Before You Start With Social Media Marketing

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Social media marketing is a valuable way of promoting and marketing your business and is also a good way to establish your online brand. Sites such as twitter, Facebook, Linkedin in and MySpace can be valuable resources for networking and advertising your business (subtly, of course) but there are a few factors to consider before you get started if you want to maximize the potential of social media marketing without expending energy and financial resources that could be utilized more effectively elsewhere. Just a few years ago, social media marketing was considered a fad and something not worth the effort, but now it has become an accepted and valuable marketing strategy for all businesses with an Internet presence even the big brands like Disney are using social media marketing. However, it is worth considering the following factors before you begin as it is not as simple as it first appears.
Making wise choices

While it might be good to have a presence across all the social media sites and effectively cover all bases, it's much wiser to pick and choose the ones that are more suited to your business. Unless you can afford to spend hours of your time every week developing your social media marketing, or employ someone to do it for you, it's better to have one really professional looking page on, say, Facebook for your business, than have several badly managed campaigns on a number of different sites.

Start by identifying your customers and deciding on the best site to find them. For example, Linkedin is a good site for businesses to connect with each other. It is worth giving your choice of media some thought before you begin, otherwise you could expend a lot of energy for very little return. As it is with all marketing, you should focus on targeting your market as tightly as you possibly can, so choose the best social sites for your niche.
Have a plan

Good business planning is essential and social media marketing is no exception. Time spent developing a workable plan will save you time and money in the long run. Your plan should be to focus on developing a social media optimization strategy, or SMO. This is the combination of search engine optimization, SEO, and social media marketing. Social media marketing is not just setting up accounts on various social media sites and posting messages now and again, it involves coordinating all of your SEO with your social media campaigns and finding keywords that don’t conflict with your current keywords, website content, articles, blogs, images, videos and links and so on that match and complement your current marketing.

Think of it as a synchrony across all your marketing efforts -- it will take some planning and effort, but it should bring rewards. Avoid having your social media marketing as a disjointed add-on to your current SEO and other marketing campaigns. With more and more businesses jumping on the social networks than ever before, you have to step up your game.
Fans = more business

A recent survey by SocialCue, a social agency owned by the Washington Post Company, looked at 50 brands and more than 5,000,000 Facebook ads over a five-month period in 2011. They found that Facebook fans (people who click the ’like’ button on Facebook) are 291 percent more likely to engage with businesses than nonfans. Fans are three times more likely to convert into paying customers than nonfans.

Facebook fan studies have estimated the value of a fan ranged from $3.60 to $136.38. This is spread across several actions such as whether a fan was more likely to vote in a contest, install an app or make a purchase, but clearly, fans could give your business a boost, especially when you consider that Facebook currently has 800,000,000 users every month.
The future of social media

Entrepreneur Magazine recently did a survey among some of their social media experts and asked for their opinions on the social media trends in the coming years. They found the belief was that businesses and brands would continue to misunderstand social media and continue to be too pushy with their marketing and ultimately this will hurt businesses since social websites are not meant to be platforms for advertising.

The experts believed that they will be so many consumers and businesses using social media that it will become oversaturated and require more focused effort and a more thoughtful approach if you want to be seen and heard.

Others thought that given the limited time and resources that entrepreneurs have, you should be careful about how much time you spend following new trends in social media marketing. Allocate a small amount of time following new trends and spend 90 percent of your effort on the few social media sites that have the greatest impact on your business. Also don’t neglect other forms of Internet marketing such as SEO and link building.

Google+ has launched its own social media and will grow very quickly, so consider this as a way of creating a presence for your business and cultivating a relationship with its users -- it may prove to be less constrained than sites like Facebook and Twitter.