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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Social-Media Marketing Essentials

How you can balance the need to be on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social media to build your business without letting them take over your life


Asking yourself these questions will put you in the best position to be successful when using social-media websites to market yourself. Questions 1-3 will help you focus and hone your message and activities. Question 4 will help you identify business goals, but note that business goals shouldn't be confused with the means to achieve the goals (e.g., goal: "20% of my revenue will be from book sales" vs. means of achieving goal: "Sell my book on Facebook"). Lastly, question 5 will help you think through the logistics of attaining your goals. Unfortunately, most people gravitate toward question 5 first when thinking about social-media marketing, dwelling on followers and, frankly, this is akin to putting the cart before the horse. Having a lot of followers with no clear idea of what to do with them will help you very little. Followers will grow organically as you execute your goals.

Own A Strategy, Not Just A Social-Media Page
Before diving into specific strategies, it's important to emphasize that there's no one right way to make use of social-media websites to grow your business, just as there's no one right way to take a photo. Similar to photography, social-media marketing is a creative endeavor. With the right mind-set, you can find ways to creatively market your business and offerings in ways that would have been difficult, if not impossible, as recently as six years ago.

The three most notable social-media strategies are long-tail content, community-building and curation. You can employ one or all of these strategies to achieve your business goals, although I'd recommend pursuing and excelling at one before you aggressively try to juggle two or three of them. It's also important to note that all of the strategies discussed here aren't quick wins, but tactics that make notable differences over longer periods of time (six to 12 months and beyond). At first, this may be disheartening, but as you look at others you consider to be successful social-media marketers, you'll see they have been at this for some time, and it wasn't just a quick overnight development.

Long-Tail Content
The premise of the "long tail" is that more can be found in a nonstandard probability distribution curves tail than its head (see the diagram). Examples were highlighted by Chris Anderson in an October 2004 Wired magazine article and later in his book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. While Amazon and Apple's iTunes are often noted as examples to this theory with books and music (where surprisingly, to many, sales volume of the top 40 best sellers at any one time are dwarfed when compared to cumulative lower-volume sales of the remaining inventory), the same principles can apply to any company.

In the realm of a photography business, albeit on a much smaller scale, the long-tail effect is equally relevant as it relates to content. Rather than look solely for short-term gains with the production of your content where you might grab a lot of attention at once, continually and regularly add to a growing online portfolio of images, articles, blog posts and social updates. True to the core concept of the long-tail theory, the more you produce and place online, the more likely your audience will find you over time, and simultaneously, you'll find a larger audience. Long-tail-content strategies facilitate fan growth, increase website traffic, improve search-engine-result rankings, increase sales and business leads, and increase sales opportunities.

Community-Building
Developing a community and following is an important strategy and often happens organically, but also can be pursued with great care, effort and focus. Community-building can happen through a blog, but is often much more productive via a social-media website like Facebook. The difference in community development on a blog versus Facebook, for example, is that identities are generally hidden on blogs and revealed on Facebook. Blog communities are made up of subscribers and are anonymous until site visitors reveal themselves by leaving a comment. By and large, the percentage of people who comment on blogs versus "read only" are quite small. On the other hand, Facebook is made up of hundreds of millions of profiles that reveal a great deal of information about each person. Facebook enables you to access audience demographics on company fan pages, making it quite easy to see identities and information about your audience. In addition, Facebook also makes it easy to broadcast an update message to fans who subscribe to a fan page.

 

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