  What do I need to know?"

I had an "ah-hah" moment that it might be helpful to spell out the basics of social media and marketing here on our blog, just as I did for our client.

Social Marketing is just a piece of  a greater puzzle

According to a study at Duke University, commissioned in February 2009 by the American Marketing Association, traditional advertising spend is down 7.3%.  Likely due to economic factors.  Marketing is always the first place people cut, right?  But online marketing? GMB management?  Companies are now spending 10.2% more than they did previously in online marketing.

Why do you think that is?

I believe that companies are finally catching on to the true power of the Internet.  They're realizing that the Internet has now evolved beyond the novelty that it was perceived as in the early 2000's.  It's becoming a way of life.  A primary means of collecting data.  More and more so as a tool for collecting data on companies that we as consumers consider utilizing in some fashion.  Most people will do a quick search on any company they encounter, whether a business colleague, a retailer, a hair dresser or a consultant.  And now it is TRULY a way of life for the younger and most influential generations who have the most impressive purchasing power, eclipsing even the Baby Boomer market.

Without a doubt, the Internet is here to stay and growing more powerful everyday as a business and marketing tool for reaching our markets.  Especilally as more and more people have begun to take strides to block out traditional advertising, through the use of DVR's to cutout commercials, satellite radio, spam filters, etc.  Traditional marketing, or outbound marketing, is being placed on the backshelf as companies harness the power of inbound marketing, through the internet, which allows us to get in front of markets with the information that they are looking for exactly when they are looking for it.  Definitely where you want to be if you're a marketer.

Social marketing is definitely a part of  the whole overall Internet marketing puzzle.  But remember it is just a piece.  If you truly want to be successful, you need to create a strong, unique brand that is congruent between several pieces of the Internet marketing puzzle.  These pieces include:

  • A strong website designed, not just as an online brochure, but to answer the questions that your market is looking for when they search for information on the web
  • A Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy.  It isn't enough just to have a killer website.  If you have a beautiful billboard in the middle of the desert, what good is it to you if no one sees it?  It's extremely helpful if this strategy is put into place BEFORE you develop your website so that you can architecture your website to organically capture traffic.  But, if you have an existing site, you can still retro fit it with updated info to amp up the SEO.  We have clients for whom we've successfully done this.
  • A blog.  Okay, this counts as social marketing.  I feel like this is another crucial piece of the puzzle.  I've had clients who think that they're too busy or won't know what to post about.  A blog can be a 10x more cost effective and powerful tool to develop a relationship with your clients than most forms of traditional advertising.  Make the time.  Read other blogs.  Search Technorati for blogs relevants to your industry.  Then, develop a strategy.  And just do it.  It'll take time to build it up, but you'll be surprised at the results over time.
  • Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn.  More social marketing!  Do some research and see what other companies, especially companies in your industry, are doing.  Sign up, develop a page and promote it on your website, blog and to your customers and vendors.  You'll be surprised at how viral these efforts can become.  You'll tell your people, they'll link up or become fans, then their network will see you and so on, and so on.  Also, plan to keep your content fresh and relevant to your market so that people will stay in touch.  There's nothing less helpful on the web than static, boastful content about a company.  Show your market that you understand then, want to help them and provide them the info that they are looking for to develop a loyal relationship with them.
  • Microblogging.  Now you're really social marketing!  For some reason, microblogging sites like are probably the hardest for most businesses to swallow as relevant.  Especially if they haven't seen them in action or have ever logged on to poke around.  Why would I want to see what some guy named Bob had for breakfast?  But Twitter can be yet another powerful social media avenue for developing your brand as well as for staying on top of the latest conversations in your industry.  Think of it like a cocktail party, with only the people you wanted to invite.  You can eavesdrop and listen to what people are saying in regards to pretty much any topic you like.  And  you can jump right in and participate when you like.

My client asked, "What if we do social marketing and someone says something awful?"  My response to them was that people are going to say what they want to say.  The difference with social marketing is whether or not you choose to participate.

Okay, there is still so much to be said on each of these individual subjects.  I could do an entire series of posts on SEO, Facebook, Twitter, etc. for business, and likely will sometime soon (so stay tuned!).  But I wanted to at least address the general question of what social marketing truly encompasses and how it can help businesses.

For more information now, here are a few great articles that you may find helpful:

There are a ton more out there, but these should at least get you started.

Don't forget your brand

Even with the power of the Internet, it is still so crucial that you maintain a strong brand identity for your business.  You need a unique selling proposition.  You need to connect with your customers in a way that your competitors don't.  You don't abandon your brand just because you now have a Twitter account and/or a blog.  In fact, it is more important than ever to keep that brand in mind as you talk with your customers because it will be the thing that will make your relevance to them bubble to the top.  So never forget it!

I hope you found this post helpful.  There's so much to be said--we're seeing more and more everyday what a powerful tool Internet and social marketing can be for a company with the dedication to see it through.

Let us hear your thoughts.  Are you considering upgrading or implementing an internet and social marketing strategy?  Have you started?  What successes have you seen?  What roadblocks?

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