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Using Social Media Marketing to Promote Your Business

March 19, 2010 It certainly pays to be visible online - in a positive way. It goes without saying that if people can't find you, you are missing out - on potential new business, collaborations, requests, partnerships, etc. Hopping on the social media bandwagon means increased exposure, expanding your audience and consumer base, and mushrooming your business through resources that are free -- the only cost is your time. In this article, I'll share some ideas to help you spend that time wisely. First off, the most common avenues through which to increase your visibility in social media are: - blogs - social networks (like Facebook and Ning) - microblogging (like Twitter) - video/photo sharing (like Youtube and Flickr) - informational/enthusiast forums - wikis - virtual reality (Second Life) - social gaming - podcasts - RSS feeds You can also put out social media press releases, consider hiring a social media agency or getting an intern to tweet for you! Did you know that 73% of internet users have read a blog? This is true, according to the Universal McCann Comparative Study on Social Media Trends, April 2008, which also states that 45% of online users have started their own blog. Through blogging, you can increase Google's organic search engine rankings. For example, if I Google my name, Maureen Lawson, my LinkedIn profile and my blogs for CDIA come up first -- and keep in mind that search results are a free commodity, my friends. I notice that CDIA's Photography Alums, in particular, do a very nice job of blogging frequently in order to:  show their enthusiasm for what they do; share tips and their expertise with other photographers (and become known as “wow, that person really knows what he’s talking about!”); and keep it fresh and exciting so that they can attract new readers, new customers, and repeat customers and readers. The ideal situation is to have people keep returning to your blog to see what’s new and to admire your latest work. Also, you just may get picked up by another blog that has a huge readership and you may get a “feature” or an “award,” as other Alumni have. The biggest thing to keep in mind is consistency - remember the old adage of 'out of sight, out of mind'; you should be updating your blog daily or every other day. For a great example, check out Samantha Melanson and Laura Widness's blog for "The Studio Noir" . Social media experts commonly cite that the power to brand and grow a business has shifted from corporations and institutions to individuals and communities with common interests. Look at Yelp, for example -- where individuals and peers influence others daily on their purchasing and partnering decisions. AJ Gerritson, Founder of Boston agency 451 Marketing, says it’s critical to focus on “engaging your prospects in a conversation about your brand in a way that is meaningful to them” and that this will yield “exponential returns compared to the dated traditional techniques of outbound marketing.” It is important not to discount social media’s strength or dismiss it as “something the kids use” – it is available, easy to use, free, and powerful. Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg announced in July 2009 that the popular social network grew quickly and globally, stating almost humbly, that “250 million people are using Facebook to stay updated on what's happening around them and share with the people in their lives.” And since July, Facebook has grown to include 400 million active users! Remember that as a professional and as an expert in your field, it's important to establish an appropriate internet presence -- one that reaches out to and attracts the audience you are targeting. Think of social media marketing as a way to expand on the usual networking and marketing efforts and to recruit "salespeople" who will just organically spread the word to advertise your business. Image courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk Are you finding it hard to manage all your social media marketing tools, from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn? Mashable suggests using ping.fm or Twitterfeed to synch up and get the same word out to many fast -- but caution, you may have different audiences you are targeting on each of these platforms - it may be fast, but be sure this is working to your best advantage. Also when using Facebook and other social networks, please remember to adjust your privacy settings to maintain your online presence properly. You can also set up a Facebook fan page for your business and keep your own personal page private and, well, social. As I close out this article, please keep in mind that the top-rated social media sites, according to number of users, are: Twitter LinkedIn Facebook Although, you’ll see from various articles on the internet that the statistics fluctuate frequently between these three and YouTube. Other important channels include Biznik, Fastpitch Networking, Plaxo, Stumbleupon, Merchant Circle and Q Alias. I understand that a Google search yields high results for the last two, according to SocialMediaMagic's introductory "Social Media Marketing Best Practices" webinar. Stay tuned for Maureen's next article: "Using Social Media Marketing in Your Job Search"


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