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If you're trying to build up traffic to your website, one great piece of the puzzle is leveraging social media to market to your audience. Everywhere you go nowadays you probably see FaceBook likes, Twitter tweets, and Google+ +'s and there's a good reason for that.

Word of mouth is a great form of advertising, and with todays social media networks and heavy social media usage from users, it can also be a cheap and reliable way to bring much needed traffic to your website.

What is Social Media Marketing?

Put simply, Social Media Marketing also called SMM is just the process of getting your business or website noticed without actually using your website, but instead using social media networks to create an audience.

Social media networks account for the largest percent of where people spend their online time now, and when you bring mobile into the mix the numbers get even higher. So for your business or website to capitalize on all of those eyeballs, you need to have a social media presence.

Spread information quickly

If you happen to have some great content about a new chocolate chip cookie recipe sitting on your website. Unless you have a popular website that thousands of people are coming to on a daily basis, chances are you aren't going to have a thousand people view that recipe in a short time-span.

However if your business has a few hundred FaceBook friends or likes, some Twitter followers, and a Google+ account receiving tons of +'s, the chances to reach a thousand people grows greatly.

Brand awareness and protection

If you just have a website on the Internet, people aren't going to know about your brand and business right away. Using social media networks is a great way to help build up some brand awareness and get your name out in front of your competitors.

Popular online review sites like FourSquare and Yelp! are also considered social media networks, and companies that stay on top of their social complaints can help minimize bad press and use positive reviews as a marketing tool.

Increase organic search engine traffic

With the search giant Google heavily integrating their Google Authorship with Google+, this means over time, social media signals will carry more and more weight when determining the search engine ranking of your website.

I got to witness this first hand when I wrote about the large WordPress brute force attack that happened back in April 2013. To this day I still get organic search engine traffic to that article and a large part of that has to do with me reaching out on various social networks trying to help people that were having those issues.

So Google is starting to view content linked to from my Google+ account as more authorative on the subject then just some random person writing about WordPress for the first time.

What Social Media networks should I use?

Everyones needs are going to be different, and each social network has certain advantages and disadvantages, so it's really important to find out which social media network works best for your business.

For instance if you wanted to post videos about your business, the obvious choice would probably be YouTube. Where as if you're constantly posting large infographics, then Pinterest would probably be your go to network.

I would typically recommend creating an account on each social media network, and then using your own judgement as to which platform is easiest to work with, and seems to generate the most amount of interest back to your website.

Here are some social media networks with more than 100 Million active users:

Social Network Registered Users Active Users Launch Date Last Update
FaceBook 1+ Billion 1 Billion 2/2004 9/2013
Google+ 540+ Million 300 Million 6/2011 10/2013
Twitter 500+ Million 200+ Million 3/2006 12/2012
LinkedIn 225+ Million 160 Mllion 5/2003 6/2013
Instagram 100+ Million 100 Million 10/2010 5/2013

Here are some other popular ones I don't have great stats for:

Social Network Active Users
YouTube ~800 million
Yelp > 100 Million (1/2013)
Pinterest ~48.7 - 70 Million
FourSquare 7 Million (2/2011)

I wouldn't recommend picking any Social Media networks strictly based off the number of active users, but it is good information to understand as to where the largest audiences are at.

How should I use Social Media?

Depending on the type of business or website that you have, your social media strategy might look very different.

One of the biggest key challenges of social media is getting a following in the first place. That way when you do share great content, you have a large audience just waiting to like and share your content even further.

Be social

There are a lot of tactics for building your social media following, but the underlying principle above all else should be keeping in mind that this is social activity.

A lot of businesses will start out on social media, and just expect that when they post something about a new product or a new feature of their website, that people will want to interact with it. Then when people don't start flying in, they'll write off social media as something that doesn't work for driving traffic.

People interacting with your business over social media often want a human interaction. These days on the Internet we are inundated with tons of ads and ways for companies to grab our short attention spans, so most people using social media are looking to get away from being blanket advertised to.

Don't blanket advertise

If your company sells cookie recipes, don't just start a Twitter account and keep blasting the same tweet again and again of If you want to buy cookie recipes, come to us now!

In the real world you might equate this to me standing at the entrace of a grocery store, and telling every single person that walks by that I have cookies for sale on aisle 4. This is great information that they need to know right?

But instead you're actually sitting on the highway at the entrance to your city and stopping and telling everyone cookies are on aisle 4, regardless of if the person was even contemplating a trip to the grocery store.

It doesn't take much for someone to hit that un-follow button, and now that's one less follower you have that didn't want to hear all the noise about cookies you're flooding thier social stream with.

Do listen for potential ways to advertise

So your cookie recipies selling company now has a descent following, and you're looking for a way to attract people to go buy your recipes.

You notice that someone complained about another recipe company not having any good cookie recipies, and in this social context it's perfectly reasonable as humans for us to step into this conversation and say to the original poster we've got great cookie recipes, here's a discount code if you find any you like: 15%OFF.

In just a few words you've let this person become aware of your brand, also you're listening for wants, and on top of all that you're so stoked about turning them onto your great product you'll give them a discount to prove it!

Back in the real world this would be the same as standing in the cookie aisle or maybe the cooking aisle, waiting for someone to come down the aisle that is clearly set on making some cookies, and then pointing them at exactly the product they should buy, and oh by the way have a coupon!

These one-to-one type interactions are by far one of the greatest purchase motivators, since we as humans are much more likely to take a personal recommendation over a blanket advertisement aimed at everyone.

Social Media tools to make life easier

It won't be very apparent when you start to build your social networks, but there will become a time when all of the sudden you realize, wow there is a ton of information and things happening, I can't keep track of it all.

That's when some awesome Social Media tools can come to the rescue. Here I'm not going to cover in great detail each one, but just link you to some cool useful ones that a lot of people currently use to manage social.

Tool Name Supported Networks
HootSuite Faceboook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, WordPress, Mixi, Apps Directory
SproutSocial Faceboook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn
Buffer Faceboook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, app.net
TweetDeck Twitter
SocialBro Twitter

Hopefully you now have a basic understanding of what social media marketing can accomplish for your business or website. Really the best way to get into social networking is just start interacting with people and try to be genuinely helpful. Once enough people know that you're a good source of information, they'll keep coming back to you for more!

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