Should You Market on Social Networking Sites?

By Alexander Hiam

If you’re targeting a younger audience with your marketing campaign, a social networking site, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, can be the core of your web marketing strategy. But even if you’re not aiming your product at 20- or 30-somethings, don’t overlook the value of social networking sites. The acid test is, do your customers use a site? If so, then you can do good recruitment and brand-building there.

To brand your company on these sites, make honesty your number-one priority. Regular users of social networking sites quickly see through fake personas and reject insincere and inappropriate friend requests.

Don’t engage in astroturfing, the term for marketers who try to create fake grassroots buzz on social networking sites. Leave astroturfing to ruthless political campaign consultants whose huge budgets make up for their lack of morals. Real marketers don’t create a buzz unless there’s genuine in them and their message.

The foundation of brand development on the various social networking sites is either to create and maintain pages in your own name or in the name of your brand. Any number of businesses, ranging from destination resorts to local hair salons, have Facebook pages where they post fun information, photos, or videos about their work and customers.

If you’re already communicating with peers and friends on a social networking site, then you shouldn’t have a problem creating a brand presence there, too. On the other hand, if hopping on Twitter or Facebook is totally foreign and unappealing to you and your typical customer, then you’re probably not going to succeed in integrating your business or brand into the site’s web community.

After you have one or more pages set up on social networking sites, you can use them as a platform to launch a viral marketing campaign, which is simply the introduction of some piece of content that others will enjoy or find useful enough to pass along.

An obvious option is a how-to video that demonstrates one or more of your products. Post it on YouTube and then link to it on your blog, website, and/or Facebook page. Tada! It’s now available for anyone on the web.

If the video has legs — appeal that makes others want it — then links to it will begin popping up on other people’s websites and social networking pages; in other words, the video will go viral (spread on its own). If it doesn’t, make another video with more appeal. Making something that lots of people love isn’t easy, so be persistent if you want to use this strategy to good effect.