The Basics of Using Social Media for Digital Marketing

Social media is about more than just Facebook and Twitter and can be an important digital marketing channel for extending your company’s brand online

Social media is now an important and effective digital marketing channel for communicating to current and potential customers, alongside more established methods like search engine marketing and email marketing. But being a relatively new marketing channel it’s also one where many companies are either still learning how to make the most of it or aren’t using social media at all.

Here are the basics of understanding how to use it in the digital marketing activities of your company.

So What is Social Media?

The core foundations of social media, and so-called Web 2.0, is that it allows an interactive dialogue to be initiated online. This can be in the form of user-generated content, such as blogs and photos, or communicating via sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn are key examples of social media, allowing relationships to be built among people with similar interests. Now location-based services, such as Foursquare and Facebook Places, are taking this even further by allowing users with mobile phones to communicate their geographical position as well.

Blogs are another popular example of social media and can be integrated into your company’s Web site to provide a more informal way for the MD and others to communicate to visitors than allowed in news stories, press releases, etc. Tools such as Blogger or WordPress are also commonly used to create these blogs and there is typically the ability for visitors to comment on each blog post so a two-way dialogue can be engaged.

A variation of this are microblogging sites, such as Twitter and Yammer, which restrict posts to short entries.

Wikis, with Wikipedia being the most famous example, are also key examples of social media and allow users to collaborate together on content, while social bookmarking sites, such as Delicious and StumbleUpon, allow users to share links from other sites.

There are also content communities, with Flickr and YouTube being well known examples, which allow users to share a range of multimedia content, including photos, videos, music, and presentations.

Your Company and Social Media

Adding a business blog to your company’s Web site can build relationships and gain trust, as well as allowing visitors with a way to interact with your brand by adding comments and even steer future blog entries. The blog can also help the company build credibility, retain readers and also help with search engine ranking by providing compelling content on a frequent basis that can be indexed.

You can also include social bookmarking functionality on your Web site so visitors can syndicate your content on sites like Facebook, StumbleUpon and Twitter and this gets your customers, in part, doing your promotion for you.

Both Facebook and Twitter should be used as a means of regularly communicating offers and new products to your current and prospective customers and providing a way for them to respond to your posts. Twitter can also be used proactively to engage with customers who are tweeting about your company, both positively and negatively. For example, if a customer has tweeted about a poor experience they’ve had with your company, there’s an opportunity to contact them and hopefully resolve the situation. This may then lead to that customer tweeting positive feedback that could result in some of their followers or other users of Twitter becoming customers.

YouTube can be utilised to share videos that have been created and this can support your SEM activities as they too will be indexed in search engines like Google.

Ways to Measure and Track Social Media

Unlike digital marketing activities such as search engine marketing or email marketing which can be easily measured,. it can be a bit more difficult to measure the success of social media activities. But there are a few simple metrics that can be used.

The success of your business blog, for example, can be measured by the number of blog posts published, how many visitors they’ve had and the audience growth, how many comments have been received, how many other sites have added links to them and how many times they’ve been shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The success of YouTube videos can be easily measured using page views, comments, likes and channel subscriptions (if you set up a channel in YouTube for your company)

The number of fans of your company’s page on Facebook and the number of followers on Twitter are also important measurements, as are the number or comments received and in Twitter the number of times updates have been retweeted by followers. Another important measurement is how many referrals your Web site receives from people clicking on links to it from Facebook and Twitter.

Tools also exist that can pull together all mentions of your brand on social media sites, including blogs and Twitter, and give you a real-time picture of how it is perceived by analysing conversations and sentiment. This could become even more advanced as the Web becomes more intelligent.