Building an Online Presence – Part 2: Using Social Media

In the first post of this series – Building an Online Presence – Part 1: The Website – I discussed the importance of having a well designed and user-friendly website as the first step in creating a solid online presence. In this post, I’ll give you my thoughts on social media and how it can help build a brand that your target demographic will identify with.

Pick The Proper Vehicle For Your Message

If you own a small town butcher shop, you probably don’t need to post on Twitter every 15 minutes. (I can see the gruesome tweets as we speak!) Your clientele has probably never heard of Twitter and they could probably care less about how many pounds of sausage you just ground anyway. On the other hand, your customers are probably much more likely to log on to the local newspaper’s website to check the weather, classified ads or read the forums. Your valuable time would be much better spent focusing your advertising and marketing efforts on local business websites such as your local newspaper’s website. Being an active member of the discussion forums on these sites will benefit you much more than Twitter and Facebook ever would. For instance if there’s a cooking forum on a local online hot spot, you could answer meat related questions using the business as your username/identity. Just be sure to speak in a tone that is familiar and comfortable to your demographic. There are many different social vehicles to get your message across including, Linked In, blogging, message boards, Digg, YouTube, StumbleUpon and many many, more. Remember to pick the outlets that your users actually use.

Speak The Language of Your Target Demographic

Everyone and their brother is on Facebook these days and it’s a great way to keep your brand in a potential customer’s mind. However, you can’t just throw up an Acme Widget Corp. facebook page, post once per month and expect to see results. Users want something of value and if they’re going to spend five minutes interacting with your brand online, do you really want them reading irrelevant internal company news? nope. Ideally, potential customers would be engaged with the brand through an appropriate message that evokes the desired feelings and responses. For example, if you’re running an animal rescue and targeting animal lovers (who are generally a kind-hearted folk), you’ll want to tug at the heart strings a bit more. Post relevant content about the injustices happening in your town and stories about beating all odds. Another scenario would be that of a large company selling wholesale rubber gaskets. You can bet that your target demo is going to be a bit more responsive to blue-collar humor and they’ll be looking for something to brighten their day (I can’t imagine that the world of rubber gaskets is terribly exciting without a little help. Though everything is relative I suppose!). Perhaps in this situation, you might post a joke of the day or even tweet about how Doug just tried to use a 3/4″ gasket at the convenience store by mistake.

Don’t Tweet Too Much, But Don’t Let Things Get Stagnant

There’s a fine line between being active with social media and being obsessed. Conversely, if you’re only updating your status or engaging in forums once every two months, you loose customer/user interaction and interest. Some users will update their Twitter status or their facebook photos every 15 minutes. I have to wonder how much a person can get done while constantly thinking about and looking for their next tweet or kitschy photo status update. On the other hand if you’re too busy to interact with social media on at least a semi-regular basis, then perhaps you should focus your marketing efforts elsewhere or hire someone to help out. There are many freelance copywriters and social media experts who will help out on an hourly basis.

The ROI of Social Media

Return on Investment (ROI) of social media is often a hard metric to track. You may spend 20 hours per month focusing on social marketing and not see a single lead. The key thing to remember is that your brand is in front of people and when those people need your services, you’ll at least have a portion of their mind share. You can always track click throughs and keep track of referring sites that lead users to your website and ultimately to your goal whether that is an online purchase, user education or anything else. Having proper analytics running with assigned goals is a crucial part of measuring the ROI of your social media marketing efforts.

Keeping all of these things in mind when working with social media in your marketing plan will help you successfully market your brand to your target demographic in a very valuable and personal manner.

Up next: Building an Online Presence – Part 3: Knowing The Competition. Subscribe to the RSS feed or signup for spam-free email updates to get notified about new posts immediately.