By MaryEllen Tribby
The first and most notable advantage of social media advertising is its low cost.
The Good . . .
Once your website is built and running, it costs very little to get your customers and prospects to go to it. They will do it on their own almost every time you put an advertisement in front of them and every time they consider buying one of your products. If you have established e-mail contact with your customers, stimulating them to use your social media site (such as blogs and forums) costs you nothing more than the expense of composing the message. Expensive list or space fees do not apply.
The next thing that should be said about social media is its wide reach. When a social message catches fire, it can travel around the world, to millions of people, in a matter of weeks or even days. The main reason for this is the Internet. But other media are often involved too. It is not unusual for a hot Internet message or video to be picked up by radio, television, magazines, or newspapers. Sometimes, all of these media jump on the subject at one time.
Social media is also a superb way to gather information about your customers, their wants and desires, and to deal with any business problems you may be encountering. Social media advertising is the most effective way to establish, defend, and boost your company’s credibility.
Social marketing has many potential benefits. But there are draw- backs too. Of all the advertising channels, social marketing is the one that offers the longest odds.
The Bad . . .
The reason social marketing can be difficult is because of the channel itself. It is big and it is powerful, but it is not controllable by the marketer. In some cases, it can backfire by turning into negative publicity.
This is especially true if you try to use social media dishonestly. If you misrepresent yourself online, you will most likely get caught and suffer the consequences. The online world will quickly turn against you with a wave of very bad buzz across cyberspace. This will result in lost sales, public outrage, and more.
So how do you use social media dishonestly? Shady marketers have created fake profiles of “fans” on social networking sites like MySpace in order to promote their products. They’ve also created “consumer” blogs that were written by their company’s PR department.
And The Ugly . . .
In one widely publicized recent case, Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey was caught posting negative comments about a competitor on Yahoo Finance message boards. He used a pseudonym during the entire eight-year run of trash talk. Many believe his goal was to drive down the stock price of the competitor so that Whole Foods could easily take it over. That allegation was enough to get the SEC involved.
In another case, Wal-Mart’s PR firm hired two journalists to travel across the United States in an RV, visiting stores along the way. Posing as ordinary people, the reporters collected overwhelmingly pro Wal- Mart interviews with employees and customers and posted them on their blog. Around the same time, the same PR firm created a fake grassroots campaign in which a mom, part of a working-class family, sang the praises of the retail giant. Savvy Internet surfers soon realized the “bloggers” in both cases were hired guns, and spread the news online.
Honesty is a key asset with social media, not only because of the consequences if you get caught “faking it,” but because of the creative strengths you enjoy when you figure out how to promote the core values and qualities of your company and products through this channel.
These are the main principles that apply to social media advertising:
* The Message Is for the Medium. When creating an event, writing a press release, or crafting a video for viral marketing, think about what people are interested in, not what you want to show them. Nobody in the major social media is likely to be interested in a new product you create or a new development in your company. But if you can reposition your news so that it will be interesting to the greater public, you have a good chance of getting coverage. The trick to writing good press releases and/or informational videos is to study the media beforehand. Figure out what types of stories/videos they like to run, and tailor your piece to match.
* Audacity Is Everything. When developing a news story or event, be aggressive in your conception. Big stories are generally better than small ones. Crazy events are more interesting than sane ones. Odd or funny videos get more play than conventional ones. But when thinking audaciously, be calculating. Study the media’s preferences. Determine what kind of odd, crazy, and/or funny messages they like to feature.
* Respect the Priorities. Records are more interesting than lists. Lists are more interesting than facts. Social media loves world records, even world records for obscure and silly things. Next to world records, social media loves lists, especially top-10 lists: forecasts, trends, favorite picks, and so on. The best movies of the year, the best albums of the year, the best electronic gadgets, and the best travel destinations are examples of lists that are popular in social media. People have strong opinions about these subjects, and such lists can generate a lot of discussion among those who disagree with the ratings. Think of how your business can generate your own world records and top-10 lists.
* Give Them Something to Talk About. Everyone likes a scandal and controversy. If you can figure out how to sex up your message, try it.
* Simplicity Is a Virtue. When announcing your news, express it in the simplest possible language. Simple language gives you two big advantages. First, it is easier to comprehend. Second, it is easier for people to remember and repeat, like a catchy sound bite that you may hear on TV. Think of how quickly catchphrases from the sitcom Seinfeld (“yada, yada, yada,” or “no soup for you”) passed into everyday usage.
* 6. Make It Brief. The core concept of the message—the part you want people to remember—should be short enough to print on the subject line of an e-mail or in the headline of a magazine article.
If you are interested in expanding your company’s reach, try incorporating social media into you multi-channel marketing campaigns. But to make sure you spend the appropriate amount of time on this channel (for the revenue generated) check out my #1 Amazon.com best-seller, Changing the Channel: 12 Easy Ways to Make Millions for Your Business