Social media—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like—are being embraced by the biggest corporations in the world. Your small business can benefit in the same way and for little to no cost by taking advantage of this hot new marketing trend. Facebook started out as a social site for college students, and brought the concept into the mainstream, but now everyone from grade school kids to great-grandparents are getting in on the action.
Let’s look first at Facebook. The biggest of the social media outlets, Facebook was even the subject of a recent theatrical release. Every individual with a Facebook page has a wall where their friends can post comments and pictures, but for businesses, the equivalent is called a “fan page” and can serve as a mini-website. You can reply to posts on your wall, but if you set up the discussion page, you can engage in multiple ongoing conversations with fans.
Twitter functions on the internet, but really is intended for the mobile world. “Tweets” have a maximum of 140 characters, so make for perfect text message style updates. The idea was originally to share what you are doing at that moment, but now tweets usually contain a link to something on the internet, and are a critical component to creating the “viral” phenomenon, which is when something gets sent to friends who send it to all their friends and the cycle continues madly until that particular video or site is being seen by multitudes all over the world.
LinkedIn is a network for professionals that is much more structured and controlled. The premise is that you can only connect to people that you already have some knowledge of. You must have an email address for anyone you would like to add to your network, but you can ask for an introduction if a contact of yours knows the person you wish to link to on the network. At one time it sounded like LinkedIn would be the “grown-up” version of Facebook, but it really is an addition to the social media package, and it’s likely that everyone on it is also on Facebook.
YouTube remains the dominant video sharing site and while it isn’t permitted to post video that directly advertises, you can always demo or review your product or show some other aspect of your business that helps build a relationship with viewers. Here, anyone with a film and internet access can publish a video. Viewers leave comments, and for some reason there are an outrageous number of negative critics on YouTube, but like anything taken to excess, other viewers have grown numb to it. In addition to getting free exposure, those who post videos and develop a sufficient viewer and other sources that will bring people to your site following can make money directly from YouTube.
Being able to reach your targeted audience for free is an amazing resource. An added benefit is that the same posts could be reaching other potential customers that you never even knew existed.
It’s not by accident that the big corporations have started using social media marketing. They’ve got millions of dollars to invest in research to direct their campaigns and all of them are ending up in the social media arena. There’s something we can all learn from the big dogs.
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