All customers are not alike. Knowing how they differ — what their individual and group needs and preferences are — is key to successful marketing efforts nowadays. Marketing strategy involves segmenting your customers into groups and researching and studying those groups to tailor your messages specifically to them. Social media is a great way to do that because the various types of social media already have their own quirks and styles associated with them, and that can be an aid when it comes time to hone specific marketing messages. Another important modern-day piece of the marketing puzzle is content marketing, which adds value by providing real content that consumers can use, but which also promotes your business.
The Different Types of Social Media Marketing
There are hundreds of websites that would qualify as social media. The phrase social media marketing generally refers to using these online services for relationship selling — selling based on developing rapport with customers. Social media services make innovative use of new online technologies to accomplish the familiar communication and marketing goals of this form of selling.
The tried-and-true strategies of marketing (such as solving customers’ problems and answering the question, “What’s in it for me?”) are still valid. Social media marketing is a new technique, not a new world. You can categorize social media services, but they have fuzzy boundaries that can overlap. Some social media sites fall into multiple categories. For instance, some social networks and online communities allow participants to share photos and include a blog.
- Social content-sharing services facilitate posting and commenting on text, videos, photos, and podcasts (audio). Examples include blogs such as WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger. Video services can be grouped here, such as YouTube and Vimeo. Flickr, Snapchat, and Instagram allow you to share photos, and Podbean and BlogTalkRadio are for audio blogs.
- Social networking services offer multiple functions. From a business point of view, many social networking services support subgroups that allow the potential for more targeted marketing. Common types of social networking services include full networks, such as Facebook, Google+, and MeetMe.com. There are also short message networks, such as Twitter and Plurk, which are often used for sharing announcements, events, sales notices, and promotions. Professional networks such as LinkedIn and small profession-specific networks focus on employment, experience, and jobs.
- Social bookmarking services are like private bookmarks for your favorite sites on your computer. They are publicly viewable lists of sites that others have recommended. Some are recommendation services, such as StumbleUpon and Delicious; others are social shopping services, such as Kaboodle and ThisNext. Some bookmarking services are organized by topic or application, such as sites where readers recommend books to others using bookmarking techniques. And there are social news services, peer-based lists of recommended articles from news sites, blogs, or web pages, where users often vote on the value of the postings. Social news services include Digg and Reddit.
- Social geolocation and meeting services bring people together in real space rather than in cyberspace. Examples include Foursquare and Meetup.
- Community-building services such as forums, message boards, and even Yahoo! and Google groups have been around for a long time. Other examples of community-building sites have multiple sharing features, such as Ning; some supply group-sourced content, such as Wikipedia.
- Review sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Epinions, solicit consumer views.
Understanding Content Marketing
Content marketing includes all forms of content that both add value to consumers and that directly or indirectly promote a business, brand, products, or services. It’s the content aspect that sets it apart from other marketing. Content marketing occurs online and in the real world, but the tools of the social Web allow companies of all sizes to compete alongside one another, not for market share but for voice and influence.
Marketing a business using content isn’t a new concept, however, it has evolved in recent years to mean far more than creating a company brochure filled with overtly promotional messages and images. Today, content marketing focuses on creating content that is meaningful and useful to consumers with promotion taking a backseat to adding value, particularly adding value to the online conversation happening across the social Web.
Modern consumers try to avoid being interrupted by ads and marketing messages. Although companies used to use tactics such as shock advertising and sexual innuendos, now consumers can simply click away from an online ad or skip commercials on their DVRs. Even the most attention-getting ads go unnoticed by fast-forwarding consumers.
Yet consumers are also hyper-connected. They have access to enormous amounts of information, such as instantaneous access to real-time news, from their homes, offices, and mobile devices. Simply interrupting consumers and delivering marketing messages doesn’t work anymore. Companies have to quickly demonstrate the added value they can deliver, especially if they’re interrupting consumers in order to deliver that value.
With content marketing, companies engage consumers rather than interrupt them. Rather than take control of consumers’ online experiences, businesses need to enhance those experiences, and they can do it with content that adds value and engages consumers.