Almost every marketer I meet asks me how does social media marketing work? So I am dedicating this blog to try and explain social networking from a marketers standpoint.

When a user of a social media website (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) discovers your story/content and likes it, they have the option to share it with their friends. This can cause the story to go viral and be shared with even more people. This can deliver thousands of visitors, launch a website or new product and bring significant inbound traffic. This traffic will directly bring your site potential unique visits and indirectly help with search optimisation.

When using social media marketing the quality of your content is crucial: the better it is the more likely it will be shared around. It is therefore critical to have a strategy in place for social media marketing because it does require someone on the client side to write, research and push the content. The bigger your network (customer base) in these social networking sites, the better your results because they will give it that initial push, increasing the chance of the story going viral amongst their network.

Social media content and marketing should be more about the conversation than “selling” at the very start. As you commit to providing content and information, the selling eventually comes but this takes time because you need to build trust and your customer needs to trust in the information you provide before they share it with their friends.

Social networking sites are most popular among 18-34 year olds. They tend to spend 4.3 times on social media than with TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and books combined. This is happening because social media allows users to talk to each other and choose for themselves what they see and read. Social media is a global conversation and not a one on one or one to many communication.

This conversational aspect of social media is crucial to understanding social media marketing because you can’t fake a conversation and you can’t automate it. As a marketer you need to accept this. I often get told by clients -“I don’t want negative commentary… it could dilute the brand…” My response to this is to allow for all commentary. How else can you improve on your products and services? Your customer is giving you the truth and giving you the opportunity to fix problems or deliver new products and services that you never considered. Negative and positive commentary are neither good nor bad, it is information gathering from your core customer.

The next question I get is how do I create and attract a network of customers to my social networking site? Well that’s the strategic part and yes it does require a well thought through strategy which should be a part of your marketing planning. There are so many angles to tackle social networking marketing because there are so many considerations and goals. If social networking marketing is well planned the results can be outstanding.

Stay tuned for my next blog. I will expand on the social networking marketing dialogue.