What is Social Media Marketing? - dummies

By Shiv Singh, Stephanie Diamond

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 bewildering array of social media makes it hard to discern what they have in common: shared information, often on a peer-to-peer basis. Although many social media messages look like traditional broadcasts from one business to many consumers, their interactive component offers an enticing illusion of one-to-one communication that invites individual readers to respond.

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.

Here are the different types of social media services:

  • Social-content sharing services: These services facilitate posting and commenting on text, videos, photos, and podcasts (audio).

    • Blogs: websites designed to let you easily update or change content and allow readers to post their own opinions or reactions.

    • Examples of blog software are WordPress, TypePad, Blogger (formerly Blogspot), and Tumblr. Blogs can be hosted on third-party sites or integrated into your own website.

    • Video: Examples are YouTube, Vimeo, or Ustream.

    • Photos: Flickr, Photobucket, or Picasa.

    • Audio: Podcast Alley or BlogTalkRadio.

  • Social networking services: Originally developed to facilitate the exchange of personal information (messages, photos, video, and audio) to groups of friends and family, these full-featured services offer multiple functions. From a business point of view, many social networking services support subgroups that offer the potential for more targeted marketing. Common types of social networking services include

    • Full networks, such as Facebook, Google+, or myYearbook.

    • Microblogging (short message) networks, such as Twitter or Plurk, which are often used for sharing announcements, events, sales notices, and promotions.

    • Ecycler.com (a recycling company trying to reduce landfill waste) creatively uses its Twitter account to enable a dialog between people discarding items and those who want them. By connecting discarders and collectors online, Twitter reduces the need for ecycler staff to make cold-calls.

    • Professional networks, such as LinkedIn and Plaxo.

    • Specialty networks (which target specific groups, rather than the general public) within a vertical industry, demographic, or activity segment.

  • Social bookmarking services: Similar to private bookmarks for your favorite sites on your computer, social bookmarks are publicly viewable lists of sites that others have recommended. Some are

    • Recommendation services, such as StumbleUpon and Delicious

    • Social shopping services, such as Kaboodle and ThisNext

    • Other bookmarking services organized by topic or application, such as sites where readers recommend books to others using bookmarking techniques

  • Social news services: On these peer-based lists of recommended articles from news sites, blogs, or web pages, users often vote on the value of the postings. Social news services include

    • Digg

    • Reddit

    • Other news sites

  • Social geolocation and meeting services: These services bring people together in real space rather than in cyberspace:

    • Foursquare

    • Loopt

    • Other GPS (Global Positioning System) applications, many of which operate on mobile phones

    • Other sites for organizing meetups and tweetups (using Twitter to organize a gathering)

  • Community-building services: Many comment- and content-sharing sites have been around for a long time, such as forums, message boards, and Yahoo! and Google groups. Other examples are

    • Community-building sites with multiple sharing features, such as Ning

    • Wikis, such as Wikipedia, for group-sourced content

    • Review sites, such as TripAdvisor and Epinions, to solicit consumer views

As you surf the web, you can find dozens, if not hundreds, of social tools, apps, and widgets. These features monitor, distribute, search, analyze, and rank content. Many are specific to a particular social network, especially Twitter. Others are designed to aggregate information across the social media landscape, including such monitoring tools as Google Alerts or Social Mention or such distribution tools as RSS or Ping.fm.