Social media is an exciting medium offering tonnes of opportunities to you, as a business owner, to engage the masses in your marketing efforts and get great results for your efforts.
It is a double edged sword and if done right, you will glow on the winner’s podium with a great name for your product/service/company in the online space reaping rich inbound links to your site from a multitude of powerful and trusted domains. Done wrong, you could end up a social pariah in cyberspace with a bad reputation and poor record of integrity attached to your name and company’s product/service.
In real life, imagine a scenario where Mr X is at a party and he makes a sales pitch to others around him for an innovative product or scheme his company is introducing. People have come to the party to have a good time and would be put off by this approach and keep their distance from Mr. X. This is what happens when someone tries to promote their own product excessively in their online social media campaigns.
The most important step is to leverage the poweful social media sites to your advantage as you get unlimited real estate spaces for free to establish yourself. Create profiles on the major powerhouses like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace and Youtube. Users congregate at these sites and all you have to do is participate. You can be in any niche.
You can do this by having your own blog where you post quality content that is useful and does not harp on your products or services. Update your blog regularly and distribute them as feeds to your accounts on other major social media sites. Users can add these feeds and view them in their news reader of choice.
You can create articles and submit to various article directories. You can create lenses on Squidoo and hubs on Hubpages related to your niche. These are time consuming but at the end of it, you increase your virtual real estate which in turn generate traffic and brings more visitors to your site.
A big mistake that happens time and again is that people initiate these web properties and do not maintain them. Just having a Squidoo lens on its own will not help you leverage it. You have to update it regularly till you manage to push your lens into the top 100 popular lenses. Your lens can rank on Google for the search terms unique to your niche and also get lots of eyeballs on your lens because of the popularity rating on Squidoo.
The next important step is to maintain control over your web property and how users access them. Connect all your social media profiles and services and control the flow of traffic between your various web properties.
By offering unbiased quality content on your social websites, you can woo users back to your personal blog and expose them to your posts. You control the dialogue through your blog posts and allow users to place comments. You can offer newsletter subscription and contact them by email. You can lead users to your other web properties with good clean linking strategy.
You can display your Twitter account on your Web 2.0 properties and get users to follow you on Twitter. You control the communication and let your users control the method of delivery. You make yourself accessible to your users in a multitude of ways.
The third step is to converse. The social media concept is built around conversations between people in the real world who share their likes and dislikes and their personal or professional experiences in cyberspace. For a business owner, this is word of mouth and she can track these conversations and respond to them.
If the owner leads people from her social media sites to her blog, it is easy for her to know what people think of her business/products and also reply to users’ comments. But it is not so simple as people can talk about her at several other places on the web.
The business owner can track these conversations on the web using Google Alerts  where she sets up alerts for her company name, products/services and specific keyword phrases. She selects the Type as Comprehensive and the option How Often can be set to As it Happens. Everytime Google encounters a mention of her name or company when spidering the web, it sends an email to her. She can alternatively recieve it via a feed.
She can also use a Twitter search using the above method. She can get a feed of all the searches made on Twitter concerned with her company and view them in real time on her newsreader.
The fourth and final step is to convert the people talking about a company or its products and services. As a business owner, you can easily see the conversations happeing in your niche and you get a clear idea of what people are talking about especially their wants. All you have to do is get to know your target customers’ minds through these conversations and convert them into customers.
The central factor in conversion is the trust you garner in the eyes of the buyer. With your wide social media presence and effective linking of all your web 2.0 properties, your potential customers get to know you better.
A few steps you can take in portraying yourself as a person of trust and integrity are:
- You provide good quality content and advice in your selected niche
- You do not blatantly hype your own products/services and indulge in hardsell
- You respond well and unbiasedly to positive and negative comments about you/your company
- You assume the mantle of a thought leader in your field by adding new dimension of thinking to existing conversations
The strongest aspect of social media is its virality, the parallel of word of mouth in the real world. If you have a good message of value to the world, it is likely to be devoured quickly and transmitted many times over increasing your exposure manifold.
It is now time for you to dig your heels in the social media arena and reap the benefits it has to offer.
This post is based on Don Crowther’s article, “How to Knock A Marketing Campaign Out Of The Park” and is documented by Andy Jenkins in his post called Create, Control, Converse, CONVERT! The True Power of Social Media 
Ravi Venkatesan is a senior search marketing consultant at Netconcepts, our Auckland social media optimisation company in New Zealand . He also posts regularly to the Online Marketer blog at www.onlinemarketer.co.nz