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Social media marketing can be a fruitful means of generating leads and, ultimately, sales. But marketing successfully through social media means you have to be aware of a brand new set of digital business rules and plan to operate with a detailed online strategy and calendar.
Here are a few best practices to help you launch a winning social media marketing effort:
• Plan your program-As in any other marketing effort, you need a strategic plan that describes your audience, goals, tactics and performance measurement. Haphazard posting on social media sites will lead to failure. There is a lot of power with influencers, as detailed in this Khol's case study. You need to have a consistent message and participate on a regular basis (that's where the calendar comes in).
• Commit resources-Successful marketing with social media requires a commitment in time, personnel and resources for monitoring and interacting on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Be sure you staff for social media. Remember, just because your boss's 18-year-old niece spends her life on Facebook doesn't make her qualified to act as your social media marketing specialist.
• Listen to your audience and your competition -Learn what interests your target audience and how users interact with your competitors. Before joining in on conversations, be sure you understand any unwritten rules to follow and jargon participants may use. With the evolution of the English language, here is a list of new words and expressions to reflect the vibrant changes of language and our culture.
• Contribute meaningful content-After becoming familiar with your social media sites, contribute value through your comments, questions or posts. Develop strong content, designed to address key concerns of your social media group, from which to draw for your site contributions. Powerful content, such as a white paper posted on your website, is an ideal vehicle for linking to or from social media sites.
• Encourage interaction-Social media participation is similar to having a conversation at a cocktail party or conference: No one wants to hear a monologue. Promote comments, questions, voting and sharing in all of your content.
• Remain open and transparent-A key goal in social media marketing is gaining the trust of your audience and being perceived as a valuable resource for meaningful information. Being open is key for online brand success, so be honest with your identity, affiliation and intentions.
• Develop realistic metrics-Social media marketing, unlike advertising, facilitates sales through engagement rather than generating them directly. Although increased sales may be the eventual goal, important measurements of success include numbers of "friends," links, comments or "likes", so track and measure these at least weekly.
Social media marketing today is a vital part of a business' mix, and can make and break a company. So, before diving in, be sure to create a social media marketing plan and stick to it. Results can sometimes take months.
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