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7 Simple Truths of Social Media Marketing

social mediaThe first truth I need to reveal is that the idea for this post is a bit of a response to a post by Sonia Simone of copyblogger titled – The 7 Harsh Realities of Social Media Marketing. Sonia and I sparred a bit over the fact that “harsh realities” and making all this sound hard is something that keeps some small biz folks from diving in the way they should. Yes, it’s work, but what about marketing isn’t?

First, understand that I think Sonia is brilliant and copyblogger gets a daily visit from me, but – using social media to grow your business just isn’t that harsh and it doesn’t need to be that hard. Okay, it’s new and there are some new names to learn, cultures to understand and lingo to get comfortable with, but the fundamentals of marketing are the same, only the platforms have changed.

Here’s my 7 Simple Truths of Social Media Marketing

1) Listening is the best way to develop strategy

Everyone knows they should develop a social media strategy before diving into to every network they can. The problem is, few can tell you how to do this because any real marketing strategy is highly personal and involves your customers, market, competitors, suppliers, products and services. The best way to approach discovering a strategy for your social media participation, and perhaps all of your communications, is to listen really, really well. Social media is one of the greatest listening tools on the planet. Your customers are telling you about their fears and hopes, they’re telling about what they like about your products and dislike about the competition, they’re telling you what they wish someone would make – and now you can hear it. If you do nothing but set-up listening stations, using free tools like Google Alerts and Twitter Search, you can get an enormous return on your time invested.

Once you spend time listening to your market, understanding how people use blogs and just what seems to work and not work on LinkedIn you may be more prepared to develop a marketing strategy, once that based on achieving marketing objectives, than ever. Don’t skip this step for tactics!

2) Nobody really wants to read another blog

I’m fond of telling anyone that will listen that every small business should have a blog. I don’t say that because I think your customers are itching to grab a cup of green tea and fire up what you wrote in your blog today. In fact, if you polled most of your customers and inquired as to whether you should write a blog, most would tell you no. But, those same customers go to search engines like Google and Bing every second of every day looking for answers to questions, suppliers in their town, and ways to solve pressing problems. And when they do, guess what most of them find, that’s right, blog content!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t write incredible stuff, with a long term goal of attracting lots of readers – when these readers start linking back to that content your search results will soar – what I am saying is, write what people search in your market and your town, educate with your posts and you blog will pay off faster than any other online play.

And it that weren’t enough blog software, like WordPress, is so user simple and feature rich that it’s the best way to run your entire web presence.

3) It’s kind of a real estate game

While I started this post off talking about the virtues of a solid strategy, there is a bit of a real estate grab that comes on the front end of getting value from social media. There are many profiles that you can claim and optimize, even if you don’t quite yet know what your development strategy is, and you should claim them. Creating spokes of branded and optimized content in sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Slideshare and YouTube has become standard SEO practice, but don’t forget about taking the time to build very rich profiles on sites like Biznik, BusinessWeek’s Exchange, OPENForum, and BizSugar. (Disclosure: I write for OpenForum)

Your profiles in these outposts will serve as content real estate that you control and can help fill in the gaps when someone Google’s You.

4) Sell awareness and the money will follow

A lot of people will tell you, and perhaps you’ve experienced it first hand, that you can’t sell using social media sites. Let me ask you this, have you ever really have much luck selling anything to anyone just because they happened to be standing in front of you. The only difference is social media makes it easier to stand in front of someone. You can’t really sell anything to anyone until you’ve built trust. The most effective way to build trust in any setting is to show someone how to get what they want and allow them to come to the conclusion that you have something they might want to buy.

Social media, just like the most effective advertising, is a great place to build awareness about your content: blog, white paper, seminar, workbook. If you do that, and your content builds trust, social media is a great place to make money – think of it as another version of 2-step advertising.

5) Networking hasn’t really changed

I really believe that effective networking on social media sites like Biznik, Facebook, or LinkedIn greatly resembles that of effective networking at in person Chamber or Association events. The key difference being one of a style of engagement and perhaps a different set of follow-up steps.

Before you do, act, or respond in any manner on a social media site, ask yourself if it would be an effective response to a prospect you’ve just met at an business event? You know, you wouldn’t go shirtless, with beer in hand to an association meet and greet, why would you post the same on your Facebook profile? This varies to some degree, but not that much.

6) It makes your offline play stronger

One of the things I don’t hear enough people talking about is how much social media can impact your offline efforts. Most business is still done across a desk, but starting relationships on LinkedIn and then building them much deeper over lunch is the killerest combination.

Social media also allows you to more easily and more consistently stay on top of what’s going on in your customer’s world. A growing number of CRM tools, such as ACT2010! and BatchBook make social media activity a part of a contact’s record.

7) A system is the solution

A well run business is a collection of systems. Marketing is a system and one of the best ways to keep social media participation from becoming your full time job is to create systems and process for how you participate.

I know you see people that spend their entire day on Twitter, but you must understand that they fall into two camps a) people who make a living teaching people how to use Twitter, b) people getting ready to go out of business.

It may seem a bit robotic to talk about social media and engagement as a process, but scheduling routines for your blog posting, commenting, tweeting, fanning and friending is a must, just as scheduling the appropriate time for selling, training employees and meeting strategic partners. Here’s a look at what an example social media routine might look like

Image credit: viralbus

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  • internetstrategytv

    Excellent post. I love #3, and I think that the analogy of real estate is right on. And just like in real estate, you need to choose which properties are worth having, and then work to develop those properties (just like developing real estate) over time.

