Social media marketing - a guide

by Gemma Maidment on 1 April 2008

Social media has turned the web upside down in the last few years and has the power to literally make or break your online marketing campaign. Done well a social media campaign can result in increased brand exposure, thousands of new website visitors and natural links to improve those all important search engine rankings.

Getting started

The easiest social sites to use for website promotion are social news websites. These are sites that allow users to upload, tag and vote for interesting content and have the power to send tens of thousands of visitors to the most popular sites.

Not all content is suitable for all the social news sites so it's important to get a feel for the type of content that each community is likely to be interested in. To start with you need to register with the social tagging and news websites you want to target.

Here are 5 to start you off that will likely send the most traffic to popular stories:

Once you've registered for the sites it's important to become a popular, trusted and well known user by contributing quality content on a regular basis. Don't forget that the users of these sites are typically web savvy and can spot new users who are just joining to promote their own stories and pollute the system.

The key is to make friends, check out their content on a regular basis, vote for the things you like and submit things that you think will appeal to the different communities. Only once you become popular should you start to submit some of your own content and even then it's important to be careful about mixing too much of your own stories with your usual submissions.

Once you make good friends on the social media sites you can ask them to submit your content for you or they may just do it for you without you having to ask. Assuming your content has value and is coming from a site with a social media savvy readership you should find a proportion of the stories are being submitted by your users anyway.

Types of content to submit

The first rule about submitting content is to make sure it's interesting, unique and non-commercial. Content from a source that social media users know and trust (such as the mainstream media) is always going to have an advantage over content from a blog or ecommerce store.

Many beginners make the mistake of trying to submit their homepage or one of their product pages to social sites - this tactic almost never works. You need come up with content that's going to appeal to the community or communities you are targeting.

Some of the different types of content that may work include:

  • Breaking news
  • Guides / tutorials
  • Interesting stories
  • Pictures
  • Videos
  • Statistics

Try to use enticing titles for your content, never lie and always back up your facts by citing your sources.

When you're planning a submission it's important to examine your goals. If traffic is the primary goal then the content you produce might be quite different to the sort of content you would create while trying to attract links from authority websites.

Packaging your content

Succeeding on social media sites is maybe 30% about the title of the story, 30% about the presentation and 40% about the content. Quality content with plain boring presentation or lots of adverts stands a much higher chance of failure than average content with remarkable presentation.

Some tips to get you started include:

  • Ensure the content is accessible and looks good in all major browsers and screen sizes
  • Always include eye catching pictures and images wherever possible
  • Break the content down into different sections and use headers
  • Avoid serving intrusive ads that get in the way of the all important content

A final word

Social media marketing is a great way to build long term sustainable, natural social media traffic and search engine rankings. It certainly isn't something that can be mastered overnight. However if you apply yourself and invest time and effort into creating a long-term campaign, the returns can be phenomenal.

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