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Although, on the whole, the Australian marine industry has been comparatively slow on the uptake of online presence, many companies that have had websites for several years are today reaping the rewards.

The importance of a content-rich website aside, there is a lot more you can do to boost traffic to your site, ensure people regularly return and, ultimately, increase sales of your product/service.

Promoting corporate websites across the internet has in the past involved everything from search engine optimisation (SEO) to paid keyword referrals, such as Google AdWords.

While these methods are certainly useful, one of the most effective and relatively new methods to promote content-rich web sites is through social media marketing.

What is social media marketing?

According to Wikipedia: “Social media has become a platform that is easily accessible to anyone with internet access, opening doors for organisations to increase their brand awareness and facilitate conversations with the customer.”

In a nutshell, companies with functional and content-rich websites can use social media as an inexpensive platform to implement effective marketing campaigns. Further, companies can receive direct feedback from their target markets and essentially manage their reputation online.

Part of the Web 2.0 revolution – another buzz word describing the new generation of websites that allows users to submit their own text, video and picture content – social media marketing can take many forms.

Common practices in the marine industry involve utilising chat forums, message boards and blogs on existing “community-based” websites, while utilising these technologies on such websites can be good, they unfortunately attract “keyboard captains” who claim to be authorities on all things boating – yet really know FA about anything – who have the potential to blur your intended message to your target market.

That said, there are literally dozens of social media sites across the internet these days that allow you to take full control of the message you want to communicate to your target market.

Below are brief overviews of a couple of the most popular and effective websites:

Facebook (facebook.com) – Primarily driven by young adults, Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 400 million active users whom spend more than 500 billion minutes on this site every month. Facebook allows you to keep tabs on members’ profiles and recent changes to the site have made it very “marketing friendly”. Facebook groups are very popular and very loyal, so if you find something that connects with your group, the results can be highly viral. People will share your business page with others, without you having to do a thing!

Twitter (twitter.com)
– Twitter is a microblogging website that limits users’ “tweets” to 140 characters. It has gained popularity as the SMS of the internet, and with more than 50 million tweets sent every day it is on track to becoming the collective nerves system of society in this digital age. There are some amazing Twitter stories, where interesting nobodies found themselves to be an overnight internet celebrity. It allows a channel for fans to get inside the minds of their idols, whether it be their favourite band, teacher, brand or entrepreneur.

What’s involved?

If planned and implemented correctly, social media marketing can be invaluable. Site visitors are in command, so why not start building a relationship with them?

The amount of input to start something like a Facebook page is minimal. It’s merely a matter of creating a page and inviting people to join it.

Once enough people have given your business’ page the thumbs up, it’s then a matter of communicating with them through the page. For example, a weekly fishing report for your area is effective; as is regularly notifying them of new product releases; special offers; on-water boat testing days or other news about your business.

Ensuring your website is on the radar of other sites’ and search engines involves preparing your content in such a way as to be considered ‘social media optimised’ (SMO). This SMO approach is becoming a new concentration area for current web technology firms and can involve dozens of different approaches.

Where it’s heading

The role of social media marketing to drive content is a continually expanding field. A brief overview of those sites referenced above doesn’t begin to cover the viral social content impact of such popular social media mechanisms as YouTube videos or Flickr photo galleries.

One thing is certain, SMO is definitely not just a short term fad, as this is demonstrated by the above graph where it clearly demonstrates the influence of Facebook overtaking Google earlier this year.

What does this mean? This shift in power from search engines to social networks means that from 2010 onwards we’ll increasingly see a more integrated interaction between consumers and the internet. It will be a case of where we no longer “search” for information on products or news, it will be delivered straight to us through our social networks.

The trend is statistically undeniable, so while SMO may not be in many people’s minds right now, early adopters of social media marketing will benefit immensely by making their products or services more accessible to their audiences through social media channels, as it will allow them to spread media releases and other information more virally.

That said, to effectively use social media for marketing, it must be recognised that social media is an additional resource to complement and expand your entire marketing arsenal, rather than a replacement for existing marketing initiatives such as advertising, public relations, personal selling and other sales promotions activities.

sandmanpr.com.au

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