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What exactly is social media marketing? ” SMM combines the goals of internet marketing with social media sites such as Digg, Flickr, MySpace, YouTube and many others. The SMM goals will be different for every business or organization, however most will involve some form of viral marketing to build idea or brand awareness, increase visibility, and possibly sell a product or service. SMM may also include online reputation management. Most online communities don’t welcome traditional direct or hard sell techniques so an effective SMM campaign will require more finesse to execute properly. SMM campaigns must be targeted to the community you want to reach with a message that appeals to them. Some common ways of achieving this are with authoritative information, entertainment, humor or controversy. “ -Wikipedia 2007

Social media marketing can be thought of an indirect method of marketing your business. It is a powerful process which utilizes the principles of traditional marketing to programs with social ends that ultimately promotes your business through social media channels. Social media marketing is the new wave of online marketing and might be considered an indirect method of marketing. Traditional marketing focuses on immediate sales and gets right to the point. This is who we are, this is what we do, this is why you should buy our product or service, now buy it.

The length of traditional sales cycles vary within industries but the goal is always the same – close that sale. Social media marketing has the same goal but the means to the end are very different. It is generally frowned upon to try to do sell your product or service on industry forum sites, for example. Those forums are in place for the exchange of ideas, knowledge and networking. Most forums have a separate advertising section where businesses can pay for advertising.

The idea behind participating in forums is to establish yourself as your industry expert. Sharing your knowledge and learning from those in the same industry or your target market results in exposure for you and your business. If you provide helpful information, make constructive comments and ask appropriate questions, you will be offering value to potential customers and they will, eventually, come to look for more value from you.

Naturally, your ultimate value is in the product or service you are trying to sell. The inherent problem with social media marketing is that it takes a lot of time and effort to achieve the eventual desired result – that being the sale. Many business owners either don’t have the time to devote to something that does not provide immediate desired results (the delayed gratification theory) or they are resisting utilizing the powerful social media marketing available options specifically because of its indirect approach to sales and the time it takes to see results.

Social media marketing is really no different than social networking off the internet. When you attend a trade show or a company event, you are networking in a social environment with the desired result being to increase your customer base. Companies that sponsor golf outings, company picnics and other social events, often invite employees, customers and potential customers. What do these three groups of people do at these events? They socialize and network. Although some may develop friendships at such events, the main reason for and ultimate goal of such events is to increase the bottom line – meaning the company’s profits.

The Internet offers massive sources for networking through blogs, forums, communities and of course the immense number of social networking sites like Facebook, Bebo, Dzone, Gather, Ryze, Squidoo, Tagged, Xing and many, many more. The networking concept is the same; the platforms are exponentially greater and different. The vast number of sites can be overwhelming (http://traffikd.com/social-media-websites), so it is a good idea to focus your social networking on sites that are specific to your industry as well as some of the larger, widely used generic sites like Facebook, Plaxo, Linkedin, etc. I prefer to use the sites that are more business-oriented like Linkedin and Plaxo – but that is a personal preference. To me, my Facebook profile has information and photos that are more appropriate for friends and family than business associates, but there are those who don’t agree. Again, that is a matter of personal preference.

For discussion purposes, let’s consider traditional (or direct) marketing to be a one way communication channel and social media marketing to be a two-way communication channel. In traditional marketing, a business might send you a direct mailer, an email, or you might see an advertisement in a magazine. These types of marketing campaigns cost the business a whole lot of money and don’t always result in large volumes of sales. Now consider participating in two-way conversations on forums, blogs and other social networking sites. You, as a representative of your business, are engaging in “conversations” with your prospective clients and hopefully providing valuable content (content is King in social media marketing).

Over time, you and your business will become more visible (as you increase your online presence), your reputation and value will increase and in time, your prospective clients will know who you are, the value in what you are selling and where to find you. I always like to put myself in the other person’s shoes to understand where they are coming from. I don’t purchase anything before going on the Internet to find everything I can about the product or service I am considering buying. I read the reviews as well as what is being said about the competitive product or service. This being said, why would I expect anyone else to not do the same? If you think about social media marketing in these terms, its value, albeit a time-consuming process, may become more apparent to you. It is important to keep in mind that social networks consist of loyal and engaging large audiences.

Social media marketing can greatly benefit any business as it compliments your brand (an incredibly important topic in its own right), business and online profile. However, social media marketing takes time and serious dedication but the ultimate return you will receive will be well worth the time spent. Whether or not a business owner embraces the value of social media marketing, there is no escaping the fact that the Internet is the new frontier for marketing.

Social media has taken on a life of its own and if you have not jumped on the bandwagon, you are missing the boat. Social media marketing can greatly benefit any business and should be an integral part of any company’s marketing campaign.

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About the Author

Julie Weishaar Provides Internet and Video Marketing Solutions For Business

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