Social media marketing: How to make friends with benefits

Don't ask what your followers can do for you; ask what you can do for your followers.

by Darren Barefoot - For people new to using social media for marketing, the landscape can seem a bit intimidating. There are so many channels, tactics and ways to measure success--what's right for you?

In truth, it's simply a case of getting your head around your target audience and your goals. From there, there are plenty of resources out there to help you devise the right strategies and tactics for success.

[ Enter to win a copy of Friends With Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook. ]

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  1. There are no magic beans. This idea comes from a recent post by Seth Godin, in which he compares traditional TV ads (and, I’d add, advertisements in other media) to magic beans: "Marketing online takes too much measurement, patience, creativity, technical knowledge, flexibility, speed and authenticity. It requires too much thinking and not enough going out for dinner with clients." The lesson? Social media marketing takes a lot of time and energy, and there are few shortcuts that a million dollar budget can buy.
  2. Choose the tools last. The mistake that most organizations make is starting with the tools. They say "the competition has a Twitter account, so we need one too!" The tools should come last, not first. Organizations should think through where their audience is online, what their objectives are, what strategies they should apply and then, finally, which tools or platforms to use (or whether they should create new ones).
  3. Deliver value. When most companies engage in social media marketing, they ask "how can I get my followers to spread my story?" That's the wrong question. Here's a better one: "how can I deliver value to my followers, and earn their trust and respect?" If you can do that, then your followers will spread your story (assuming it's a great story) whether you ask them to or not.
  4. Become a curator. Following on from tip #3, how do we deliver value? One way, which feels peculiar to some longtime web marketers, is to send people away from your site and social media channels. Become a great curator of the web's best stuff for your industry, city or hobby. Point your followers to great stuff, and they'll come back to the source--that's you--for more.
  5. Think mobile. The social web is everywhere, and in everyone's pocket. There are reportedly 4.8 billion mobile handsets in circulation around the globe. Laptops have, for the past couple of years, outsold desktops. Increasingly, you need to marry your social media marketing thinking to a mobile web strategy.

Related reading:
Five SEO Secrets to Make Your Site More Visible
Social networking: 6 things to consider before you share it all

Darren Barefoot is co-author of Friends With Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook.

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