Rev Up Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

In less than five years, social media has revolutionized not only our communication culture but how we conduct business. The dizzying effect of unlimited-and sometimes unfettered-24-hour access to people and information has transformed the various tools into a game changer.

There is a broad and increasing list of sites, including BlinkList, YouTube, Delicious, Flickr, Tumblr, BlogMarks.net, and the triumvirate of major sites: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. These social destinations have become to business professionals and entrepreneurs what golf is to C-suite powerbrokers-an opportunity to strategically network and close deals based on shared interests and personal engagement. But these sites do more, by offering users valuable real estate to advertise products or services, create and expand brand recognition, solicit feedback, build relationships, and create community forums. Users also have unprecedented access to consumers, hiring managers, prospective clients, industry experts, and opportunities.

Moreover, social media levels the playing field by allowing anyone access without restrictions on time, location, or social status.

The most diligent and creative players are reaping huge benefits. According to a report from Forrester Research, 55.6 million U.S. adults-just shy of one-third of the population-visited social networks at least monthly in 2009, an increase from 18% in 2008. Recent Nielsen research says Americans spend nearly 25% of their time online on social networks and blogs, up from nearly 16% a year ago. smm panel

The initial foray into social media can be daunting and bewildering. Newcomers to the space might wonder: Who’s reading? Will I be heard or noticed? Isn’t it all just fun and games? Isn’t it invasive? Making the effort worthwhile requires time, patience, and a work-smart-not-hard strategy. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a corporate professional, the success of marketing your products, businesses, or your personal brand will be determined by how well you engage interest on the varying platforms. In part one of a series on social media strategies, Black Enterprise offers some tips to get you connected.

What Business Owners Should Know

Finding out who your customers are and how they like to be served is essential for the success of any business. Questions and surveys offered on social media platforms can help business owners quickly access that information. Jason Burton, social media strategist and marketing director of Lab 5702, a boutique marketing solutions firm in Kansas City, Missouri, says such data can help you position your product to broader groups outside your initial base of contacts. “Put your product in front of the trendsetters or the next level of users,” he suggests. “Targeted searches let you drill down beneath the surface to find followers and potential influencers that can use or promote your product or service.”

Location-based social mapping services such as Foursquare, Google Latitude, Loopt, Facebook Places, and MyTown allow consumers to benefit from their influence. For example, if you visit your favorite flower shop in Tucson and tweet it to your followers, you get $2 off your purchase. The greater the network and influence, the bigger the discount. These services also enable users to find friends and events; share locations, updates, tips, photos, and comments; and share across online social networks and blogs. Loopt has more than 4 million registered users and partnerships with every major U.S. mobile phone carrier and is available on more than 100 smartphones, including the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android. Google Latitude and Foursquare boast more than 3 million users each. Greater social media interactivity has been facilitated by mobile apps such as ƜberTwitter, MobileLinked IM, and Nimbuzz. According to a Juniper Research report, the number of downloads from mobile application stores is expected to rise from fewer than 2.6 billion per year in 2009 to more than 25 billion in 2015.

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