Monday, June 1, 2015

The Secret Weapons of Online and Social Media Marketing

Marketing channels have evolved a lot – from print, TV, radio, websites, emails, online to now, social media. Today, online marketing and social media have become the most preferred channels for most of the businesses. But as anyone would agree, these are still evolving and many businesses are trying to figure out what works and what does not work for them. Having said that, while it is natural to stick to the commonly used marketing activities such as SEO, email campaigns, paid ads and social media, I always suggest that businesses should be open to explore the newer and powerful avenues too.


In this post, I am going to talk about few such online marketing activities which, when used right, can deliver great results – but unfortunately these are not talked about a lot.
# Webinars
I am a big fan of webinars. Webinars offer a great opportunity to learn from experts – without worrying about geographical boundaries and right from your work station. All you need is good Internet connection and a headset. Hundreds of experts are happy (and many a times, for free) share their expertise and experiences through webinars.
Now let’s talk about it from the business perspective. How can businesses leverage webinars? Well, in many ways –
  1. Customer Webinar – You know your customers love you and are raving fans. They really appreciate your work and you have made a significant difference to their business. Why not invite them to speak about their experiences, their business and their expertise through a webinar? Don’t you think others in the industry will value it? If you host one such webinar, you can reach out to many more prospects from the same industry and invite them to attend it. Since it is a purely educational exercise, you won’t appear salesy but at the same time, you will get an opportunity to reach out to a larger set of audience with something really credible.
  2. Industry Leader Webinar – People always love to hear the views and opinions of the industry leaders/ gurus. They offer industry insights and their opinions are unbiased. You can organize a webinar with an industry leader on a latest topic from your industry (which aligns with your offering) and invite people to attend that. Being associated with an industry leader will go a long way in positioning your business. Remember, I am not talking about being a mere sponsor for such webinar. The webinar should be organized and hosted by you and it should show that you have invited the speaker to speak.
  3. Product Webinar – If you are a company selling software products, then chances are that your sales teams give multiple product demos to the prospects. Why not cut it short by organizing product webinars every week? You can have multiple webinars covering different time zones and different industries. If you organize an industry-specific webinar, it gives you an opportunity to customize the webinar content for that specific industry. Such webinars can be pre-scripted and well thought out. You can build a good scalability in this model by training multiple people for the webinar. Having a fixed schedule displayed on your website will create a good impression in the minds of the prospects. You can also choose to make these webinars interactive by allowing the attendees to ask questions so that you get an opportunity to handle objections.
# Podcasts
Podcasts are small audio bytes popular amongst people who prefer audio over text/ images. There has been a trend of people using their commute time in listening to podcasts.  So what can the podcast be about? Like the webinars, podcasts can be with customers, industry leaders or even with your internal expert team. Pick a theme and record podcasts around it. While I have heard podcasts of 30-40 minutes also, I prefer the shorter podcasts– say around 12-15 minutes at most. What are the advantages from business perspective? Well, many advantages –
  • You get an opportunity to connect with influencers from your industry and be in their eyeline and establish connection with them
  • You get valuable content to share with your target audience. This content be then reused in many ways – through your website, blog, newsletters, email campaigns, and so on and that too on a continuous basis.
  • You get to take a position in the industry as someone who is interested in the latest topics and taking efforts to assist the community through knowledge sharing
# Influencer Marketing
With social media, it has become easy to connect with anyone. But there is a difference between connection and conversation. If done rightly, you can meaningfully connect with influencers from your industry, engage with them and then take the conversation to next level. Influencer marketing is often misinterpreted as celebrities endorsing your brand. That’s a very superficial way of looking at it. Influencer marketing really means – identify a list of influencers from your industry, map their social presence and interact with them on the platform of their choice. Interaction does not mean asking them to RT your link 😉 Let’s think – Who can be the influencers for you? These are the people who are decision makers in your industry or the people whom you care to connect with. For example: For an organic food store, chefs could be the influencers and for a solar power energy company, possibly the environmentalists could be influencers. You got to identify these and map their social presence – some might be active on Twitter, others might have strong LinkedIn presence. You need to first study that and then engage with them on those platforms. Once you establish a relationship with them, you can take the conversation ahead by requesting them to write a guest blog, invite them for a webinar or record their podcast.
# LinkedIn Groups
Having a profile on LinkedIn does not mean that you are active on LinkedIn. There are many more ways in which you can leverage this powerful platform. LinkedIn groups are very powerful to connect with like-minded people and establish your thought leadership in front of a targeted group of individuals. As a company, you can start your own LinkedIn group around a theme or a topic – note that starting a group in your company name is not useful. The group needs to connect people with similar interests. They should derive value from being part of your group. As an administrator of the group, it is your responsibility to keep the group activity relevant and ongoing. While it is an effort intensive and long term activity, if done well, it can be a brilliant way of creating a community of people with similar interests. In case you are interested to understand this in more detail, here is a great presentation on dynamics of starting and maintaining your own LinkedIn group.
Don’t get  so swamped in doing regular activities that you forget to take advantage of such secret weapons. Always keep  room for growth in your digital marketing plan.
* This post was originally published on YourStory

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