Social marketing is a relatively new, often misunderstood form of online marketing that is reaping huge rewards for website owners who incorporate it into their marketing plans.
I work with clients and customers who, while being very new to social marketing, are seeing results in the following areas:
1. Higher search engine rankings for their top keywords.
2. More rankings of additional keywords or "long tail" keyword phrases.
3. More link popularity from sites linking on their own accord.
4. More link popularity from social media sites.
5. More activity on their blogs, such as more commenting and interaction.
6. Direct traffic from incoming links on social media sites (One good StumbleUpon.com submission can net thousands of visitors alone.)
7. Fast traffic increases and steady growth in unique visitors month after month.
8. An increase in subscribers and sales. Social traffic, properly acquired, is very warm to your message and products.
The problem for most people when thinking about social marketing, after getting a taste of all the hundreds of sites there are to interact with, is becoming overwhelmed and paralyzed into inaction.
They assume established social marketers gained their "social authority" in a short period of time. This is simply not true. Although the opportunities for driving serious traffic and rankings from hundreds of social sites exists, it is an embarrassment of riches.
And it cannot be conquered over night. It is a gradual process you manage with all your other responsibilities and grow as time allows.
What I encourage my clients to do is set aside enough time each day to get one more link, participate in one more conversation, or sign up for one more account on a social site.
A little goes a long way and social marketing is not an "all or nothing" situation. Eventually you will have established yourself on the major social media sites you need to be on.
And you will have a schedule that allows you to keep up with your other work while adding this extremely powerful marketing method to the mix.
10 Steps For Starting a Social Marketing Campaign
1. Schedule a bit of time each day to do some new things. Don't just say you are going to do them. Write the time into your day and follow through.
2. Sign up for the major social news sites: Digg.com, Propeller.com, Mixx.com. Don't submit anything to these sites until you have filled out your profile completely and submitted news from elsewhere on the web to generate a real presence and avoid being labeled as a spammer.
In fact, BE a real presence and don't try to push your own content onto the networks you belong to. It should feel and be natural and you will know what "natural is on each network by participating, commenting, voting and getting a general sense of what members think is good and bad content.
Watch their comments and votes and you will know how to proceed with your own site's content from there.
3. If you don't have a blog, you must install one immediately. This is not an option. It is an absolute necessity on today's web. I recommend Wordpress which can be downloaded and installed by you or your webmaster. Wordpress download
Option #2: Check with your web host to see if they have Fantastico available to you and, if so, that it installs the latest version of Wordpress. If so you are very lucky because the software can be installed by you very easily in just a few steps with Fantastico.
4. Once you have your blog set up, join the following networks. (These are blog communities that will help you generate visitors, authority, and links and most bloggers belong to them.) MyBlogLog.com (install the widget on your Wordpress blog), and BlogCatalog.com. (they also have a widget to install)
5. Join groups, make friends, and interact with other bloggers on these networks. Especially the people who would be most likely to link to your blog and send you traffic who write about similar things or have an audience similar to yours who'd benefit by knowing you.
You can even start your own group, promote it in the network, and send "shouts" to the group when you have announcements or need attention to a new post.
6. Once you have established yourself on all the sites above, meaning you have a decent profile in each that shows you've been active and involved, move on and search for networks that are geared toward your particular market niche.
There are a lot of new "vertical" social sites popping up that focus on much more narrow markets and their membership is far warmer to your kind of information than on the bigger, more general networks above.
Add a new site to the mix as often as you can and repeat the steps for becoming established there as mentioned in Step 2 above.
7. Join a group dedicated to social marketing to pick up tips from other social marketers and find new places you can sign up with to continue building your social authority. New sites pop up every single day. Follow places like Go2Web20.net to find new opportunities to connect with your market.
8. Remote blog. Join blogger.com and put content there that is good, just not good enough to go on your main blog. This serves two purposes: 1) you get to use more of the great content you find as you travel through all the social news sites and 2) it gives you another place to link back to your main site and pass on traffic and link popularity over time.
9. Track your progress diligently. If something you are trying on a social network isn't working, you need to know that in order to save time and move on to something more fruitful. MyBlogLog.com (above) has a tracking system which will show you where your traffic is coming from so you can avoid time wasting efforts and focus more on the sites that are really pulling in good traffic for you.
10. Don't freak out! This is only overwhelming if you act like someone at an all-you-can-eat buffet with no self control. You have other things to do and this needs to fit into, not dominate, your current business and marketing.
Social marketing, once you've established some authority, will replace some things you are currently doing to promote your site. Many people completely drop their paid advertising or PPC campaigns once they see the organic, natural traffic and search engine rankings pile up from social marketing.
Until then, just take it one step at a time and do some social marketing. A little goes a long way and before you know it, you will reach a point where a lot of traffic and lots of search engine rankings are piling up because you simply started doing something each day.
There's a lot you can learn about social marketing. And not all of it can be found on free blogs.
By Jack Humphrey
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