One of the hottest topics on the Internet as well as most media outlets lately has been the use of social media. Talk shows are talking about it, news outlets are reporting about it, and businesses are starting to use it for marketing and public relations. So what is social media marketing? What are the benefits of using this new marketing tool? And finally, what are the different media outlets that can be used to make the connection?
The first step would probably be to define social media marketing, since most printers are probably still in the dark about this new tool. Social media marketing is a form of Internet marketing which seeks to achieve branding and marketing communication goals through the participation in a variety of social media networks. In other words, it is getting the word out about your company by using various social networks. So, now that we have that cleared up, we probably should define social networks. Most of us have likely visited or used a social network within the last month.
Invited to the Party
Social networks are primarily Internet and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications, and social interaction with the construction of words, pictures, videos, and audio. The primary focus of this definition, which is the key to effective social networking, is the sharing of information among human beings. A social network allows you to create online relationships with other human beings. This is the first step to successful marketing using such networks. But before I get into the networks themselves, I want you to imagine social networking as large cocktail party.
Back in the day, many business deals were secured through interaction at cocktail parties. You would mingle. Make connections. Introduce yourself through other acquaintances and occasionally talk business. If you were lucky, you may have exchanged business cards with a possible prospect and hoped for the best with the new contacts you made. Social networking is no different; it just allows you to reach a much larger audience.
Aside from the social aspect, social media marketing has some "hidden" benefits as well. Mainly, using social networks increases your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Printers pay Web consultants thousands of dollars to have them make a few changes to a website in the hopes of securing some "page one" results in Google. But how much of that is really necessary?
There are two types of SEO: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page SEO involves changes made to your website. For example, what are your H1, H2, and H3 tags? What are the alt-tags labels for your images? Are they keyword rich? These are all changes that require an extensive background in HTML and some Web coding. The sad part is that Web crawlers only use on-page SEO for 25% of their rankings; 75% is attributed to off-page SEO. Off-page SEO consists of having links to your site on other trusted websites.
Let's take another look at our cocktail party. While conversing, a friend mentions to a group of people that he knows Bob's Printing. Having a link to your website on another site is just like that friend saying, "I know Bob's Printing." But what if that friend said that Bob's Printing is a great printing company? Now we have moved a step further in the relational conversation—having your site linked on another site, where the link text says "Printing Company" is the next step in off-page SEO. Search engines will assume that "Printing Company" is synonymous with your site.
Now, what if that friend at the cocktail party is highly revered by everyone in the group? You have hit pay dirt. The same occurs in off-page SEO when your link is on a trusted site. You gain even more credibility if your link is on many trusted sites. Of course, the goal now is to have people clicking on those links. That is where social networks come into play.