Optimizing Social Networking sites as a tool to reach your buyers

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Social Media  |  Thought Leadership  |  Search Engine Marketing  |  New Rules of Marketing and PR  |  Public Relations  |  Marketing  |  Advertising

Social Networking sites are an excellent way to deliver information to people who might want to do business with your organization. Particularly if you use a thought leadership based approach, sites like MySpace, Squidoo, and the other social networking sites reaches your buyers and helps you to achieve your goals.

Although social networking sites certainly aren't advertising, you can still use the sites to lead people into your buying process. For example, The Alternate Routes' MySpace page has links to the band's latest album, touring schedule, and online ticket purchasing tools; Volkswagen's Miss Helga MySpace page links to the automaker's other sites; Vince Ciulla’s Squidoo page links to his extensive set of content pages; and John Edwards links to a place where visitors can make online donations from his MySpace page.



Here are some ideas to get the most out of using social networking sites for marketing:

> Target a specific audience. Create a page that reaches an audience that is important to your organization. It is usually better to be thinking a small niche market to target (for example, people who want to do their own car repairs but don't know how to discover what’s wrong).

> Be a thought leader. Provide valuable and interesting information that people want to check out. It is better to show your expertise in a market or a buyer's problems than to blather on about your product.

> Be authentic and transparent. Don't try to impersonate someone else. It is sleazy, and if you get caught you can do irreparable harm to your company’s reputation. If your mother would say it is wrong, it probably is.

> Create lots of links. Link to your own sites and blog, and those of others in your industry and network. Everybody loves links—it makes the Web what it is. You should certainly ink to your own stuff from social networking site (like your blog), but also link to other people’s sites and content in your own market.

> Encourage people to contact you. Make it easy for people to reach you online, and be sure to follow up personally on your fan mail.

> Participate. Create groups and participate in online discussions. Become an online leader and organizer.

> Make it easy to find you. Tag your page and add your page into the subject directories. Encourage others to bookmark your page with del.icio.us and DIGG.

> Experiment. These sites are great because you can try new things. If it isn't working, tweak it. Or abandon the effort and try something new.

And remember, there is no such thing as an "expert" in marketing using social networking—we're all learning as we go!

I want to learn from you too. Let me know if you're doing something cool or that is working for you.