Thursday, December 3, 2015

Social Media Marketing 101: Introduction and a History of Internet Marketing

(First in Think Janusian's ongoing series on social media marketing.)

Most articles today on social media marketing make broad pronouncements that it's not a question of whether to use social media, but rather to what degree. The trouble with this stance is that while social media marketing is past its infancy, it's still not as familiar to most companies as is the traditional marketing models they've been using for years. You may have jumped onto the social media bandwagon so as not to be left in the dust. You may generally understand that social media is about putting a personal spin on your marketing messages and providing information that your clients and prospects may find useful. But you may not be sure how to proceed.

You probably already know that in order to put together an effective social media program, you should have more than just a vague concept of how social media works. And you recognize that you'll probably want to have more than have a basic understanding on why social media marketing is appropriate for your kind of business. The best social media programs are, interestingly enough, put together in a very similar process to traditional marketing and promotional programs, even though the tools and messages may be different. More specifically, great programs -- no matter how they are executed -- involve:

  • a good degree of self-knowledge about the company / product/ service being promoted
  • specific marketing goals (for example, a certain number of sales, getting the word out on a new product, branching out into a new geographic area, recruiting employees or affiliates, announcing an award or other recognition). Always have a reason to reach out.
  • clear and accurate messages supporting those goals
  • understanding which advertising and promotional tools will help get those messages out
  • tailoring messages (and the tone in which they're delivered) for the media used
  • measuring the results of promotional efforts
  • understanding that these efforts build upon each other and may not always achieve immediate results, and
  • willingness and ability to change plans as circumstances make it wise to do so.



A Brief History of Internet Marketing, From Personal Experience

To assemble an effective social media plan, it's helpful to know understand the evolution of Internet marketing as a whole and get a feel for how social media marketing took on such prominence over time. In the mid 1990s, I began promoting products and services on the World Wide Web for an international trade magazine publishing company. At that time, the Internet was still being used primarily by academics for research purposes. To this very day, I distinctly remember being lambasted one day by the editor of one magazine for, among other things, "tarnishing the magazine's brand" and single-handedly "bastardizing the Web." I was told that the Internet would never be accepted by the educated and sophisticated people using the World Wide Web and to go back to "real marketing."

I didn't stop internet advertising, of course, and that editor's elitist and ultimately incorrect short-sightedness still amazes me to this day. I also changed companies shortly afterwards and began working for a "web presence developer" run by far more visionary people. There, we developed very basic first-generation web sites for forward-thinking companies who knew they should be on the Internet, but didn't know where to start.

Over time, more and more companies joined the Internet bandwagon, with various degrees of success. To be heard over the "monkey chatter," advertising messages became louder and more forceful. As you might expect, this heavy-handed approach turned off many of the intended recipients of those messages, who learned to tune them out. Smart Internet marketers learned that the messages most likely to he heard were those which were delivered in a personalized tone and which provided useful information (not just a call to action.) Enter social media marketing and "content marketing".

While some social media marketers pat themselves on the back for "inventing" social media marketing, the idea of reaching customers in a personal way is nothing new. Consider, for example, Bob Ross, the billowy-haired, soft-spoken "Happy Painter" whose PBS episodes are being discovered and enjoyed today by new generations of audiences on Netflix. According to various sources, Mr. Ross apparently participated in the show for free, in order to reach people who might be good prospects for his line of products for artists. It was a great idea in the perfect incubator: PBS has very strict guidelines on how companies may present themselves on the station.

So for decades, smart businesses have been offering useful information to clients and prospective customers, for the purpose of establishing the company as a trustworthy thought leader. This means that social media marketing really isn't a radical departure from what you've already been doing and that you likely already have a good foundation upon which to base a social media program. While there is a learning curve, it's definitely manageable.

The next installment of this series will address social media vehicles you're probably already using - such as LinkedIn and Facebook - and offer tips on how you can use social media more effectively to promote your products and services. And even while social media marketing is about the personal spin, we'll also discuss how to keep your public and private online personas separate.

Lynne Guimond Sabean has more than 20 years experience marketing a variety of products and services for companies of all sizes. She is co-founder of Think Janusian (, which offers social media marketing services to artists and other businesses.

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