What Is Social Media Marketing?

  • July 04, 2013

What Is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing refers to the process of gaining traffic or attention through social media sites. Why would a search marketer — or a site about search engines — care about social media? The two are very closely related.

Social media often feeds into the discovery of new content such as news stories, and “discovery” is a search activity. Social media can also help build links that in turn support into SEO efforts. Many people also perform searches at social media sites to find social media content.


If you’re a small business owner, you may want to consider what kind of a strategy you are following. You’ll find three strategies you can choose for your company.

These approaches are interchangeable, and as a brand, you can interchange between or use two or three at the same time. “The most important thing is for a brand to stay true to their DNA, identify what they are best at, what they can offer the consumers the most of, and focus on that. That will be their strongest play.” says Caitlin Francke, SVP, and Director of Social Strategy at Publicis Kaplan Thaler.

The three strategies — passion, personality and transparency — are outlined below.

Passion Brands: Sometimes it is hard to get worked up about a service or a product. Take energy drinks for example. That drink may be just a part of the optimum experience that you associate with that brand. For example, for some, Red Bull conjures up images of action sports. The brand has worked hard at tying the brand to images of young people risking their lives on extreme outdoor activities.

Another consistent brand is Nike. Though the brand’s social media communication highlights both professional and amateur athletes, the underlying point is the same: celebrating athletic achievement. Adidas’ feed is also consistent and differentiated from Nike in its international focus.

Personality Brands: Not every brand can connect itself to a pastime the way that Nike could. What do you do, for instance, if you’re Oreo? Oreo’s not associated with much besides milk and perhaps binge-eating. But instead, they’ve infused the brand’s social media activity with personality. Oreo’s 31 million-strong Facebook feed shows the familiar Oreo looking slightly different in the name of a visual pun. The daily updates are sort of a variation on Absolut’s long-running ad campaign that featured the bottle against unusual backdrops for the same witty purpose.

Another personality brand is Skittles, which has racked up 24 million followers on Facebook with whimsical, stream-of-consciousness status updates like “The frenemy of my frenemy is my enefriend” and “Beavers are excellent at making pancakes, omelettes and anything that needs a spatula.”

Transparent Brands: Transparent brands want to tell you about all the stuff that they’re doing in the real world. A good example of such a brand is IBM, which hosts some 32,000 individual blogs from its employees and produces a firehose of content about all the technologies it has unleashed on the world.

The transparent positioning seems to be the default for tech brands in social media (well, except for Apple) as Intel, Google and Microsoft all take the same approach. A Feb. 6 Facebook status update from Microsoft, for instance, talked about 4Afrika Initiative, “a new effort through which the company will actively engage in Africa’s economic development to improve its global competitiveness.”

Auto brands are also apt to use the transparent approach, as are financial services brands like Fidelity Investments. The strategy seems to work best for brands and categories in which consumers are serious about the information they want but are not necessarily passionate about it. Also, note that passion brands are about activities that a brand is associated with, not for activities the brand actually performs. For instance, Nike makes athletic equipment, not sports, but Ford makes cars and driving is an end to itself.

Improvement:  How can you improve the ROI from your social media marketing activities?

Whether you are on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, there are certain steps to take in order to avoid the generally feared down ROI.

On Twitter, it’s important to link to all of your content with your tweets. And remember to include hashtags to gain further visibility on Twitter.

On LinkedIn, post your content in marketing groups that are discussing similar marketing principles.

For other social channels such as Facebook or Google+, take advantage of the visual real estate you have and include an engaging photo.

Tag Your URLs so You Know They Come from Social

Part of tying your social media efforts to ROI is to understand what actually comes from social media. You may be promoting an offer across multiple channels, but without understanding if it’s successful or unsuccessful through social media or another channel, it’s hard to plan future social media campaigns.

One way to attribute campaigns to social media is to tag the URL so you know it comes from social.

A UTM (Urchen Tracking Module) tag allows you to add identifying information to your URL that will help you keep track of the source the link is coming from. By doing this, you’ll be able to properly track what comes from social media vs. other channels.

Is one of your goals to understand how your social media is working for you? Then you’ll want to be sure to track the traffic that comes from social media to see what’s working and what needs to be tweaked.

You can have a look at these social media campaigns to have an idea of brands’ social media strategies for different industries.

Survey Your Customers About How They Found You

Another way to find out where your customers are first hearing about your company is through surveys. Include a question that asks how your customers found your company at strategic points of contact. This will help you find out where your visitors first found your company.

Of course, when you gather this information from your customers, you can use it to tie into measuring your social media ROI. And it can also be helpful when planning which marketing resources should be used more heavily.

Use Google+ to Influence Your SEO Presence

Don’t forget about using one of the newest social media platforms, Google+. SEO consultants have proven that having a presence on Google+, Google Places and Google Authorship can help your SEO. And good SEO translates into better online visibility for your business.

In the case of Google Authorship, your content (especially when you upload a picture) may appear at the top of search engine results.

Appearing higher up on the page on Google’s search results directly influences your business ROI because most people do not click past the first page on Google results. Having your results appear there will drive more traffic to your website.



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