February 6th, 2009

Social media marketing is nothing new

by sage island

The Internet can be a very scary place. If you’re new to the concept of social media marketing, it’s even scarier. Facebook, Twitter, Digg, blogs … it seems that the Internet has ushered in a completely new era in marketing.

The truth is, these marketing methods have been around for decades. Social media marketers are simply recycling traditional marketing ideas and packaging them in a shiny new box. The ideas aren’t new. Like everything else, they’re just easier to execute and measure using Web tools.

Let’s start with blogs. The platform may have changed, but the idea of distributing knowledge and news has been around for centuries. From an information perspective, blogging is no different from a newspaper. From a marketing standpoint, it’s the same concept as a newsletter. The only difference is it’s much easier and faster to distribute information and get feedback online. With newspapers and newsletters, a letter to the editor or a phone call was the fastest way to interact with the author. Now it’s as easy as adding a comment or sending a quick email in response.

Social networking sites like Facebook started out a lot like alumni associations — a way to keep in touch with old classmates. Registering with Facebook makes it easy for old friends, colleagues, and associates to connect with you — like adding your name and current contact information to an alumni directory.

Now with the addition of Facebook marketing tools and networking sites like LinkedIn, they’ve become more like professional networking associations or trade organizations. When you add your company page, it’s like adding your business to a directory. Anyone looking for your services can easily look you up, find out the best way to reach you, learn a little bit about what you do, and seek references.

Social bookmarking sites (Digg, Mixx, StumbleUpon) are no different from traditional word-of-mouth advertising. For decades, businesses counted on customers spreading news for free. The Web has just made it a whole lot faster and easier to spread the word to a lot more people at once.

And Twitter, perhaps the most innovative thing to come out of social media marketing yet. It may seem like a strange concept at first, but Twitter has been compared to a crowded cocktail party. If you build your followers list strategically, it becomes a lot like an industry networking event. Everyone is mingling, sharing ideas, and you can’t make it back to the bar for another drink without bumping into someone new.

Social media marketing and traditional marketing are most alike when it comes to process. You wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars on a print ad campaign without coming up with a game plan, so don’t walk blindly into a social media marketing campaign, either.

Just like traditional marketing, the first step is strategic planning. Start there, and the rest is easy.