Business blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and other social media are turning into some of the cheapest and most effective mediums for small- and mid-sized businesses to encourage referrals, cross-sell, introduce new products/services, and keep long-time customers loyal.
The marketers finding the most success with social-media marketing, however, are those who flesh out a winning strategy before jumping in. No, not some full-blown marketing plan that requires weeks of research and deep thought; but rather a basic strategy that focuses your efforts on the social-media technologies your target market is most interested in using.
Step One: The Social Technographics Profile
According to the latest Nielson survey, Internet users are now spending 17 percent of their time on social network and blogging sites (that’s an increase of 300 percent from just last year!). But how is your target market using those technologies? That’s what you need to determine before running out and launching a social-media marketing campaign of your own.
Fortunately for you, the market research firm Forrester offers a free online tool you can use to get a sense for where your core customers and marketing prospects fit into the following six “social technographics” profiles:
- Creators – These are the manufacturers of the social-media world; always creating things. They have their own blogs and Web sites, write online stories and articles, upload videos and photos of themselves and more.
- Critics – The people in this segment may not produce much of their own online content, but they’re happy to comment on what others have created. They post product and service reviews, leave comments on blogs, participate in online discussions and more.
- Collectors – These are the born organizers. Using RSS feeds, tags and voting sites like Digg.com, collectors make it easy for themselves and others to find the online content their looking for.
- Joiners – These are the social people. They like to use MySpace, Facebook and other online social media to communicate and share their thoughts with others.
- Spectators – These are the wallflowers. They like to do things online, but prefer to stay in the background and take it all in. They read, watch and listen to the content others create and organize, but they don’t do much creating or interacting themselves.
- Inactives – Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are nothing but mumbo-jumbo to these people. They’ve chosen not to participate in the whole social-media craze.
Step Two: Determine Your Objective(s)
The number one marketing goal for most businesses: get new customers. But that’s not really social media’s sweet spot. Social networking tools like Blogger, Twitter and MySpace are really best for generating referrals, keeping your name and face in front of customers and interested prospects, introducing new products/services, announcing special offers and gathering feedback about your business.
What’s more, some social-media tools are better at those things than others. Which means, before you can choose the best tool, you need to determine your social-media marketing goal(s).
Step Three: Review Your Options
New social-media tools are being created all the time. But listed below are some of the more popular options:
- Yelp – An online peer-review site that attracts an average of 10 million users every month. Create a professional profile for your business, then wait for customers and clients to post reviews of your products or service. With every positive review, your profile rises in the rankings and attracts all-new clients and customers. (Google Maps, City Search and Tribe offer similar services.)
- Blogger – Credited with helping to popularize the blog format, this service makes it easy for any business professional to create a blog of their own. Once a blogger, you can attract attention by offering tips and insights, commenting on industry happenings, and more. Plus, blogs allow you to gather honest feedback directly from clients and customers. (Type Pad, Word Press, Live Journal and MSN Spaces all offer similar services.)
- Twitter – This micro-blogging service allows business professionals to post very short (no more than 140 characters) company updates and industry insights for the quick-reading pleasure of clients and customers, as well as prospective clients and customers.
- Facebook and MySpace – Both of these Web sites started out as places for people to socialize online after-hours, but now they’re also used by businesses (to communicate with customers, generate word-of-mouth buzz and attract all-new customers and clients). Both are by far the most popular of all the social-media tools. (Bebo, Orkut, ClassMates and Friendster all offer similar services.)
Step Four: Nail Down Your Strategy
After completing steps one through three, the strategy part just about falls into place. Lets play with a few examples:
Suppose you’re a real estate agent. There’s an abundance of “critics” in your target audience, and you want to keep your name and face top-of-mind. You could create a blog that allows your farm to vote on the top-five best features of your latest listings. Its fun, easy, showcases new listings and, best of all, grabs peoples interest and keeps them coming back for more.
Now imagine you own a tanning salon with a young female clientele (a social technographic group heavily skewed towards “creators”). Your marketing objective: referrals. Your bet option may be to set up a Yelp profile for your business and provide a free hour of tanning to anyone who signs on and writes a review.
The ideas are endless – but only after you determine the social technographics profile(s) for your target audience. Start with a little analysis in that department, and the end result is sure to be worth the extra effort.
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