In an old fashioned world, community was something that happened organically. Neighbors, school friends and parents of those friends, people you went to church with, and even colleagues: they were your social network. You did business with people you knew whether that was carpet cleaning or yard work. The traditional system has broken down and a gap has emerged, but social media aims to fill it. What does this have to do with advertising?
The Role of a Social Network
Consumers used to receive recommendations about books, laundry powder, and clothing they should purchase by talking with the people in their network, and often these people already knew a service provider or shop owner. In each setting, a relevant topic would arise and recommendations would pertain to that environment. Moms and dads of children’s school friends would talk about parenting books. Stay-at-home moms hanging washing on the line would chat about detergent over the backyard fence. Church groups organizing a fundraiser would discuss ingredients for baking the lightest bread.
Now, the backyard fence is merely the pause between posts on social media. Consumers still talk about products with one another, but they do this in cyber space using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, either in words or pictures. This is word-of-mouth advertising at its most high-tech; the kind companies pay nothing for.
Social Network Marketing
There are more deliberate ways of employing social media for advertising purposes. Facebook clients pay nothing to run a personal website and they can also run business sites for free, although posting ads costs money. Using these media, entrepreneurs become customers’ “friends,” sharing ideas which might or might not be pertinent to the site. They develop personae, reputations, and gather fans. All it takes are some well timed photos and posts, commitment to post regularly. Promotions and contests help spread the word too, especially with backlinks on company websites or on sites promoting related products.
Engaging with patrons and developing a personal approach gives business owners a chance to implement internet marketing strategies. SEO is one of them. Consumers typically use a set of terms to search for a product online using a search engine. The engine uses the critical or “key” words to call up the most relevant posts found on the internet. The ones that come up are the most recent and match a key word search most precisely. Links could be from Facebook, Twitter, or even Instagram where the only writing is captions under photos.
Even captions could be implemented as key words by an SEO professional, but common forms of writing they target are blogs and Facebook blurbs. Something written in a seemingly casual way will lead the viewer to social media where a firm is essentially advertising. Within that page are links to the e-commerce site and possibly to articles written on WordPress. Non-competing but complementary firms create mutually beneficial arrangements involving backlinks on each other’s websites, social media pages, and blogs. While seeming laid back and spontaneous, social media for business is really a tool which can be used for effective advertising.
The following presentation by Ric Dragon, author of “Social Marketology” and CEO of Dragon Search, and uploaded by Columbia Business School in 2013 sheds a good deal of light on this topic.