Social media marketing is one of the fastest growing marketing channels today. In fact, some say companies will spend approximately $900 million on social media this year. By 2014, social media spending is estimated to eclipse $3 billion a year. The importance of needing to talk to your customers, catch their attention and engage them is not a new concept. Having a passive website is simply not enough. More and more companies are feeling serious pressure to add a social media campaign to their marketing communication mix. The challenge there is understanding which of the ever increasing social media options work best for you and your customers.

So how do you choose between all the social media options available? Start by thinking about what tangible (or intangible) results you would like to achieve through your social media campaign. My guess is your basic goal is to improve and grow your business - unfortunately this is just too general. What you want to do is decide which specific aspect of your business you'd like to improve:

  • sales,
  • brand awareness,
  • business reputation,
  • search engine ranking,
  • customer service.

Most likely it's some combination of the above, but each goal requires a separate approach and a particular social media tool that best suits that goal.

So, should you Tweet or Blog or Facebook or Tube or all of the above? The answer to this questions depends on a few factors:

  • The type of business you're running. What is your company culture like - is it a "serious" corporation or a "laid-back" small business? Consider how a particular social media site is perceived and used by the general public. For example, Twitter is not very formal given its word count limitation, but it's gaining popularity for businesses. Blogs let you be as wordy as your audience can handle. Facebook is less business oriented than say LinkedIn.
  • The kind of products or services you offer determines the best way to present them online - whether it's through words, pictures, videos, or a mix of these is up to you. Once you figure this out, then choose the social media platform that takes advantage of your chosen format(s). For example, if your product/service is suitable for video interactions with customers, consider delivering demonstrations or instructional videos via YouTube.
  • Your customers' demographics & preferences. Think which social media channels your customers are most likely to be attracted to and use. For example, is your target audience young and already spends a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter? Or are they older and prefer more in-depth communications like blog articles?
  • Your own preferences and capabilities. Do you have resources and staff to keep up with every tweet, facebook comment or friend request? You shouldn't engage in social media sporadically - it has to be a continuous and consistent effort. If you don't have enough resources to run a diverse social marketing campaign, choose one social service you're comfortable with and commit to it.

When it comes to building and maintaining customer relationships through social media, if you don't spend some time figuring out exactly how you and most importantly your customers would use and benefit from your social media marketing efforts, you may end up wasting time and money on meaningless activities. And what's worse, you may end up looking like you are just going through the motions without true understanding of the social media opportunities. And that's a potential turn off for the increasingly media-savvy customers.

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