Harnessing the Internet: Social Media 101

October 29, 2009

We are in the midst of a revolution. The way the world thinks and communicates has been rocked by the integration of the Internet into our day-to-day lives. In recent years, this revolution has progressed even further with what is known as the Web 2.0 movement. Whereas just a few years ago the Internet was a one-way communication system, it is now largely fueled by interaction between people all over the world through social media. Because of this, online marketing is no longer limited to annoying pop-up ads and flashing cartoon banners on websites. Social media makes it possible to find the people who are interested in your message and share it with them in a way that is personal and comfortable. The question is how. Different social media sites reach different people different ways, which makes the challenge determining where your target audience goes and what they want to see and read. The following is an introduction to a few of the key players in the world of social media, and how to use them to reach the audiences you are looking for.

 

 

At the moment, Facebook.com is the mother of all social media. Founded in 2004, Facebook now boasts over 300 million users, 50% of which check their account everyday. Facebook is a social networking site that essentially allows the user to create a personal profile, add other people as friends, communicate with those people, and share photos, videos, notes, their status, events, and other information. Originally, the site was exclusively for college students, but now it is open to everyone.

 

How do I use it for marketing?

 

Facebook makes it easy for a business or organization to create a page (different from a personal profile) which individual users can become a “fan” of. Using a page, you can send updates to your fans, post pictures and videos, allow fans to post pictures and videos, share links, start discussions, and much more. A good example is Starbucks’s Facebook page, which has almost 4 million fans. This is a great way to share with people who are interested in what you do as well as create a more personal feel for your business.

 

 

Facebook also offers a revolutionary system of advertising on their site. Based on information individual users enter on their personal profile, the site allows you to target people based on variables such as location, gender, relationship status, interests, etc. For example, a bridal boutique can limit their advertising on the site to engaged females who live in the city, or even go to the local university. Also a concert promoter could advertise only to local college students who like a particular band. This unique system of segmentation makes Facebook’s advertising extremely effective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Myspace, which once was the leader in social networking, has lost some ground to Facebook, but is still very popular with about 125 million users. More and more, Myspace’s user base is shifting toward teenagers and bands. Similar to Facebook, Myspace users create a personal profile from which they can share information, photos, videos, and connect with friends. It is still the leader in social networking for bands because of the way it allows them to post music and concert dates to their profile.

 

How do I use it for marketing?

 

Myspace is much more limited as far as advertising opportunities than Facebook. Ad placement is mostly limited to banner ads on the top of the site. For a business looking to reach a younger segment or connect with music groups, creating a profile can be a valuable option, but overall, the trend is definitely toward Facebook in the social networking world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LinkedIn.com is a social networking site similar to Facebook or Myspace, which is stripped down to the bare bones for the sole purpose of professional networking. It has a network of around 45 million professionals and lets users make “connections” with other people in the business world. Because of this, marketing opportunities are limited mostly to business-to-business connections on a personal level.

 

 

At its core, Twitter is a short-messaging or microblogging service. Twitter users utilize the site, a computer application, or mobile device (i.e. a text message from a cell phone) to post a tweet, which is a 140 character-long message about anything they want. Various other companies and sites have developed services that allow you to include pictures or even a map link of your GPS location (if you “tweet” from a device with GPS like an iPhone) in the tweets you post. While Twitter is relatively new and has fewer users than some other sites, Compete.com ranks it as the third most-visited social networking site. It sees much of its traffic from adults, and companies. Twitter users can follow the updates of anyone they choose from their friends, to celebrities, to businesses, to news headlines.

 

How do I use it for marketing?

 

In terms of business, Twitter describes itself as a communication platform that helps businesses stay connected to their customers. Also, one of the more unique aspects of Twitter is that there are no advertisements on the site except for any that a user chooses to follow in text form. The combination of these aspects of the site makes it one of the most unique and valuable tools in social media marketing and customer relationship management with two different applications. First, Twitter can become one of the key voices of your company to your customers. Updates, promotions, and other messages can be instantly broadcast to customers who actually want to hear them. It is a great way to make a business feel more personal to the consumer.

 

Second, by searching for a brand or business name as a topic, the company is able to see what people are saying about them. In the same way, the company can follow its customers’ tweets to hear what they are saying about their experiences. A customer might never send a letter or fill out a comment card, but they are very likely to post a tweet about something that catches their attention during their experience with your business. It is like eavesdropping on your customers, except they want you to hear and they make it convenient.

 

 

YouTube and Vimeo are both video-sharing sites. Posting videos online helps your business in two main ways. First, video content makes your message both interesting and tangible to a person in search of information. Most people, given the choice, would much rather watch a video instead of reading a page of text. Second, posting videos on sites like these helps with search engine optimization. By having an account on sites like these that links to you, and even going the next step and embedding the videos on your site using the easy HTML codes they give you, search engines are much more likely to view your site as interesting and rank you higher.

 

Now the question is which site to use. It basically comes down to quality vs. traffic.

 

Vimeo is a less-used site, but plays videos in higher quality online. If your target audience leans toward the artsy side, or you are mainly concerned with embedding videos at the highest quality, this is the site for you. YouTube on the other hand has many more users, but does not offer the same picture quality that Vimeo does. It also is has much more clutter which includes videos of mature content (which Vimeo does not allow).

 

An effective social media presence is becoming a must-have to today’s society. From a customer management standpoint, social media make your business personal and accessible. It also lends credibility to your organization when a customer sees you as active and engaged with the customer base. In addition, a purposefully constructed web of social media presence makes your business a dominant force in the eyes of search engines. Customers will be able to get to know your business on a more personal level through whichever media they are most comfortable with, and you will reap the benefits of establishing an online fan base.

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