Social media marketing – Bridging the Gap

Working in the Denver Internet marketing industry over the course of the past year, we’ve all heard far too much about the amazing potential of social media marketing (SMM). We’ve listened to the myriad reasons why it should be an essential component of our integrated search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns. Still, for as much as we’ve all heard, very few of us have taken the time to answer the most important question: Why? Why should you integrate SMM into your SEM campaigns?

Today, the push to integrate social media marketing into our SEM efforts is only gaining momentum as social networking sites like Myspace, Youtube, Facebook, Del. icio. us, Digg, Flickr and many others continue to gain users and popularity instagram panel
. Of course, we all know that SMM can help us somehow. But how exactly? Oftentimes, it seems like more of a bandwagon tactic, especially when clients say, “We want some sort of social media marketing. ” When asked why, the majority simply state, “Because our competitors are doing it. ” Some even reply with more of a blanket statement, stating “Because everyone else is doing it. ”

Every time I hear clients say this, I think of an adage my mother used to tell me when i was a child. Each time I wanted to do something just because it was popular, she’d ask “Would you jump off a bridge if everyone else was doing it? ”

Even though I was a handful of trouble in my elementary school days, of course the answer was no. And even though I occasionally wondered if jumping off a bridge would be fun, I knew that just because everyone else was doing it didn’t mean I had a reason to.

This lesson stuck with me, and I’ve applied it to many different life situations. From friends and school to peer pressure and even search marketing, it’s important to stay above the mob influence and not simply follow the crowd complacently. Think again about the one-word question all online marketers should ask (but oftentimes overlook) when integrating SMM into their SEM campaigns: why?

Before delving into this all-important question, let’s define what exactly social media marketing (SMM) is. SMM combines the objectives of Internet marketing with the capabilites of social media sites, and thus involves some form of viral marketing that leverages the large audiences and user communities of social media sites. Whether on Myspace, Youtube, Digg, Facebook, Del. icio. us, Flickr, or any number of others, SMM revolves around the creation and connection of users through content.

For this reason, SMM can be utilized to build a network of links, spread brand messages, increase visibility and awareness, and even manage your company’s reputation online. After all, these social media sites each have millions of registered users, grouped into like-interest communities. Now all you have to do is discern where your target audience is congregating online. What more could a marketer ask for? No other channel allows companies to declare their identity, service offerings, value proposition and location within such a targeted environment.

As we’ve seen, social media marketing can be used effectively for a range of reasons. Still, it’s not for everyone. Before even considering integrating SMM into any campaign, you must ask yourself “Who is my target audience? ” and “What do they want? “ROI, or return on investment, is notoriously hard to measure in social media marketing. A small business owner in Toronto mentioned this in a blog posting I saw recently. She lamented the time it took to write blog posts and update her Facebook page. She also noted that she had given up completely on Twitter since she couldn’t possibly keep up with the tweets she was receiving.

A recent Econsultancy report asked the same question. Discussing the incredible growth in popularity of social media marketing, it noted that most companies do not know how to measure the ROI of their SMM. Some 49% of companies surveyed stated that they had no idea if their campaigns were successful. And 60% felt that they were not tracking ROI as well as they would like.

A writer named Oliver Feakins recently compared SMM to trade shows. Marketers used to have trouble justifying trade show attendance because there was no really effective way to measure ROI. He says that the same thing is happening now with SMM. Since the goal is “viral exposure” for your business, it is not as quantifiable as sales. In his article, he asks the million dollar question: “So how can you measure the process of generating ‘buzz’? ”

Is there anyway to help our Toronto business owner who wants some idea that her SMM efforts are working? The answer is: sort of. Most experts will tell you there are no defined metrics for measuring the ROI of social media, but there are ways to gauge its effectiveness. Below is a synthesis of some of the main points from a wide range of blogs and sites that have pondered the question of ROI for SMM.

First of all, you need to list what your goals are. Do you want to connect better with your customers? Do you want to increase brand visibility or visits to your website? Once you know what you want to measure, you can probably find a way to do it.

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