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Understanding the Role of Social Media in Marketing.

These days, everyone from small business owners to some of the biggest companies in the world is using social media to spread the word about their brands, products, and services.

Whether it's Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, companies use these low-cost tools to combine technology and social interaction with the use of words, images, and video. Social media gives marketers a voice and a way to communicate with peers, customers, and potential consumers. It personalizes your brand and helps you to spread your message in a relaxed and conversational way.

The downfall of social media, if you could call it that, is that it must be a part of your everyday life to keep the momentum and attention you need for it to be successful. Let's look at who is using social media to promote their brand—and what you can learn from them.

Companies That Use Social Media

Here are just a few examples of brands you may have seen actively using social media:

  • Absolut Vodka: The popular vodka brand has used online videos on YouTube and hosted bartender fan pages on Facebook.
  • BMW: The iconic car brand has turned to Facebook to promote its 1-Series Road Trip and created a Bimmerfest Page for fans.
  • Dunkin' (formerly Dunkin' Donuts): The ubiquitous doughnut brand is now everywhere online, with its microblogging Twitter account and National Donut Day social media blasts.

The Benefits of Social Media Marketing

What role should social media play in your marketing? Marketing is a tool we use to inform consumers about our products, who we are, and what we offer. Social media accomplishes all of these goals. Here's how:

  1. You can use social media to define your brand identity and the products or services that you offer.
  2. Social media allows you to create relationships with people who might not otherwise know about your products and services or what your company represents.
  3. Social media can make you "real" to consumers. If you want people to follow you, don't just talk about the latest product news, but share your personality with them.
  4. You can use social media to associate yourself with peers that may be serving the same target market.
  5. Social media makes it easy to communicate and provide the interaction that consumers look for.

How to Use Social Media for Your Marketing

Social media clearly carries a lot of potential value for your business. But gaining that value isn't guaranteed unless you do it right. Here are a few tips:

  1. You cannot just depend on social media; you must integrate it with other vehicles of marketing. While social media will create awareness, it won't usually help you sell $1 million worth of products right out of the gate. That's not to say that it can't one day, once you've built up your social media "stardom," but it probably won't happen tomorrow.
  2. Be yourself and reflect your personality. There are no written right or wrong rules when it comes to social media. Only you can determine what will work for you and fits your brand.
  3. Be consistent. Social media requires ongoing engagement. If you don't plan on being consistent, don't do it at all.

Social media success stories are abundant, from headhunters that find job applicants to new businesses that want to introduce a new product, as well as established Fortune 500 companies that want to strengthen their brand.