The following is the tenth in the series "Marketing Like the Big Brands," running every other week in which marketing expert Jim Joseph shows entrepreneurs on a small-business budget how to apply marketing strategies used by big brands.
Digital touchpoints are going to be a central part of almost any brand's media plan. It's important to understand how to navigate the digital world, particularly social media.
The problem is that keeping up with technology is a full-time job in and of itself. So don't even try, just focus on the marketing part. Digital marketing is a small-business owner's best friend, so while it's hard to stay on the tech curve, you can still keep abreast of how to use digital marketing vehicles to your advantage.
In many cases, social media has become the brand experience where customers truly expect to connect. Because there are so many outlets available, don't try to do it all at once. Start with the big sites first, see if they make sense for your brand, then expand from there.
Get friendly on Facebook. With over a billion profiles it's hard to neglect thinking about how to create a brand presence there. This is where friends, family, and your biggest "fans" come to listen to what you have to brag about. There is a cap to how many friends you can amass, so consider creating a public page that is limitless. Facebook is all about loyalty, so use it as a place to post pictures, give updates, promote new initiatives, or simply interact with your biggest fans. It's one of the best outlets if you want to keep up with your most loyal customers with regular information they will be interested in. That is, of course, if your regular customers use Facebook, which is a simple question you should ask yourself before you begin any social media program.
Show your business savvy on LinkedIn. You will want to create a professional profile on LinkedIn to connect with all the people you've professionally come into contact with over the years. You can network with each other, share professional advice, and even recruit new talent. LinkedIn is all about work and working your network of colleagues.
Speak up on Twitter. Twitter is the place where you can exhibit thought-leadership in your field with others who share similar interests, whether you know them or not. It's about having a voice in what you do, and paying attention to others who you admire. You can learn a lot about how to advance in your field of choice via Twitter.
Engage viewers on YouTube. For me, YouTube is all about pop culture. I use it to keep up with what's going on in entertainment, which happens to be important in my line of work. If video content is something that works in your field, then consider starting a YouTube channel to create content for your customers. You can then feature this video content in your other marketing as well.
Give Customers a place to be on Foursquare. Foursquare is location-based, allowing users to "check in" to share their whereabouts or to collect special offers from local businesses. If your business relies on traffic to thrive, then Foursquare could be a good vehicle to build it.
Look pretty on Pinterest. Many brands are now just wrapping their heads around how to use Pinterest. If your customers are visually oriented and if your business can be captured in images, then consider using Pinterest to represent what your brand is all about. You can also learn a lot about your customers by viewing their Pinterest boards as well.
This is just a sampling of the bigger social media sites, and there are certainly others without a doubt. I recommend that you start with these, and then move on to others as you expand your social media presence. It's important to use a few wisely and consistently, rather than racking up profiles that you don't really leverage with your customers.
Also remember that any of these sites can be an effective tool to learn about what motivates your customers and about what your competitors are doing to connect with them. All of them provide "free" market research 24/7, because they are where your customers are living their lives and sharing what moves them. Learn from them!
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Jim Joseph is the North American president of New York-based communications agency Cohn & Wolfe, part of the media company WPP Group PLC. He is the author of three books, including the latest, The Personal Experience Effect (Happy About 2013). Joseph also teaches marketing at New York University and blogs at JimJosephExp.com.