    The first objection I often here from clients when I suggest starting a blog is just like you stated:

    “My customers aren't going to come read about plumbing?”

    I too try to explain that by creating great content not about you, but about concerns that your customers have, you can become a resource. So in the plumber's case, creating a blog on how to make small plumbing repairs without having to call a plumber can make sure that you are the plumber they call when a larger problem arises, and so on…

    Great post!

  • ComputerBooksOnline

    People getting ready to go out of business. LOL. But so true. To take your shirtless analogy another step – you can't run a business if you spend all day talking to your “friends”.

    I think it takes something that is hard to maintain on the internet – focus.

  • http://www.snowboredinstructors.com/ Dave

    This is a good add-on to what sonia wrote.

    I do think that Sonia's version flows a bit better, it also stays a bit more focused on the topic.

    However, I read all of this and i'm writing a comment.

    I like that you have expanded on this subject and you have linked to some good resources.

    The social media routine is something that I need for sure. I get lost with it all sometimes. It's far too easy to procrastinate all day.

  • pvesey

    Social and Marketing is the next word -> “Social Marketing” #1 #4 #6 good stuff . I added your article to my blog

    http://pvesey.blogspot.com/2009/10/tweetable-ma

  • pvesey

    Social and Marketing is the next word -> “Social Marketing” #1 #4 #6 good stuff . I added your article to my blog

    http://pvesey.blogspot.com/2009/10/tweetable-ma

  • http://www.tamar.com/ Milly Diaz-Tamar.com

    Great post. Point #6 is right on target. Additionally, those of us working in social media need to remember that we must practice what we preach. How can your social media advice carry any gravitas if you aren't actively using the networks yourself?

  • jame9874

    This is a cool screen idea ! It is very interesting indeed.Thank you for your info.i love to read all info.

  • http://johnhaydon.com johnhaydon

    John – great post. I especially like the simplification of strategy through listening. How can you know where to go unless you listen to the “directions”?

  • Cin

    Good Post! I agree with everything said here.

  • http://twitter.com/platform_it Luke Latimer

    Great Post, the number of social sites now available for businesses can be overwhelming – points #1 and #2 are a really great way to make those first steps into the stream

  • http://www.integrismarketing.com Blair

    Great post (reinforces what I tell clients)… Love #5 becuase it is essentially what I tell clients who are Social Media shy but have warmed to face to face social networking for biz. Solid links for more info too! Thank you!.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    I cite the plumber example all the time – people don't want to actually replace a P trap, but they want to know that you know how – why not tell them in a blog post.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Thanks Dave – Sonia can write circles around me so no surprise there, but I'm glad you recognized the value of the social media system

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Indeed, I love it when I go to an event and there is a Twitter expert there preaching and you look and find they have 12 followers.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    John – I really think this approach would apply to any form of strategy – it's just easier to hear with social media

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    That's right Luke and I think many businesses would benefit so much from those first two steps that they might not really need to go much deeper.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Thanks Blair – I think this post would make the basis for a good workshop on the subject to help center people without all the hype and tool talk.

  • http://www.integrismarketing.com Blair

    Thanks John, If you do a workshop, which I think is a great idea on this… getting the hype out of the way would go a long way to dispelling the social media myths (the good ones and the bad ones) and hopefully also help avert the “social media overload and overwhelm” syndrome… :)

  • http://twitter.com/PracticalCafe Practical Cafe

    Excellent post. I see too many establishments having fallen under the sway of “it takes an expert” when what most small businesses really need is a helping hand for the bumps and questions that pop up. As someone better than me wrote: “You can't outsource engagement.” Give them the tools, the knowledge and the guidance.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    The fundamentals are the same, just need to learn the new platforms

  • http://www.dmdxd.com/ Jesse Poe

    Nice post particularly point 3.

    I wrote a post Nov 4th answering “Should my Company be on Facebook and Twitter? What Else?”

    http://j.mp/4iuGWB

    Some of the sites you mentioned are there plus a list of other relevant sites for small businesses.

    keep up the fine work!

    jesse poe
    @dmdxd

  • http://tekkbuzz.com Deborah Richmond

    I don't think it does small businesses a service to refer to social media as hard, hard, hard. It does not have to be hard. One of the biggest parts of my job is to show entrepreneurs how it does not have to be so much work, that you can do it in manageable minutes a day and be very effective. Can you waste your whole day online? Sure, but you dont' have to, to be effective.

  • http://www.webguild.org/?p=p2 Sera

    Very well written post. I especially agree with the listening point. This is where most marketers do not understand the importance and treat it like a one way marketing channel. Nice points

  • http://www.collegiateliving.com CollegiateLiving

    interesting…to add to the list of profile sites as well, photocase is another site that lends a PR rank 7 that will help maintain a solid profile and search result.

  • http://johnhaydon.com johnhaydon

    Right on. By the way, I subscribe to a lot of podcasts, but yours is one of the few “musts” on my iPod.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Thanks John, love doing the podcast and glad that some folks count on it!

  • http://johnhaydon.com johnhaydon

    You're welcome.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Thanks John, love doing the podcast and glad that some folks count on it!

  • http://johnhaydon.com John Haydon

    You're welcome.

  • http://www.gamsun-media.se/ Social Media

    Starting a company blog will inquire alot of time of the person responsible of this (often the owner in a small company). If the purpose of your tip is to get alot of good search engine traffic, there are plenty of other ways to do that on while not having to invest such a great amount of time every day responding to comments (like thise ;)), updating with new topics etc.

    Great post although and thank you!

    Best,
    Magnus Lundin – Sweden
    http://www.gamsun-media.se