When people hear about social media marketing, many tend to think about popular social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and YouTube. YouTube has about 258 million users, and more than 50 percent of them log in weekly. Facebook has about 101 million users with more than 50 percent who log in daily.
If you haven't spent any time on these sites, I highly recommend setting up an account and jumping into a conversation or community. It's one thing to talk about social media marketing and another to experience it firsthand. You'll be a more effective social media marketer if you're already a participant.
What is Social Media?
Social media essentially is a category of online media where people are talking, participating, sharing, networking, and bookmarking online. Most social media services encourage discussion, feedback, voting, comments, and sharing of information from all interested parties.
It's more of a two-way conversation, rather than a one-way broadcast like traditional media. Another unique aspect of social media is the idea of staying connected or linked to other sites, resources, and people.
Kinds of Social Media
Many social media sites come in the form of a blog, microblog, podcast, videocast, forum, wiki, or some kind of content community. To help you understand social media better, let's break them down into basic forms or groups.
- Social news: Sites like Digg, Sphinn, Newsvine, and BallHype let you read about news topics and then vote and/or comment on the articles. Articles with more votes get promoted to a more prominent position.
- Social sharing: Sites like Flickr, Snapfish, YouTube, and Jumpcut let you create, upload, and share videos or photos with others.
- Social networks: Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter allow you to find and link to other people. Once linked or connected, you can keep up to date with that person's contact info, interests, posts, etc. Many people are connecting to friends and business associates with whom they had fallen out of touch. It's bringing the world together like nothing else has.
- Social bookmarking: Sites like Delicious, Faves, StumbleUpon, BlogMarks and Diigo allow you to find and bookmark sites and information of interest. You can save your bookmarks online and access them from anywhere or share them with others.
This is just a sampling of social media sites. More are added daily. Breaking them down into these categories or groups will help you understand their focus and to consider which avenue is right for your approach to social media marketing.
Social Media Benefits
Let's look at the general scope of social media universe. Did you know:
- Five of the top 10 fastest-growing Web brands are user-generated content sites?
- Sixty-seven percent of businesses say that the best source for advice on products and services are their consumers?
- Forty-five percent of adult Internet users have created content online?
- There are about 1.2 million blog posts per day?
So do you think it would benefit you to tap into this ever-growing universe of social media? Absolutely! Many companies are trying to figure out how to get involved. They're shifting money from traditional marketing budgets to social media marketing because it:
- Helps manage your company's or brand's reputation.
- Builds brand awareness and helps improve how people view your brand.
- Gets you closer to your customers. Learn about their needs then respond. Discuss converse, debate.
- Offers creative and effective ways to learn insights not previously available.
- Features new and inexpensive ways to support your clients.
- Is typically less expensive than traditional advertising.
- Offers various ways to measure and track performance.
A good corporate example to illustrate many of these principles is from Dell. They started Ideastorm, where people can post ideas and have them voted on. Can you say free market research? Who better to tell you how to create or improve your products and services than your customers? Cool, huh?
Now that we have a basic understanding of what social media marketing is and its benefits, the next step is to learn more about how to build your own social media strategy. That's next in Part 2.
In the meantime, take a look at some of the Social Media Marketing columns here at Search Engine Watch to learn more on this topic.