I’ve probably received more questions on the topic of social media marketing these last few months than on any other topic.  It’s all the buzz.  So exactly what do I mean by Social Media Marketing (SMM)?  It’s the use of tools and techniques to more effectively build relationships online.  It includes services such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,Yelp!, and blogs, to name a few.

But before I dig into online social media, consider what’s happening with marketing in general. Traditional marketing methods are waning.  We’ve all been reading about the plight of printed newspapers.  According to Yahoo Finance, 4 out of the 5 major newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation.  Many have already exited the market.  Television viewership is slipping, too.  So what’s going on?

We’re seeing a shift.  Recommendations by personal acquaintances and consumer opinions posted online are now the most trusted forms of advertising globally. Nielsen has found that 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations.  This is in comparison to 14% who trust advertisements in traditional media.  And the ad dollars are following the trend – from offline to online. Now, look at what’s happening online (as of September 2009):

–       Twitter has 21M users in the US

–       Facebook has 110M user in the US.

–       Visits to 155 social networking Web sites increased 53% during the first week of September year-over-year.

–       Last year the average teenager sent or received over 35,000 text messages—about one message every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. (Nielsen)

You probably have someone in your family trying to coerce the rest of the family into getting on Facebook.  Or you may have a friend or business acquaintance who has suggested that you need to be on Twitter.  It’s having an effect.  Internet users in August spent 17% of their surfing time on social network sites, nearly three times the amount of time spent a year ago.

A certain group of you reading this is wondering who in the world has time for this stuff.  And there’s another group that’s already hooked.  But forget the family and friends for a moment.  The big question is whether or not as a small business you should care.

Well, let me break the news to you.  You SHOULD care.  That’s because there are many ways to make money using SMM.  However, it’s a matter of how long it will take and at what cost.  My team and I have spent countless hours to get at the heart of SMM (and we’re continuing to invest in this continuously evolving area).  So over the next few newsletters I’ll be describing various forms of SMM, which are best to use, how to use them to get results, and what to expect.

For now, consider this.  In the world of marketing there’s something called a product adoption curve.  As you might expect, when a new service (or technology) becomes available, the rate at which it’s adopted by people follows a bell-shaped curve.  That means that early on, only the adventurous, early-adopters try it.  But as time goes on, it becomes more mainstream and the majority then jumps on the bandwagon.  Finally, you’ll always have laggards who are late to adopt anything new.  SMM is in the early adopter stage for businesses.  The early adopters for this technology are primarily very large companies and select small entrepreneurs with consumer-oriented businesses.  The big, Fortune 500 firms, for example, almost all have staff with SMM in their job description and they have also adopted formal social media policies for their employees.

The good news is that you’re not late!  The vast majority of people are using SMM for personal reasons and few are leveraging it for business purposes.  Consumer-oriented businesses will be the first to benefit, and therefore adopt SMM for a profit.

There are a number of factors to consider when evaluating SMM for your business.  Over the next few ezines we’ll explore your options, strategies, and the do’s and don’ts of social media marketing.  So stay tuned!