Social Media Marketing - Is it worth your time

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Still think that social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are just for kids? The fact is that over 55 million adults now visit social media sites at least monthly, and the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is 35 and older.

And more and more of those 55 million adults no longer look to the Internet and social media networks as one place to find information to make a buying decision...they consider it the place to find information.

Tapping into social media networks and tools are a fantastic way to promote your business, connect with customers and drive traffic to your website. The objective behind social media marketing is getting out there, joining online communities that have similar interests with your business and participating in the conversations.

If you want to make an impact and stand out from the competition, play an active part in extending your community by engaging with its potential members as people rather than prospects.

Participation is easy through things like Facebook discussions, Yahoo! Answers, and LinkedIn Q&As. When you add value by answering questions and making contributions, you begin to build a reputation and, eventually, relationships with influential community members and potential clients.

When developing content to post on social media networks, the most important thing to keep in mind is to limit talking about yourself or trying to sell something. Most online communities don't welcome traditional direct or hard sell techniques.

Instead, provide ways to help others. Anyone who has watched the movie Miracle on 34th Street where Macys' employees helped shoppers find what they wanted, even if it meant sending them to a competitor, knows that subtlety in building customer loyalty is not a new concept. What is new is that social media networks have given companies an easy way to get their message out quicker, to a broader audience, for less money.

The real beauty of social media marketing is that at some point, your audience starts to do the work for you. Content that gets shared is interesting, fresh, useful, and relevant to target audiences. And good content spreads fast, so, unlike a traditional ad, you're not only reaching the people associated with your social media accounts, but also everyone associated with their accounts.

A perfect example of this is a document recently released by Kodak (you can download the pdf here: http://www.kodak.com/US/images/en/corp/aboutKodak/onlineToday/Social_Media_9_8.pdf). This excellent document shares the experiences learned by Kodak in developing a social media plan.

This document has been shared countless times through social media networks because it contains useful information, and each time further strengthening Kodak's brand awareness. Kodak could never have achieved that much exposure with even its best efforts at traditional advertising or sales promotions.

Social media also opens plenty of opportunities to influence the search engine results and drive more prospects to your website. When others in your online communities link to your posts or blog content, your ranking increases with every single link.

In Google, one domain can only generate a maximum of 2 listings per search. However, generating a presence in a variety of popular social media sites gives you additional opportunities to have your information appear in the remaining 8 results.

With a minimal investment of time and attention to the creation of a good social media marketing plan, you can boost your exposure, gain potential customers, and instill an efficiency in your marketing efforts that traditional marketing cannot meet. Don't be afraid to test new things. The only bad social media marketing plan is not having one.

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