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Social Media, the 5-legged approach [Parts 1, 2, 3]

With a glut of social media outlets, does it make sense to limit yourself to just one. And if you want to take advantage of several, how do you link them together in a way that makes sense for your marketing plan.

If you remember from your high school math, a three-legged stool will always balance. But our idea is to have a five-legged stool. The five-legged approach is to create your own network of sites that feed each other, with each element attracting a slightly different audience and each presenting somewhat different content. That means, of course, that you have to work on the balance part. But no one has ever said that social media needs no work.

The five legs are:

  • Your primary site
  • Facebook, of course,
  • A blog
  • Twitter
  • And any number of more specific sites, many unique to a specific industry

Each of these five has a unique role, addresses a specific audience, has a unique objective and can add to your overall marketing approach. Each requires separate content and a separate approach.

The key element of the five-legged plan is to tie all five legs together. Each element supports the other four, all with the objective of increasing your bottom line by attracting inbound leads. Each element must create a draw from the target audience it is designed to reach.

This approach takes some work, and requires a fair bit of content, but will spread your image across a larger audience that if you simply use one of these social media.

Your Primary Site

Your primary site is designed to sell your product, service or ideas. This is where you want to attract people that are potential customers. It can be an e-commerce site, selling an actual product. It can also be a site that simply describes your products, services or ideas and directs the reader to a place where they can make a decision. A Realtor, for example, cannot sell a home from a site, but can certainly describe homes available for sale and let the reader know who to actually visit the place and who to contact to make that next step. It is the site you want an inbound lead to find.

Objective – As with any entity, the objective is a sale. Whether it is a product sold through your site, an idea that an NGO, political organization or non-profit entity wants to promulgate or a funnel to move a prospect to a sale in the real, non-internet, world, the final objective is to make a sale – an affirmation from a potential customer.

Facebook

The quintessential social media is Facebook, and it is hard to imagine any social media strategy that does not have Facebook at its core.

Objectives – Apart from a common use of Facebook, like constantly knowing who is at Starbucks, our objective is to create inbound sales leads and to drive people to your primary site. We need to be quite subtle about that, as most if not all others will resent a bald-faced attempt to sell your products, services or ideas.

There are some issues, and there are these concerns:

  • How do you portray your business interests without turning everybody off?
  • Since Facebook is truly social, is it enough to attract consumers?
  • Is it truly limited to personal acquaintances?
  • How do you effectively link back to your primary site?

Target Audience

The target audience for your personal page is your friends and acquaintances – some would call it your sphere of influence. Your business page would start with that, but would gradually expand to others that have an interest in your product, service or ideas.

Approach

First, it makes sense to have more than one Facebook account. At the very least, have one for your personal life and one for your organization. You will attract a different group of friends to each of the two accounts. One group will be interested in you – the other will be interested in your product or service. If you have a third interest, create a third account.

Keep the majority of your comments completely away from your business or organizational interest. When you do mention a business idea, don’t make it a sales pitch. A Realtor, for example, can occasionally mention a new listing as a public service with the idea that someone reading the comment may know someone else who is interested in that neighborhood. Just don’t make it your only comments or you will antagonize your friends.

Cross Marketing

The reason for the five-legged approach is to link your Facebook page to your primary site, blog, Twitter and any other accounts that you have. Let everyone know that you have other sites and that you post different information on each.

The five-legged approach is to create your own network of sites that feed each other, with each element attracting a slightly different audience and each presenting somewhat different content.

Your Blog

A blog gives you the opportunity to expand on issues that are more complex, and deal in depth with topics that are a part of your business or organization. For example, a Realtor may have a site and a Facebook presence, neither of which is an optimal place to discuss complex issues of the title, loans, home inspections and the like. The Realtor can become a source of knowledge for others outside a sphere of influence and attract readers to the blog that may not be likely to visit the primary site. The blog lets you become the topical expert. It is a subtle way to keep you And your business top of mind for a large number of people, many of whom can be potential customers.

Target Audience

The target for your blog is the broader population that is in your market area, including people that are searching for your products or for information about the products and services that your sell.

Attracting the audience will come from your other marketing activities, websites as well as an SEO strategy that includes keywords for all of the items you sell, any services related to those products and your location if you sell in a specific market area.

Content

Your blog content should present you as the expert in your field. Postings can be both lengthy and complex, so long as they are readable and present information that will help the readers.

