Social Media: A Business Marketer's Guide

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To many business marketers, social media is a big question mark. Some are unsure if social media constitutes a new, largely untested advertising medium, or if it's simply a variation of traditional online advertising. Others question how a serious brand would work in the sometimes unpredictable environments of popularized consumer-oriented online communities. And some are uncertain about creating campaigns for social media, perhaps mistakenly believing that it requires a radical change from their current online advertising approach. 

As a result, some marketers are not capitalizing on social media and the opportunities it provides for making high-quality connections with business consumers. Regardless, social media has a real impact on consumers' purchasing decisions. According to a recent report by market research firm Compete, Inc., more than 71 percent of consumers who use social media are more influenced by user-generated content when making purchasing decisions than by information from brand advertisers and marketers.

Join the conversation
Marketers can leverage the unique aspects of social media to achieve their goals by becoming part of the conversations taking place within online communities. This doesn't mean actively participating in the dialogue but engaging in the context of the community's interactions. At the same time, marketing messages must be highly relevant and placed so that they appear at the critical moment when community members are considering a purchase.

While some marketers have been experimenting with social media via MySpace and other online communities, business marketers are finding it more difficult to reach relevant audiences through these mass market environments. Enter professional or business-oriented communities such as ITtoolbox and LinkedIn. These communities provide marketers with the opportunity to reach consumers in the workplace as they seek experience-based peer advice to make important decisions and stay current. Users typically visit their professional community of choice several times a day to access knowledge and request feedback from other professionals. To them, the community is a utility; a desktop tool that is part of their daily workflow.

Next: Getting granular