Social Media Marketing: Optimizing Your Online Efforts

Janet is a savvy small-business owner. She successfully navigated her way through the recession and is enjoying steady growth. She's well-versed on her clientele and knows their individual likes and dislikes. She knows who her competition is and what they're up to. She keeps up with trends, so she has a Facebook profile and a Twitter handle.

So why has she seen a marked increase in the growth of her competitors' businesses and not her own? When she hears people speak of her product, why do they associate it with her competition? What can Janet do to make sure her company is foremost in her customers' minds?

Regardless of the size of your company, or your position within it, you know how important it is these days to be established on social media platforms, spending ample time actively engaging your client base. When it comes to social media, most companies are online networking when they need to be social media marketing. The same principle applies to marketing your company on the web as it does in print: frequency and repetition are imperative. You need to be in front of your target audience again and again, on multiple platforms, to build top-of-mind awareness. Here are some areas to concentrate on while building your social media marketing strategy.

Avoid the "Field of Dreams" fallacy

You have a firm presence on a variety of social media platforms and have carved out a stout digital footprint. Terrific! Now, are you taking time out regularly to engage your client base? Despite the optimistic "If you build it, they will come" mentality, creating social media outlets without frequent, active participation is like fashioning a clipper ship without a mast or sails. For your efforts to produce a spike in business or revenue, you must get into the trenches with your clients. Use "@" replies on Twitter to demonstrate light-speed customer service. Post valuable, thought-provoking status updates on Facebook and participate in the conversations that unfold. Never underestimate the value your customers place on you actively engaging with their questions, concerns, and compliments.

Market, don't network

A critical misstep many business owners make when launching a social media campaign is immediately adding or following everyone they know. While inflated friend statistics may serve to your ego, they do little to promote your business. Instead, you should be participating in social media marketing. Priority one should be positioning yourself in front of your customers to generate online traction and expand your reach. Social networking should be confined to your personal profiles, where you're free to follow your neighbors, and their Great Dane Pickles, should you choose. Limit your interactions on your company profiles to providing useful content and information to those who frequent your establishment, and restrict any exchanges with colleagues, friends and family to your personal profile.

ROR trumps ROI

Make no mistake: the end game in a social media marketing campaign is to turn a profit. But many new adopters often fail to use the interactive aspect of their online presence. The immediate value of websites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the relationships you build along the way, and an appropriate measure for this is ROR, or Return on Relationships. Any owner of a mom-and-pop store that has enjoyed decades of success can tell you that the reason they have remained in business is the friendships and rapport they've developed with their clientele. Product loyalty stems from strong relationships, and this is the inherent payoff that social media marketing provides. Stop your online success in terms of an immediate monetary return. Instead, view your success with a long-term mindset, where you're crafting longstanding, profitable connections.

On the run? Go mobile!

Anyone in business is highly aware of the hectic schedules and deadlines that can accompany their profession. The bad news: in a society that increasingly revolves around the Internet, being "too busy" for social media is no longer an excuse to let your platforms lie dormant. Thankfully, software developers recognize the needs of an "on the go" culture and have created apps that allow users to access and update their social media cache while heading to a meeting or waiting for a flight. Use "check-ins" on Facebook when entering an annual conference or leadership seminar to let your followers know what you're up to. Snap a few pictures and upload them to your Instagram feed. Ensure there is no lull in your Internet activity when things get busy.

Now, armed with a practical and effective understanding of social media marketing, Janet is well-equipped to best her competition online and ensure that her product is associated with her business. By streamlining her digital footprint to encompass only her customers and potential clients, and dedicating a bit of her daily activities to interacting with her followers, she has realized the full potential of social media and will enjoy the ROR her active web presence provides. Follow Janet's example and become engaged with your customers online.

Russell Trahan is President of PR/PR, a boutique public relations agency specializing in positioning clients in front of their target audience in print and online. PR/PR represent experts of all kinds who are seeking national exposure for their business or organization. For more information, send an email to for a free consultation.

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