The 21st century saw a boom of social networking sites – MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, LinkedIn, Youtube and Twitter among a host of others. People around the world have seen their value not only for creating, rekindling and/or strengthening connections but as fast channels for communication and information. And where there is a sizeable audience or a critical mass with the capacity to interact and respond, there is the opportunity for businesses to get involved for different reasons – they may want to create awareness for their products or services, increase sales, generate new customers, or build a deeper relationship with their existing ones.

The buzz phrase is “Social Media Marketing,” a largely new component of integrated marketing communications that focuses on creating content for social networks as platforms for companies to reach customers. The benefits of incorporating this process in strategic marketing campaigns are manifold:

  1. Organizations and brands can instantly reach everyone who has access to the Internet and open opportunities to directly talk to both potential and existing customers. As social networks are all about conversations, they can also readily receive direct feedback and participation from these audiences.
  1. It is relatively inexpensive, unlike doing traditional advertising channels like print, radio or TV advertising.  Practically the only costs for a company would be the time, the effort and professional fees for programmers, designers and possibly an automated follower systems provider.
  1. Companies can actually segment their target audiences according to their preferences, usage habits, interests and other indices which they may have indicated in their social networks and then create niched messages for them. As well, they can derive primary traffic (users, subscribers and followers who come directly to the sites), and secondary traffic (referral traffic from other websites which link and send visitors to their site, after they have come across the specific content in the social network sites). This significantly increases the population that can be reached by one company just by engaging in social media marketing.

Just as the benefits are many, the process is also not as complicated as most would think it to be. The platforms themselves provide certain tools and applications that companies can leverage on and even be able to measure results and specific outputs based on their goals. Some examples are:

  • Youtube’s ranking and rating videos
  • Facebook has Engagement ads (banner ads that users can comment on. Users can even say what they like or dislike about the ad)
  • Tweeting to announce product launches or new releases
  • Music posts and movie premieres posted on MySpace
  • Advertising through apps (for instance, earning extra game credits in games such as Facebook’s Farmville)

With such basic infrastructure in place, all companies have to do is create the content that will be complementary to the marketing campaign as well as the environment of the social network. Because social networks are all about conversations, the casual, personal tone sets the framework for communicating to the audience and starting a relationship with them.

Companies who engage in social media marketing should remember that this process is another tool in the whole marketing equation and that other strategies such as PR, advertising, trade promotions among others should be employed in order to achieve its goals. It is also wise to have clear-cut objectives for employing social media marketing tactics, and not just get into it because “everyone else is doing it.” The content and the message should be tailor-fitted to the platform otherwise it would be an exercise in futility.

Take some examples of how some companies have been able to successfully integrate marketing in social networks into their marketing campaigns. An Adweek article cited Target in the U.S. as having implemented a successful back-to-school campaign on Facebook. They took the time to learn how Facebook users interact and communicate with each other. Using a storytelling device, they had strategic banner ads and a sponsored page where users are directed to, and not immediately to their e-commerce site which can be off-putting to users. In a matter of months, the site has attracted more than 7,000 members, discussion groups and garnered a lot of positive reviews and generated awareness about Target’s products.

On the other hand, a case study of an unsuccessful social network marketing campaign was cited for Walmart, its competitor. Because they restricted the flow of communication in their page (customers were confined to posting comments on the wall), they were soon flooded with nothing but negative feedback and reviews.

What then are key elements to successfully marketing on social networks? Most marketing experts agree on the following:

It should meet the business objective. Regardless of the tool being used, a campaign without defined objectives is doomed to fail.

It should encourage member/user/follower interaction. The audience should be involved in a way that they can respond freely.

It should be able to adapt and move on a quick scale. One of the greatest values of social network is the speed by which information is exchanged and transmitted. Companies should be able to cope with this.

It should offer a satisfying user experience. Not only is content critical but also the overall experience that the user has on the company’s page or site – from the navigation, to the language used, right to the look and feel of the page or site. It should be something that the user can relate with and would want them to come back and refer people they know.

It should enhance value to the participant in the community. Like any other good marketing campaign, users should also be given incentives or motivation that will enhance their experience. Employing tactics like raffles, quizzes, polls or just simple games can deepen their relationship with the company.

It should have some form of measurement by which performance can be gauged. Whilst social networks cannot be precisely quantified like the other traditional advertising channels, companies should be conscious of monitoring results from the platforms. Whether it be the number of feedback, page views, subscriptions or others, the metrics should be fitted to the objectives of the campaign.

There you go! These are the main tools to advance in your web marketing campaigns. Be opened minded and don’t be afraid of experimentation. Remember, there are no strict rules or marketing ways in social networks, that’s where you have to find what works best for you. Good luck!

About the Author:

Teri Bailey is a copywriter, working for the professional writing company essay4students.com. He is inspiring mentor and marketer. Teri is interested in marketing and reading detectives.  During his free time, he is baking for family and playing with his dog Jack.