Social media works, plain and simple. For businesses, it's a trend that represents a marketing opportunity so huge it eclipses the need for intermediaries by connecting companies directly with their customers. Have you taken a proper look at how best to utilize this phenomenon? Read on, we aim to help you. 

SM Marketing Strategies

We're trying not to say "best practices" here (and hopefully you know why), but that's essentially what a study conducted by market research company, Irbtrax, is getting at. Their recent efforts involved taking a deep look into several avenues of successful SM marketing, and according to Irbtrax founder Scott Moir, the digging revealed a consistent pattern of methods.

"This pattern involved three applications," Moir said. "Pre-launch preparation, continued assessments and applying findings in order to make key adjustments at critical times.“ 

Pre-launch Preparation

Pre-launch prep means starting your implementation process by asking and answering a set of questions in order to surface your individual needs. This approach has been preached by experts as a fundamental part of most areas of implementation, including Web CMS, SharePoint, analytics, automated marketing tools and social software. Regardless of the tool, the number one question tends to be some form of:  Who is our target audience?

Daniel Kraus of Leading Results and a speaker at this year's SugarCRM conference in San Francisco made some additional points that  were especially resonating during his talk about online marketing success. He suggested defining an ideal customer before the target. An ideal customer, he said, is someone that is profitable, values what you do, refers you, etc. This customer may not be who you had in mind from the start, and therefore would likely have remained an untapped resource. 

Irbtrax's other pre-launch prep questions include: 

  • Roughly what percentage of our target market is involved in Social Media?
  • What are the best Social Media platforms to help reach our target market?
  • Can we integrate any of the existing online or offline assets we utilize?
  • What future strategies can jump start our campaign if it hits a ceiling?
  • What applications are available to help us monitor results?

Speaking to the last question, social media monitoring is -- naturally -- growing as SM marketing grows. Several tools have already been released this year by top analytics companies, including Webtrends and Omniture (specific to Facebook). Moreover, an entire framework for measuring results in social media was recently composed by John Lovett and Jeremiah Owyang. The report (downloadable for free here) aims to provide a solid foundation for beginning the measurement process. 

Continued Assessment 

As we say each week, social media moves fast, and so it is absolutely crucial to continuously evaluate your visibility, the offerings available, and how your traffic has increased or decreased. There's just no such thing as staying still these days. 

Bear in mind that this doesn't mean implementing technology for technology's sake. In another talk at SugarCon, Owyang spoke to the habit of jumping from strategy to strategy. "It's like setting up shop in a desert," he said, after equating successful business with catching fish. "You don't know where your audience is."  

Irbtrax suggests routinely asking the following questions:

  • Has our Internet visibility and branding expanded?
  • Are there new trends or opportunities we can leverage?
  • Any new applications available that we aren’t aware of?
  • Has traffic to our main website or sales platform increased?
  • Are we seeing measurable increases in potential leads or actual sales?
  • What is our competition doing and how can we use this to our advantage?
  • Are there more efficient ways to run our campaign while maximizing results?
  • Are we connecting with the wireless community or should we enhance our campaign for mobile marketing?

Applying Findings

The good thing about a mountain of social media marketing tools is that whatever your needs are, the likelihood that there exists a solution tailored to them is great. After a good run with trial and error, you can take a look at what's worked best and concentrate on how to optimize this approach.

Similarly, Kraus ended his talk with: "If you have defined your ideal customer, then you know where to engage them on the social Web. Use it as a listening post. What's being said about you? Optimize your brand assets, local profiles, online PR engines, etc."

Following that, Irbtrex recommends asking yourself whether there are any mutually beneficial strategic business alliances you can enter into to keep the momentum going. 

Facebook and Twitter...

These guys are no doubt the biggest names in SM marketing. In an April 2010 Social Media Marketing Report by Michael A. Stelzner of SocialMediaExaminer, the following findings were revealed after 1900 people responded to a study:

  • 88% of marketers use Twitter
  • 87% use Facebook
  • 78% use LinkedIn
  • 70% use blogs 

In 2009, the same study indicated that Facebook was in fourth place at 77%, and blogs were in second place at 79%. That's a huge difference in just one year, and it would be completely ludicrous to consider the possibility of Facebook and Twitter's throne being usurped any time soon. 

The infamous Michael Arrington of TechCrunch wrote an interesting post about everyone's favorite social networking platform over the weekend titled "The Age of Facebook". "Facebook is profitable and probably is running at a billion dollar plus revenue run rate today," he wrote. "They have 400 million users and 500 million people visit the site each month. Only Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have more monthly visitors than Facebook. And only Google has more page views. And they aren’t done growing yet. In a year they will likely be second on the list of unique visitors. In two years, they’ll probably be first."

The social trend can be seen reflected almost everywhere on the Web. An entire track at SugarCon was dedicated to social CRM (Owyang's presentation examined how social media is changing customer behavior), and most of us are well aware of the gusto's CEO Marc Benioff has brought to the table with Cloud 2 and other social media-like enterprise tools

...In the News

Facebook and Twitter both held conferences recently, in which they addressed marketing developments. Twitter's addition of open annotations, for example, will allow targeted advertising. Metadata is able to carry advert. offers and conditional codes that determine eligibility. Additionally, tacking on location data (like that of Foursquare or Gowalla) would allow people to know when pizzas are $5 in their neighborhood, and so on.

Meanwhile, Facebook's plans to turn the Web into one big giant social network begin with enhancing the connections of Facebook members through third-party sites that adopt the firm's new "open-graph protocol." 

"We think what we're going to show you today is the most transformative thing we've ever done for the Web," said CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the f8 developer conference. 

For marketers, it certainly means tapping into this resource, or falling really, really far behind. As Kraus pointed out, "There are 530 million people on Facebook. If it was a country, it would be the third largest in the world." 

In addition to the slew of Facebook marketing measurement tools, the platform appears to be working on an internal tool. In March, Page admins were surprised to find a weekly analytics report from Facebook in their e-mail. It's only one piece of the puzzle, but the platform's explosive popularity says if you're not privy to marketing within it, then perhaps you should be. 

Don't Be Discouraged

If you feel behind, it's okay. “The true value networks is just becoming clear to marketers,” said Augie Ray, analyst at Forrester Research. 

In addition,'s report found that most have only been using SM marketing for a few months or less. Numerically speaking:

  • 65% of marketers have either just started using social media (22% have just started and 43% have only used it for a few months)
  • 31% have been using social media for a few years (up from 23% in 2009)
  • 3% of marketers have no experience with social media but plan to use it
  • 0% of marketers have no experience with social media and no plans to use it

Now's certainly your chance, and we hope we've provided enough information here about what's out there, and what you can expect to get you started right.