Keys to Social Media Marketing Success

By Pam Lontos

Social Media Marketing (called SMM) is certainly the newest buzz in the PR and marketing realm. And as with any new publicity tool, people have lots of questions on how to best utilize it.

SMM takes viral marketing to the extreme. Just as you can send friends your favorite jokes via email, with SMM people can spread your message for you with a simple click of a button. It’s a good type of virus that you hope your message gets infected with.

But in order to ensure that SMM works for you in a positive way, you need to employ some keys to success. The following guidelines will help.

Blue Square Bullet PointPut your message on the right sites.
There are literally hundreds if not thousands of social media sites today. You need to determine where your market is and post your messages on those sites. You don’t want to get on the wrong site, as that would waste your time and possibly hurt your credibility. If your topic is business growth or personal fitness, for example, you don’t want to be on a SMM site that caters to people interested in cake baking. That simply doesn’t make sense. With SMM, being anywhere and everywhere is not the answer. Be strategic and target your market for the best results.

Also realize that your market might change. Just because a certain SMM site attracts your market today doesn’t mean it will tomorrow. People are fickle in SMM and they get bored easily. For example, LinkedIn almost fell out of existence in November 2008. If they had not moved themselves to where their market had shifted, they would not be here today. Now they are back to being the biggest business SMM site. But they had to make a huge shift in the services they provide because their market moved on them. And once the market moves, it tends to go in mass. So if you are not watching where your market is, it may leave the social site where you’re sending your messages, and now your messages are going to the cake bakers again.

Blue Square Bullet PointUnderstand the purpose of each site.
Just as you want to post to the right SMM site, you also want to know the goal or focus of each of the various sites. Most people, even those brand new to SMM, have likely heard of the Big 3 SMM sites: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. They are the most common ones out there.

LinkedIn is the leading business networking site – think of it like a corporate boardroom setting. Facebook is for keeping tabs on personal and business contacts – if you use it for business, think of it like entertaining clients in your living room. Twitter is for short sound byte updates – think of it as your company’s billboard message.

A couple of others you may not have heard of but that are useful for business are Naymz and Plaxo.

Naymz is a reputation site. By registering, you are essentially doing a background check on yourself and posting it to the Internet. It’s a well respected site among corporate decision makers, who often use Naymz to check people out. If you are well respected on Naymz, it goes a long way for the C-level people.

Plaxo is a hub site. It allows you to link and connect multiple Internet resources in a single place. People can go there and find their way to everything about you, if you choose to allow that. It was one of the two that was about to knock LinkedIn out of the top last year.

For business purposes, you may want to stay away from MySpace, as MySpace often leaves a bad taste in the mouth of corporate America. Why? Because there have been more internal corporate scandals and sexual harassment suits in the past year over things that have been posted on MySpace than any other single social networking site. If you currently do have a MySpace page, hide it.

Blue Square Bullet PointThink in sound bites.
Anyone who has done any type of PR in the past – print, TV, or radio – knows the importance of the sound byte message. The same rule holds true when doing SMM. You want your sound bite message to be original, useful, valuable, fun, problem solving, and interesting. And you have to encapsulate your message in 140 characters or less. Realize that’s 140 characters, not words. Therefore, your message must be succinct.

That 140 character limit is not a random number. The fact is that 140 characters is the convention for text messages to cell phones internationally. Remember, your goal is for people to take your message and pass it along or to have it forwarded to their cell phone when your message comes out. You don’t want the ending of your message cut off because it was too long for the cell phone to display. And don’t think you can take your long message and split it up into two or more feeds. That’s called giving a double message or a split, and people get annoyed by such a tactic. Do that too often and you’ll quickly lose all your followers.

Blue Square Bullet PointPost your messages responsibly.
A common question is: “How often should I be posting messages onto these sites? Daily? Twice a day? Hourly?” Unfortunately, many people post too often and abuse the airways. They send too many messages, which has two very negative effects. First, you become an interruption rather than a welcome interlude. People who are following you and having your messages forwarded to their cell phone are constantly being interrupted by you. Now you’re a nuisance.

The other problem is that search engines are designed to ignore these 140 character messages. However, there are strategic ways around that rule so that your 140 character messages become the alerts. The problem is that the search engines only allow a certain number of alerts per source, and it varies per search engine. If the search engines see too many messages coming from you during their standard interval period, they could flag you as a search engine spammer and lock you out. So the best posting interval right now is posting something every 48 hours, as that’s how long it takes for a message to go through the Internet.

Take Your Publicity to New Levels of Success

SMM is the wave of the future. And when you combine your SMM efforts with your traditional PR avenues, you can create a publicity campaign that gets you noticed by prospects, clients, and key decision makers. The sooner you put SMM to work for you, the more profitable your business will be.