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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter: December 2010

Welcome to this issue of our monthly newsletter - the last for 2010 - which covers news and trends in website marketing.

Over the past few months, this newsletter has focused on common questions raised about different aspect of website marketing, including search engine optimisation, PPC/AdWords advertising and, last month, website analytics. This month is the final edition of this series and so we focus on Social Media Marketing (SMM) and how this can improve the marketing of your website. We've listed the 10 most common questions we're asked about Social Media Marketing, and hopefully we've answered some of things that you are curious about.

We hope you enjoy these issues of the newsletter and, as ever, we welcome your feedback and would like to hear from you if there are any other questions we've not answered.

On to this month's edition...

Common FAQs about Social Media Marketing

What is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing is the new trend for online businesses and a new angle on the role of word-of-mouth marketing. By harnessing the growing popularity and usage of social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, social media marketing can be used to develop networks and business leads through the sharing of information and contacts. However, it's also a difficult medium to make work effectively, since social media sites are used differently to other types of website - such as search engines or online shopping sites so that companies need to commit time and have a clearly planned strategy in place for using these tools.

Which are the most popular Social Media sites?

Social media websites are usually defined by their ability for interaction, so that users can add comments and reviews, or interact in the form of an online community. The original social media sites were discussion forums and community sites, and these were then followed by blogs for online content publication and discussion. Social bookmarking sites (such as Delicious) and news publication sites (such as Digg) have enjoyed periods of popularity, but the enormous growth in the use of social networking sites in the last few years has been focused around Facebook, Twitter and, for the business community, LinkedIn.

What are the advantages of Social Media for businesses?

The best strategy for social media is to build an audience of people that are receptive to purchasing your products and services - locally and globally - in a quick and highly effective way. By communicating with this audience it can ensure that your business remains 'front of mind' and creates a channel for new business leads. Social media also facilitates rapid feedback for businesses to improve their products and services and some companies are using this as listening platforms to monitor the conversations about their brands. They realise that a personal touch brings benefits, so that customer service and interaction with businesses is becoming social.

And the disadvantages?

Social media marketing can be time-consuming and it can sometimes be hard to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the effort that needs to be put into it. Any social media marketing campaign requires a clear strategy from the outset, an allocated resource to manage it, and a policy for every eventuality. There are numerous stories of large companies that have mishandled the social media platform and created a PR disaster, but there are also many companies that are now using this medium extremely effectively as a communication and marketing channel. Whatever approach your business takes, social media can't be ignored and the importance of monitoring and managing your online reputation is now an essential element of an overall marketing approach.

What are the core elements of a social media marketing strategy?

As noted above, the importance of having a clear strategy from the outset can't be over-emphasised who is your target market, what do you want to achieve, and how are you going to do it. Building a network is the first stage, and a relevant community is more important than a high number of followers for the sake of it. You need to develop an integrated marketing approach to attract followers and to sustain these with relevant content such as news, advice, product updates or offers. Participating in social media is also a two-way conversation and so you need to monitor comments and discussions and to respond appropriately. It's also important to know the different tools available, how people use them, and what are the various options available to get the most from your marketing efforts.

How can Facebook be used effectively?

Facebook helps businesses to develop relationships with their customers and raise the visibility of their company by helping it to connect and grow. It's more effective for building quality relationships with potential customers rather than generating immediate sales and this can be done by setting up a business page and/or by creating groups. Good, or interesting, news travels fast, so it can be an extremely effective medium for spreading the word and improving the 'buzz' about a business if you can get the "word-of-mouth" process to work. Facebook advertising is also available which can be used to target users by location and interests, and is charged on a Cost-Per-Click or Cost-Per-Thousand basis.
If you'd like to know more about Facebook marketing, please contact us for our free factsheet.

What opportunities are there with LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is designed to build up a business network for interaction and communication. It's very useful for recruiting, business networking, development and research, although LinkedIn also offers several paid advertising options for organisations to target specific groups of users. You can exchange information, ideas and opportunities with those in complementary industries and stay informed about your contacts and industry, find the people you need and control your professional identity online. LinkedIn can deliver tremendous reach to business professionals for a relatively small investment and it has changed the traditional membership directory from a standard "phone list" to a much more personalised and interactive approach.
If you'd like to know more about LinkedIn marketing, please contact us for our free factsheet.

Is Twitter an effective marketing tool?

Twitter is a micro-blogging site which is now used extensively for business and leisure. Its primary use in business is to exchange information in real time, rather than market directly, so that companies can listen to their audience, know what they're saying about the business and, in return, provide information and updates as a customer service. Twitter breaks news faster than other sources and is a rapid way to spread news about a company, product or service through word of mouth. This means it can be used to create a local or global network of potentially loyal followers as a communication channel, which can in turn reflect well on the business if handled correctly.
If you'd like to know more about Twitter marketing, please contact us for our free factsheet.

How measurable is social media marketing?

Measuring the effect of your online activities on sales (both online and offline) is vital, particularly if there are ways that you can then increase your conversion rates. SMM is beginning to take an increasingly larger slice of a business's marketing budget, so measuring and tracking the ROI (return-on-investment) should play a big part in a social media marketing campaign. This can sometimes appear difficult and may require a longer term view, but you can also track referral activity within your website analytics. Facebook offers some analytics data for active users and Twitter has recently launched a version of analytics as they begin to focus on the commercial development of the service. In the future, the winning social media platform will be the ones with the best analytics tools so that companies can effectively measure the outcomes being generated.

Where is SMM heading?

Usage of Facebook and Twitter, in particular, continue to grow at a rapid rate. Both services are trying to develop income streams without impacting their core user base, who largely resent advertising and overtly commercial activities. The rate at which the mobile Internet is growing is also truly staggering, easily overtaking the speed of growth of all preceding media. Usage of Facebook and Twitter via mobile phones has grown by triple digits in the past year and mobile advertising is becoming a major source of revenue and big business for social media platforms. Location-based services are also developing rapidly, so that targeting a well-planned social media marketing strategy towards this explosion of mobile social network engagement particularly for locally targeted companies - is critical to the success of a forward-thinking business.


If you'd like any further information about Social Media Marketing and how the Web Marketing Workshop can help to improve your business's online marketing, please contact us now.


Recent articles from The Marketing Workbench

The Marketing Workbench is our regular web marketing blog covering news and comment on Internet marketing events and trends. If you want to keep track of current stories you can visit this section of our website on a regular basis, or set up an RSS feed. These are just some of the items posted over the past month: