What’s Social Media Marketing?

Well, we’ve learned that social media is just plain faster than industrial media (read my previous post about old media). So how can a business take social media and apply it to its marketing model?

Viral marketing is one version of social media marketing, or SMM. Social media depends on interactions between people – the sharing of information and the discussion of topics through online media allows for news to travel faster and discussions to blossom. Reviews and endorsements can be made without payment – and thus those endorsements become even more valuable, because the perceived value is higher when someone volunteers their approval of a product rather than doing it as part of their job. You know how sales of a particular handbag or beverage can skyrocket when a celebrity is seen using it? We’re not talking about paid advertisements – we’re talking about paparazzi photos of Britney drinking a coffee drink, or Paris Hilton buying something at Kitson. Take that philosophy and apply it to the web, and throw in a thousand non-celebrities talking about it rather than one paid celebrity, and you’ve got social media marketing that works.

Social media is created primarily by non-employees of the company that is promoting or publishing the product. Social media optimization, or SMO, is the methods by which the publicity is generated through social media. SMO refers to specific methods by which a webmaster or SMO specialist can create “buzz” for their product or client. There are thousands of social media sites on the internet – navigating which ones work best for a specific product or client, and placing the product efficiently and well, is where an SMO specialist excels. There are also sites that mass produce postings to various social media outlets that can be utilized for this purpose as well. “Viral,” a word often given a nefarious connotation, is a correct assessment of how good SMO can work – it starts small but spreads quickly over a large area, and continues to grow exponentially. Most people have heard the term “viral video” by now – the same tactic can be applied through not only videos on YouTube, but through blogs, forums, niche communities, message boards, and online communities such as Twitter.

According to Wikipedia:
Social media can take many different forms, including Internet forums, weblogs, wikis, podcasts, pictures and video. Technologies include: blogs, picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-postings, email, instant messaging, music-sharing, crowdsourcing, and voice over IP, to name a few. Examples of social media applications are Google Groups (reference, social networking), Wikipedia (reference), MySpace (social networking), Facebook(social networking), Last.fm (personal music), YouTube (social networking and video sharing), Avatars United (social networking), Second Life (virtual reality), Flickr (photo sharing), Twitter (social networking and microblogging) and other microblogs.

**Note**Social networks come and go. What may be “new and hot” today may be defunct 6 months later. Keeping up with which social media sites work best (and which ones aren’t running any more) is also a key part of SMO and SMM.

There are obviously thousands of other social networking sites out there – and even more being created daily. It’s a daunting task to keep up with the ones that work and the ones that don’t. There is a certain amount of trial and error involved in figuring out the best social media networks that work for you and your target market, and it takes time. But the time invested is well worth it, and you’ll see results in no time.

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