For example, Heating & Air Conditioning vendors can explain an entire range of information. How and why heat pumps work and save money; what green energy means to the normal household; why heating systems in Montana should be different than those in Louisiana. It is a platform for you to display your expertise.

Cross Marketing

Links to your primary site, your Facebook pages, Twitter and any other social media sites must be prominently displayed with a short explanation what general content is included in each of those sites. This is the KEY reason to create your own network of interconnected sites.

Make use of RSS feeds to ensure that elements of your blog appear as many places as possible. Let the world know that you know what you are talking about.

Platform

Many ask if their blog should be a part of their primary site. Our suggestion is that sites which are designed as blog sites already have the bells and whistles which make it easy to update and which are graphically attractive. Some, with a little work, can support some advertising income when your traffic gets to a critical point.

Twitter

Twitter is fast becoming the real medium for business. It allows you to keep a constant outbound contact with you potential clients, informing then as you tweet away.

It also allows you to keep up to date on new ideas and events in your own field. It is a two-way street of information like nothing else that has ever been the case.

Target Audience

The target audience for your tweets is self-selecting. That is, it is the other side which follows you rather than you selecting them. It probably won’t be the same as your Facebook friends list. There are a couple of ways that you can build followers, however.

First, search for other tweeters that have similar interests. Follow them, and a fairly large number of them will follow you back.

Second, create a profile that shows your primary site and give some information about your interests. Letting the world know that you are a Realtor, for example, and where you live and work can solicit other followers. Include your Facebook name in the bio to generate interest and some new friends.

Third, tweet out useful stuff!

Content

The great thing about Twitter is that you take advantage of someone else’s work. If you see an interesting item in the newspaper, or on Drudge, or virtually anywhere, re-tweet it. If you are a Realtor and find an article on the housing market in your area, re-tweet it. When interest rates change, re-tweet it. There is a whole world of new and interesting information that you can use to establish yourself as an expert

Cross Marketing

Always keep in mind that you are promoting your own mini-network of sites. Use a bitly URL to your primary site in every tweet that goes out. Even though the tweet is limited to a small number of characters, you can fit in two URLs and a short descriptive caption.

Above we have proposed the idea of five-legged social media network to support your business and open up to inbound sales leads. It is a mini network of sites, cross-linked, each with you at the heart, but with different target audiences and different content. Having addressed the broadest social media, the fifth leg of the approach includes the wide variety of other sites, many of which are unique to a given industry.

Each of these sites can be incorporated into your five-legged system.

Other Social Media Sites

There are a wide variety of sites that cater to business and other organizations. Some are geographically oriented, some relate to functions while others are specific to certain industries. It can be worth your while to find if any of these can expand your marketing reach.

A very limited sample of these social media sites are:

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has been described as a rolodex on steroids. It is easy to accumulate hundreds of contacts, many around the world, and to join groups that relate to your business and interests. And you can find contacts of contacts to expand your sphere. It looks a little like a more formal Facebook for business people.

In keeping with out five-legged approach, you have the space to list up to three web pages – your primary site, and Facebook pages are a start.

You can cross post between LinkedIn and Twitter so that you will touch a larger audience every time you post.

And there are some other benefits. It has become a primary site for posting job openings so that if you need to hire someone, it is much less expensive than going through the local newspaper.

The five-legged approach creates for you a composite of social media outlets that promote you and your organization. It is a mini-network of sites that drive visitors to each other, creating a stronger net of potential customers, whether you are selling actual products, services or ideas.

Each of the sites link to the others in a pattern that makes each stronger.

Each site also is targeted at a different audience. Facebook targets friends and acquaintances; Twitter targets people that have shown an interest in the products or services that you sell; while a blog identifies you as an expert in the field. Sites like LinkedIn open your sphere up to other business people, especially to those who have the same interests, and allow you to expand your reach with groups that exchange information and discuss common issues.

All of these link to your primary site where the products, services, and ideas are presented in a way that will lead to sales.

The use of social media to create an inbound business is a new phenomenon in today’s business world. It is OK to make outbound cold calls. It is even OK to advertise in local newspapers or send out printed mailers.

But, the most cost effective way to generate calls into your business from potential customers is an effective social media marketing plan that coordinates the benefits of several interconnected sites.

Pam Velazquez is a content writer for www.RecordsProject.com

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Image credit Ricky Tang

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