This is a guest post by Tegan McRae. Tegan is the Media Strategist for Integrate.com.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SEO, blogging – it’s all a bit overwhelming to a small business looking to jump into the world of online marketing. So many options and opportunities make the internet the perfect place to advertise on a dime, but also mean a lot of trial and error to find what works for your company.
When deciding what route to take when marketing online, the first step is to know your audience. This is easily the most important aspect of advertising campaign building, and one that too many people skip over. “Everyone”, “Girls”, and “Adults” are not audiences. Audiences are a specific type of person your advertising is targeting, not the general sort of person who shops at your store. For example, though Target may be for everyone, their back-to-school advertising campaigns specifically target mothers in their 30’s with children in elementary and middle school.
Once you know your audience, figuring out the best channel to market online is fairly easy – assuming you know what each one does and what audience it speaks to. Not sure? Let’s go over the biggies:
What It Is: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and any other site that allows users to communicate and share with each other. There are plenty of social networks with broad audiences, but also many smaller ones dedicated to niche topics.
The Audience: The majority of social networks will have a B2C (business to consumer) audience much larger and more accessible than a B2B (business to business) audience. Most social network’s audiences will be the under 40 crowd.
The Pros: These networks and their communities are easily accessible, content-hungry, ready to share, and are always looking for the next new thing to show their friends. The wide audience allows for both targeted and broad marketing.
The Cons: You can sometimes be another voice in a crowd. With hundreds of other companies marketing on social networks, people become apathetic to advertising messages. If you can’t stand out, you can’t cut it on social networks.
What It Is: Blogs in all forms. Personal blogs, community blogs, corporate blogs, news blogs, etc. Any website that consistently updates with new content. Marketing through content is generally done through guest posting.
The Audience: Every blog audience is going to be different depending on the content being produced. While the audience may seem apparent for most blogs, it’s important to check out the profiles of the people commenting and follow the blog for a while to see what sort of content they’re putting up. There is nothing that will kill your content marketing strategy faster than sending off un-targeted, broad articles to bloggers who know their audience won’t care for it.
The Pros: Bloggers are always looking for more fresh content to post. Generally, most blogs worth posting to will have a guest writer submission policy that will make the process easier for you. If you can write well for the right audience, content marketing is the way to go.
The Cons: It’s a lot of work. Writing a quality piece of work can take a few hours to research, write, and edit. There are also risks to writing for another audience, and if your work isn’t well received then commenters will let you know of it and chances are, you won’t be writing for that blog anymore.
What It Is: Search marketing is comprised of Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing (paid and promoted links). This sort of marketing is done through either organic link building or paid promoted links (AdWords) that put your site at the top of certain search queries.
The Audience: Knowing who your audience is and what they are seeking when they come to your website is key in search marketing. Your audience is whoever is searching for what you can provide, so target your search terms accordingly (IE, if you sell organic makeup, a targeted search query would be “makeup with organic ingredients”).
The Pros: Search marketing can be very effective, and for many it can function as their main source of traffic. If you have the budget and/or knowledge to put into it, search marketing can be all you need.
The Cons: Search Engine Marketing (SEM) costs money, and that amount increases the more competitors you have. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requires a lot of time, knowledge, and dedication and often needs social and content marketing involved to make it successful.
There are many other methods of online marketing available – banner ads, affiliate marketing, viral advertising, press releases and networking - but that starts to tip into the realm of expensive, outsourced marketing. For small businesses, sometimes the best method is the rawest – dedicated, in-house employees who know the message and product marketing it directly to the customer.
Whether you choose one, two, or all three of these methods, keep your audience in mind, your creativity flowing, and your dedication unwavering. Strong marketing comes not from the methods – but from the people behind them.
Sarah Von is a Vianza contributing columnist and interview wrangler. If you follow her on Twitter, you’ll be privy to all sort of tweets about small business, good ideas and, um, cheese.