What is Social Media Marketing?

My skin is tingly. It gets this way whenever something new is on the horizon, something big.

I remember feeling this way back in college. Something called the World Wide Web was creeping onto the scene. It was still in the domain of universities and geeks. Then a roommate told me the Web was going to be commercialized. When I heard that, I looked at the web site I had just built, imagined making a career out of this, and felt my skin go tingly.

The new thing making me tingly is Social Media Marketing (SMM). Okay, maybe it’s not such a new thing. Cutting-edge bloggers have been talking about it for a while now. There was even a conference on it back in April.

But I’m starting to see traditional companies peek into SMM. They’re lifting the curtain, poking their heads in, and wondering if they should join all the fun. In high-tech marketing speak, the Early Adopters are starting to buy into SMM. Maybe even some of the Early Majority too.

So what is Social Media Marketing?

I define it as: a specialization of marketing that involves using online social media channels to promote a business’s products, services, or brand.

So what is Social Media?

Good question. Chris Garrett describes it as the “tools, websites and software that allows people to connect and share.” Scott Monty points to a very amusing video called “Social Media in Plain English” that explains it in, well, plain english:

Can you give me some examples of Social Media Marketing?

Sure. Since this field is still so young, there are a very wide range of tactics, some more effective than others. Here are some examples of SMM tactics:

Create an online video

That video above is a sweet example. It was created by the husband and wife team at CommonCraft Productions. They created a few free videos like that and “Podcasting in Plain English” and “Twitter in Plain English“. These funny videos became viral and spread onto blogs like Scott Monty’s.

The intent? To promote the services of CommonCraft, who’ve created explanation videos for clients such as Google (GOOG), Salesforce.com (CRM), H&R Block (HRB), and others.

Offer a free product/service to a blogger

The book publisher Kogan Page hired a marketing firm to send out free books to various bloggers (including me!) in the hopes that some of the bloggers would write favorable mentions or reviews. This can be tricky as some bloggers may write scathing reviews. I tried to be balanced in mine.

The intent? To generate more sales for Kogan Page’s books.

Get your website listed on a link aggregation site

The link aggregation site Digg.com can be a massive traffic generator. If your website is featured on Digg.com, you can get an onslaught of users visiting your site. A couple of years ago, Richard MacManus found a way to game Digg.com and almost guarantee being featured.

The intent? To get a lot of visitors and new customers. However, the effectiveness of this tactic is debatable, as incoming visitors don’t always convert into customers. It can still give you SEO benefits, though. But be careful about gaming Digg.com, as that can start a community backlash against you.

Create a common-interest group on a social network

Facebook allows you to create common-interest groups, such as the “Louis Vuitton” group or the “Chocolate = Love!” group. You could create one of your own, based around your brand, product, or service, and speak to your customers directly. It’s like an informal, ad hoc focus group, but much cheaper.

The intent? To speak and listen to your customers directly. “It’s like free market research” says one entrepreneur who’s tried this tactic.

Write catchy content

Some call this linkbait, others call this just plain catchy content. Last year, Johnny Virgil wrote a hilarious blog entry about the 1977 JC Penny Catalog he found in his wife’s grandfather’s attic. His entry was so catchy and viral that it spread like a really bad showtune that gets stuck in your head for hours.

The intent? Well, Virgil wasn’t trying to sell anything, though he’s placed Google ads and a PayPal donation button on his site since then. But as a marketer, such a tactic could generate significant pageviews on your site, and hopefully some sales too.

  • Kendyl Bradford

    This was a very useful post with a lot of great tips!! One tip that I can offer to create unique and attention grabber headlines in a tool called glyphius! Glyphius creates unique headlines while increasing your security score! I recommend this to everyone! I really hope that more useful posts like this follow! Keep up the great work

  • http://mikelee.org Mike Lee

    Ah, I’ve heard a little about Glyphius. Thought it was a bit of a scam though – or at least, over-hyped. Never actually tried it though. I wonder if there are any trial versions floating around anywhere… hmm…

    Thanks for the comment, Kendyl!

  • Sarah

    You are certainly correct here social media has boosted many a blogger. As you mentioned you really need catchy content. What I have been doing is using glyphius just like Kendyl to boost my copy and I am noticing I draw in more buyers combining social media sites with this tool. As for trial versions I am not sure but if you hunt around you can probably snag a deal from a reseller.

  • Rhianna Clarke

    These are great tips, great article! Sarah, Kendy, I’m a Glyphius user, too and it has made me a better writer. I’ve learned from it, increased sales copy, and keep tweaking until my headline scores are in the 600’s. I bring paragraphs to 350’s and then I’m happy. It isn’t a scam, Mike. Great tool.