At its outset, many characterized social media marketing as frivolous and the latest certain to be short-lived web trend. But like radio, television and the Internet, all in their early days also considered upstarts with questionable staying power, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have proven their effectiveness to build brands, attract customers, drive sales and develop business-customer relationships. In our increasingly computer-driven world, social media marketing is not merely here to stay but the fastest, brightest path to the future.
Many progressive business owners today are dabbling in social media marketing. They may experiment with a short-term Twitter campaign to build excitement prior to a new product launch. Or they may launch a Facebook fan page to target a new demographic for an established product. The real benefits of social media marketing, however, are not in its occasional use for individual campaigns but in total immersion that integrates social media campaign strategies with every aspect of your company's overall marketing plan.
The long-term benefits of an effective broad-scope social media marketing campaign can't be measured in days or weeks. Time and a little expert massaging are needed to derive maximum and continuing benefit from social media marketing. Certainly, short-term benefits can be measured by metrics that track website traffic, blog sharing, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, Delicious bookmarks, Digg links, referrals and links. Google spiders now crawl social networking sites like Twitter for inclusion in page ranking scores, providing additional data. But the real value derived from these analytic results is in their use to tweak social media marketing campaigns to improve their effectiveness.
The true test of social media marketing performance is its long-term impact on sales, profits, customer retention and customer satisfaction -- benefits that may build slowly and can only be effectively measured over time. Of course, compared to traditional print, television and radio advertising, social media marketing results occur at light speed. The relative speed of social media marketing allows business owners to aim, refine and benefit from their marketing dollars faster and more effectively than ever before.
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