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Are you ready for social media marketing?

By CAROL KINSLEY

"Is Social Media Marketing Marketing Right for Your Business?" was asked and answered at the Delaware Horticulture Expo Jan. 25 by Apryl Parcher, a copywriter, speaker and "certified social media strategist." She explained how companies can build a strategy for integrating social media into their marketing mix.
"Social media is not a fad, it is a communication shift," Parcher said. Old ways of communication were one-way attempts to "convince and convert." With social media, blogs and webinars, businesses can "converse and convert."
Common complaints are limited time, resource and expertise. The technology can seem overwhelming. And how does one integrate social media with what's already working?
Make a plan, Parcher suggested. Concentrate on just two of these objectives: Raising awareness of a brand or product, providing better customer service, driving traffic to a website or blog, or client acquisition. Don't go after everything at once.
"Who are your clients?" she asked. It's really important to develop a persona for them. Collect information — as it is offered up — such as age, sex, income level, education, family status, activities, where they shop and personality traits.
As part of your planning, find out where your targets are in social space. What's already being said about you or your brand, and what is your competition doing in that space?
She noted that more than 800 million active users are on Facebook, with more activity on Thursday through Sunday.
Twitter has 100 million active users. It's not for everyone, Parcher admitted. It depends on whether your clients are there or not.
Are you "LindedIn"? More than 147 million businesses are in this closed loop which requires an "invitation" to join. LinkedIn is networking rather than social media. A new feature provides that a business can have a profile, which is the equivalent of a mini website.
YouTube is the second largest search engine, next to Google. Landscaping businesses can use it to show the results of their work. Clients like to see something visual. Nurseries could show off their products.
Your website or blog is the hub from which content is pushed out to social media platforms. These, in turn, point customers back to your website. When people find you on Facebook, Parcher said, they want to see your website.
What are people talking about on social media? Google alerts are free. They'll return to you anything that is said about you. Visit socialmention.com and it will "search content from across the universe." (Don't be alarmed if you enter a name and obituaries pop up!)
"Brand" your look. Make a good first impression. Unless you're an HTML and graphics expert, outsource graphics and creative work, such as blog and website creation, Facebook profile development, and Twitter and YouTube backgrounds. You want your website and social media to have the same, recognizable look.
Interaction via social media can be tracked and measured. How many "likes" and "unsubscribes" do you have? Free measuring tools include Facebook Insights, YouTube Insights, Google Analytics, URL shorteners, Feedburner, Twenty Feet, Hootsuite, Trakur, Social Mention and Twitter Analyzer. There are also paid tools with which you can track and measure.
After tracking comes tweaking — "test, test, test!" Parcher insisted. "Testing with social media is instant. See what works."
Resource links provided by Parcher include:
Facebook ads and sponsored stories: www.facebook.com/adsmarketing
Automating/scheduling your posts: www.hootsuite.com or http://buffer.com
Contest applications: http://wildfireapp.com, http://northsocial.com, http://woobox.com or http://votigo.com