The easiest type of free marketing is social media marketing. This has taken on increased importance in the wake of the Panda and Penguin upgrades to the Google search engine algorithm. Google now gives more weight to websites that have the most social approval signals, ranking them higher.
Like Search Engine Optimization, social media marketing can take a while to gain traction because it takes time to build a following of social media contacts, interact with them, bring them to your pages, then get them to give you social approval signals.
The best approach is to focus on multiple social media outlets, not just one or two, partly because the popularity of social media sites changes and what is the most popular one today may not be as popular tomorrow. Also, your prospective customers are also using multiple sites, so if focusing only on a few could mean you are missing a large segment of potential customers.
What are the most Important Social Media Sites?
Excluding Facebook and Twitter – which will be addressed in a separate article — the most important social media platforms that you need to be involved in today are:
- YouTube – Video is the format of choice for web users today. Thanks to 3G and 4G networks and WiFi, nearly everyone has access to streaming video on their smart phones and tablets. YouTube, which is owned by Google, is the biggest and most significant distributor of video.
- LinkedIn – This site focuses more on business networking rather than social networking. But LinkedIn continues to be an important platform for reaching corporate and commercial customers.
- Pinterest – Currently, Pinterest is one of the most popular social preference platforms. It allows members post links to things they like. If that includes one of your links, you can expect a ton of traffic to your landing pages.
- Google+ – Google+ tries to combine all the best features of the other social media sites – such as email, social sharing, social preference – with killer apps like free video conferencing to make it the premier social media site on the web.
Social Comment Sites
Thanks to the spread of mobile media, social comment sites are growing in popularity. These include such apps as foursquare, Urban Spoon, Yelp and many others. Social comment sites let users post comments, reviews, images, ratings and other opinions on businesses they visit or any topic they like directly from their mobile devices.
This can have serious consequences, especially for the brick and mortar business owner, because if customers post negative comments it can not only hurt your reputation but also can continue to linger on the web for a long time. On the other hand, positive comments can help drive more foot traffic to your business.
For the web-based marketer, social comment sites’ benefits lie primarily with social approval signals they can provide. Positive reviews of your web pages can help boost your web page ranking on Google. You also should quote positive reviews on your own web pages, social media accounts, or even in advertising and marketing materials.
Value of Social Approval
Social approval signals can help your marketing efforts go “viral”, which refers to techniques that use social networks and other web tools to produce explosive awareness in brand or product awareness.
Like viral infections or computer viruses — which spread from computer to computer exponentially – social approval signals such as Facebook “Likes”, Tweets, Google Plus “+1’s” and others can spread the word your brand or products quickly.
Internet users now have the ability to share and spread viral messages they enjoy faster and with more people than ever before with literally the push of a button. One person can promote your posting to hundreds or even thousands of social media contacts, who can then pass the it on to tens of thousands or even millions more.
Google+ takes the best features of the internet’s most successful sites – including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even YouTube – and puts them all in one place. That makes them easier to coordinate on your Google+ brand page.
Google+ allows you to create individual Circles for friends, family, acquaintances, employees, vendors, or any category you want. You also can create sub-categories within these Circles to make it easier to communicate effectively with specific groups.
Hangouts is Google+’s free web-based chat program that lets you interact with other users in real time using text, video, or audio feeds that are connected directly to your Google+ home page.
Hangouts can be used for many purposes, such as providing live video one-on-one video customer service, answering customers’ questions, or showcasing your products’ best uses. You also can use it to host webinars, record them and then make them available online as squeeze page giveaways. Hangouts also offers a feature called On Air, which allows you to link your Hangout to your YouTube channel, where it can be broadcast and recorded, providing access to your videos to an unlimited number of viewers via YouTube. Viewers can even submit live questions and comments via text.