THE BASICS of Online Marketing (Social Media, Search Engine Marketing, eMail Marketing, Content Marketing)

Best Practices for Social Media Marketing

They are not buzz words, they are individual disciplines you will confront in any holistic online marketing campaign. A quick look at the large forces of online marketing should help provide a framework for how social media fits into and accelerates the other kinds of online marketing.

In a large company these online marketing functions are broken out by individual roles. eMail Marketing Manager, Search Engine Marketing Specialist, Social Media Marketing Manager, Content Manager. In small businesses the roles are still required but often fall into one persons lap: the plain old Marketing Manger, or MarCom Manager. Without a full view and understanding of each component of online marketing, and without specific tasks and goals within each component, an online marketing campaign will struggle. People go with what they know. And if you have not spent time in the trenches of eMail marketing you may not spend the appropriate energy developing and nurturing your email marketing program and mining your list.

Marketing vs Advertising

Marketing differs from Advertising in one simple way. Marketing tries to explain the value of a product, or give supporting information about how a product or service can improve your life or business. The sale, in marketing, is a bit more indirect. MARKETING EXAMPLE: New Study Indicates That Social Media Will Drive the Next 10 Years of Business Revenue. Download the latest report.  Marketing – Builds demand by illuminating why the potential customer needs the product. ADVERTISING EXAMPLE: The New Starbucks Latte has arrived. Click here to get 20% of your next Starbucks purchase. Advertising – is about a product and an offer to BUY NOW.

The Big Four Components of Online Marketing

1. Search Engine Marketing

Here’s what you need to know: Google dominates search engine traffic, controlling anywhere from 90% to 75% of all search traffic, depending on your source. Bing and Yahoo are worth considering, but only after you’ve mastered Google. There are two forms of Search Engine Marketing:

a. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Is the practice of understanding how Google ranks and values web content and writing your web page specifically to increase your visibility (make your link show up in the first three results for your target search term) and drive traffic to your site. The tools of the SEO trade are 1. keyword tools and keyword matrix development; 2. well-structured content; 3. smart HTML that delivers streamlined results to Google’s spider; 4. landing page optimization (the traffic is not worth much if your landing page sucks).

b. Pay Per Click (PPC)
Refers to the paid search ads that appear at the top of Google and in the right-side column of “ads.” Often disguised to look like Search Results, PPC ads are often a very effective way to build and understand what keywords and search phrases will lead to activated traffic to your site. A click on Google is only as valuable as the transaction that results from that click. If a Google visitor stays on your site for 3 seconds you still pay for the click. If you find that the traffic from a specific term is leading to more “sales” or “activations” then you can focus your SEO and more of your PPC budget on that term.

2. eMail Marketing
Sending out an email with an offer or a press release is easy. eMail Marketing is a fairly mature discipline that involves email list mining, subject line testing, a/b testing of messages, lead nurturing process, waterfall campaigns. There are specific tools to help your message reach your desired audience. There are best-practices on how to write great subject lines (possibly the single most important factor at getting an email read — referred to as an OPEN).

3. Content Marketing
Is the process of creating juicy content for both your potential customers and Google’s search engine algorithms. Today press releases and product advertisements disguised as news don’t really reach a very receptive audience, at least not the audience of your prospective customers. Instead the practice of content marketing is providing valuable information and ideas to your potential customer, thereby providing value and building something called “affinity” for your product or service. Also building something called “brand.” Let’s break these things down specifically.

Affinity – is the good will that is developed between a customer and your business when you provide valuable information that helps in their daily tasks in some way. The best example is a company like HUBSPOT who provide more white papers and free ebooks about online marketing than any other company. And these are good, well researched, well documented, strategies and tactics for improving your online marketing. Hubspot is also a service provider who would like to host and market your business with you, as a partner. By providing you with invaluable information, Hubspot is building affinity, or goodwill, with you. And when you are looking for help with your marketing or online presence, Hubspot is there to provide you with the technology and marketing support as well.

Branding – is the idea or feeling you get when thinking about a business. For example, McDonald’s loves to advertise the Big Mac on Facebook and other social media sites. While they are “advertising” they are not actually trying to get you to click on a coupon or get in your car and drive to a McDonald’s and order a Big Mac. What McDonald’s is doing, is much more subtle. What they are planting in your mind, the brand they are putting forth, is the idea that McDonald’s makes great quality burgers, and the Big Mac is their shining example of that desired burger. So the next time you are hungry, if the branding has worked, you will imagine a Big Mac and perhaps the category-winning McDonald’s fries. So they were not trying to sell you a Big Mac on Facebook, they were simply putting in your mind, that McDonald’s is a great place for burgers and hoping that in the “branding” you would think of McDonald’s the next time your stomach growls.

4. Social Media Marketing
Is the process of connecting all of your online *and* offline marketing campaigns with a coordinated “social” communication channel. Social is all about creating a two-way experience between the potential customer and your business. Putting up a Facebook page does very little for your bottom line if nobody visits and there is no focus on how to encourage your LIKES to become customers. Social is easy to get started, and difficult to sustain, and maybe even more difficult to connect directly to “sales generated.” But in the “marketing” sense, social is about business. There are other uses of social, customer support, branding, and community building, but in the pure Marketing sense we are talking about generating business.

So how do we weave these four online marketing disciplines together? How do we build a plan and measure the results?

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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