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One of the most important elements of a marketing strategy is the effort to create a relationship with the customer. Today, those customers can be reached online through social media networks. To build relationships, companies or individuals trying to reach them should have a strong and effective online presence. Whether that party is a company or an individual professional, basic marketing strategies still apply. The online tools that communicators should be most familiar with are the social networks frequented by customers and other professionals. These include but are not limited to:
  • Facebook: A venue for social connection and sharing. 845 million active users.
  • Twitter: A micro-blogging tool that allows for sharing and interaction. 140 million active users.
  • LinkedIn: A network that allows for professional connection. 150 million active users.
  • Blogs: Web pages that allow for the distribution of information and interaction in the same forum. A good example is WordPress, which hosts over 20% of all new websites.
  • Social Media Management Sites: Tools that manage multiple social media networks and the information published on them in one location. A popular example is Hoot Suite, which supports the management of over 15 individual social networks.

Word-of-“Mouth”

Word-of-mouth marketing is the most important marketing method because a recommendation goes infinitely further than the best of advertisements. Social media networks make it possible for word-of-mouth to spread faster and to a wider audience. In addition, they allow for conversation rather than one-sided promotion, resulting in valuable feedback and establishing brand loyalty. Here are some examples of how social media networks help with word-of-mouth marketing:
  • Twitter allows users to “Retweet” and “Reply” to Tweets that other users (including companies) publish, allowing for instant sharing of information.
  • Facebook allows users to “Like” and comment on anything and everything, allowing for feedback. The site also has a “Share” feature to help with promotion.
  • Blogs can be set up to allow for comments from readers. In addition, the options for sharing buttons are virtually limitless, allowing for customized promotion.

Credibility

Three ways to establish credibility are through trust, knowledge/skill, and experience. Trustworthiness comes from providing honest and objective information about the product being promoted, whether that is of a company or an individual. Knowledge/skill refers to the fact that when potential customers see expert testimonies or recommendations concerning a product, it will make them more likely to invest. Likewise, the products and information coming from the company or individual should convey expertise. Lastly, the more experience a company or individual has producing successful products, the more people will be interested in future interaction. Here are some practical ways to help establish credibility:
  • Create a public face. For an individual, that could simply mean using pictures and personal statements. For a company, that could mean promoting the presence of a president or a CEO.
  • Use testimonies from clients, customers, experts, and/or celebrities who have experienced the products and/or services.

Professionalism

When establishing an online presence, it is important to stay professional in regards to content. Both companies and individuals will benefit from watching what, when, and where they post. All information should be relevant, positive, and professional. Negative comments about clients or companies have no place in professional social media.  Instead, social media marketing should be used as a tool for networking, research, and promotion. Here are some things to remember in order to remain professional in the social media realm:
  • Avoid negative comments about clients, co-workers, or companies.
  • Never post confidential information online.
  • Make sure that all posts and photos are appropriate for all audiences.
  • Do not make ignorant or uninformed remarks, especially concerning hot-button issues and public figures.

Benefits of Effective Social Media Marketing

Companies that successfully employ social media as a method for marketing their brand and product will begin to see benefits. Social networking provides companies with immediate feedback from their consumers, which gives them the opportunity to address common issues and sense which issues are most common and most important among consumers. The social media community also allows companies to create the relationships with customers that are the foundation for establishing brand loyalty. Finally, the ultimate reward that comes from the culmination of these benefits is that companies will begin to see an improved bottom line. Professionals should view social media networks as tools for self-promotion.  The reality is that the skills of these individuals are a product, and they should promote them like products to potential clients and/or employers.  Word-of-mouth marketing is especially important when promoting individual professionals because often the product is a customized service, which is difficult to advertise.  When individuals promote themselves and their work, it is important to be honest and professional to help establish credibility.  Ultimately, a strong and credible online presence can result in professional networking, expansion of a client base, and even finding a job, creating financial gain and opportunity.

Resources

  • Evans, D. (2008). Social media marketing: An hour a day. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley  Publishing, Inc.
  • Barefoot, D., & Szabo, J. (2009). Friends with benefits: A social media marketing handbook.   San  Francisco, CA: No Starch Press, Inc.
  • Kerpen, D. (2011). Likeable social media: How to delight your customers, create an irresistible brand, and be generally amazing on Facebook (and other social networks). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Article by Appalachian State University students Samantha Gale and Adaline Haseltine.