Social media marketing strategies that work

Think like a party guest; act like an ambassador.

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by James E. Gaskin - Today's insider tips come from Julie Szabo, co-author with Darren Barefoot of the new book Friends with Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook and co-owner (with Barefoot) of Capulet Communications, a social media public relations agency heavy into high tech startups.

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

Szabo's first tip is aimed at those new to the world of social marketing. When getting started, think like a party guest. A good guest comes in, listens, finds out about other guests, and blends in before taking center stage. Too many social marketing newbies find a community and burst through the door yelling at the top of their voice.

Each community and blogger is unique, and deserves to be treated that way. How do you learn how to approach each different blogger and community? By investing at least a quarter of your marketing time to social marketing. Yes, it's time consuming, but necessary. And if your company is part of the world of, say, network security, you should be a part of the social marketing community of that world as well.

Remember that every employee involved in any social network, when labeled as an employee, must think like an ambassador for your company. Sure, flame wars and nerd fights are fun, says Szabo, but comments on the Internet stay there forever. Be passionate about your positions, but polite in your responses.

Don't try and create your own community for social marketing purposes. Yes, you can use Ning or a small team of programmers to create your own community destination, but attracting inhabitants takes far more work. Find existing communities to join and improve them from within. Your message will reach more people that way.

One of the myths Szabo wants to dispel is the ability to make a "viral video" on order. Companies approach Capulet regularly asking for a guaranteed global video hit, which is impossible to create on demand. Manage the expectations of your vice president of marketing now.

Another myth? That only kids are into social networking. Companies with target audiences in the 40-50 year old range used to avoid the social scene, but they can't do that any longer. Modern demographics show all adults, up to the seniors, are big social networkers.

If you're looking for kids, social marketing is about the only way to reach them anymore. Social marketing should be at least half of your campaign budget for youth products.

About six months ago, Szabo noticed the world of social marketing had turned a major corner. Traditional conservative companies and government agencies came knocking on her door. When bureaucrats realize they need social marketing, you can't call social marketing a fad any longer.

One last piece of advice: Start with your social marketing strategy, then choose your tools. Executives may say, "oooh, we need Twitter," but what they really need is a strategy to support a well defined message. Once you know what you want to say and to whom, start using the social marketing tools explained in Friends With Benefits.

Related reading:
Social media marketing: How to make friends with benefits
Social networking: 6 things to consider before you share it all

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