I was recently asked – what is Social Media Marketing and Viral Marketing? How do I get started?
I think it is important to start with basics, since there is a lot of ‘sophisticated Internet advice out there’ and everyone these days is a social media ‘expert’. As a B2B marketer of many years, founder of Social2B, and a member of The CMO Club, I have the privilege of reviewing Social Media ‘case studies’ all day long – there are numerous successes and numerous failures. This may sound very basic, but it works every time.First, decide on your target audience, and match the product or a service to it. Most importantly, you have to decide what type of content value-add you are going to provide – without compelling content, you are D.O.A. That’s your biggest investment.
Then, set up ‘listening channels’ – yes, you have to listen first, and observe, before doing anything. You have to understand (through online research), where your community lives, how they interact, behave, and respond. If your segmentation is already done for you, just get involved with this community. Or build your own, by being attractive, and sharing valuable information. Again, the emphasis is on content and value add. If you are an online retailer, help your customers by engaging them in a conversation about your products and post the results back to the community. If you are an exchange for caregivers and healthcare professionals, aggregate valuable, relevant, and up-to-date content on specific medical conditions. If you are a technology services company, show your clients through case studies and examples that you can do more with less, or how to use particular technologies to gain efficiencies and save money. You also have to ask yourself – “am I alone in this exercise, or do I have all major functions of MY organization behind me – CEO, Sales, Customer Service, Technology, etc.? You should discuss expectations and set up metrics to reach your goals. Otherwise, this will be a nice ‘team building exercise’ and your effort will be wasted.Once you answer the above, and use your own creative communications resources to address the content creation and distribution strategies, while building ‘social infrastructure’ through tools, technology and transparency, you have to gradually get involved. And eventually evolve with the community. And at every step of the way, you listen, observe and ANALYZE. You should hire outside help (not an expensive proposition) to do it once with guidance and expertise (make sure the latter is present). Once you see the results, and you will see them, if done right, you can repeat the above method or adjust to your own.Social Media Marketing (with Viral component already built in) is part creative communications, part tools and technology, part marketing courage, and ALL analytics. If done right, not only will you be closer to your community, and get results, you will also earn their trust and improve your reputation.