According to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, the top three benefits of social media marketing are that it helps generate more business exposure (as indicated by 88% of marketers), followed by increased traffic (72%) and improved search rankings (62%). With the potential to increase a business’ exposure as a number-one advantage by a significant margin, it doesn’t take a genius to recognize that social media marketing is a great resource for small business owners and nonprofits.
But what is social media marketing exactly? Social media marketing utilizes the power of virtual communities of social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, and many more resources residing in the jungle that is Web 2.0. When a small business, nonprofit organization, or a cause joins a social network, they provide a space for their niche audiences to interact with the product, company, cause, and other people of similar interests.
More often than not, social network users go out of their way to seek out Facebook fan pages, Twitter profiles, LinkedIn pages, YouTube channels, and blogs of products and services they use and like. Whether it is to get information about said products or services, ask questions, voice concerns, or simply interact with other virtual community members, social network users are there of their own volition.
This is where the marketing portion of social media marketing comes into play. With a traditional mass medium of television, radio, or newspaper, advertising is a one-directional (a viewer, listener, reader is a passive receiver of what the medium puts out) game of chance (User watches a TV newscast, commercial break comes on, the viewer steps away to get a refill on their drink, commercial break is over, advertising money is wasted since the commercial never reached the potential consumer…an equation that gets even more complicated with the advent of TiVo). In social network communities, direct marketing and advertising is a whole new animal!
Social media marketing allows a small business, nonprofit, or a cause to conduct absolutely free market research among their fans prior to engaging into a new product development or venture. By posting a question asking their followers to discuss what they would want out of their services in the future, what features they like and don’t like, or how to make their experiences better, a social media campaign allows a product, services, or venture’s users to interact with a product or company in a way that feels more personal than a hard sell of a billboard, TV ad, or a pop-up on their browser.
As such, because they feel like it’s a community town-hall-meeting-type discussion of a product, service, or venture they support or use, social network users are less likely to have their defenses up against the advertising pitch because they feel like they have more control in the two-directional game of direct advertising.
This is why social media marketing, when done right, can increase a small business’ leads, attract traffic for a nonprofit organization’s cause, and gain interest in the services and ventures both a small business and a non-profit offer by providing a virtual community for their followers.