Advertising through Social Networks?
In previous blog entries (see How do I sponsor searches on Google? and Advertising cannot be your only online marketing channel), I've talked about how to use paid services to promote your business online, focusing specifically on Google Adwords and how it lets your company appear as "sponsored" results on a search page. Then we talked last week about the distressingly ephemeral nature of paid advertising and explored examples of how mindshare rapidly declines once you stop paying.
The solution to the dilemma, the path to sustained visibility in the online world, is to understand the gestalt of Google, if you will, the core concept behind modern Internet search engines. Once you understand how they work, you'll see how you can rethink your online presence to maximize results without paying the proverbial arm and a leg.
In a word: content.
Search engines, like people, aren't looking for ads, they aren't looking for "marketing copy" and they aren't looking for a sales promotion page. They're looking for fresh, quality content that's published on a regular basis.
I will again quote my friend Doyle Albee: "Advertising alone is like a lecture with no questions allowed. Adding a conversational element to your marketing lets you can get feedback about what's working and what's not."
So how do you engage your current and future customers in that conversation?
By utilizing the many social networking tools available: Whether it's MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, or even the trendy Twitter service, it's darn important that you go to your customers.
Let's differentiate between the services, though, because while there are hundreds of different social networks, there are only a small number of primary importance. There is overlap between them, but I suggest the following characterization:
MySpace: teen hangout and still top site for musicians, bands and nightclubs, it's also the most chaotic and ugly of the sites. Beware.
YouTube: though many people don't view this as a social network, the ability to subscribe to video channels and the plethora of (too often crude) comments, it's still the best place to upload video content. The more amusing the video, the better it'll do, so skip the sales training material, for sure!
LinkedIn: the most professional of the social networks, LinkedIn is an important place to have your resume, credentials and company affiliation listed. Can you sell products and services through LinkedIn? No, but many companies find that it's valuable to have their executives listed on the site, including brief company profiles.
Facebook: Originally aimed at college students who wanted to share party notes and chat with their online pals, Facebook is now one of the hottest and most popular sites on the Internet. People tend to be more personal on Facebook and more professional on LinkedIn.
Twitter: a trendy "micro-blogging" service, Twitter originally was designed to let people share brief status updates through mobile devices, but now it's evolved to be an instant messaging service where you choose who you want to follow and others choose to follow you, or not. The cardinal rule on Twitter to gain more followers, and thereby more influence, is to be interesting.
On all of these services, pushing out marketing messages, sales pitches, breathless hype and similar, rather than the problems of your customer community, just doesn't work. This can be a bit of a learning experience for traditional sales and marketing types, but if you want to gain online mindshare so you don't need to pay for those expensive ads, it's time to think about what you can share, what you can perhaps even give away, and what your future customers care about.
After all, online marketing isn't messaging, it's participating.
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