Social media marketing involves using social media sites as part of your online marketing strategy. Social media sites include Facebook, Twitter,\u00a0Pinterest,\u00a0LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ and other sites where people create profiles and interact with friends.\r\n\r\nSocial media platforms are often huge and they offer a great way to reach your target market, deliver your marketing message, and find out what your fans truly love. It\u2019s powerful as a research tool and as a customer service tool, it\u2019s not just \u00a0for \u00a0marketing. Remember no one goes onto a social site thinking I wonder what great offers are going to be selected for me today\u2026\r\nThere are two popular ways to use social media sites in your marketing\r\nOne is to post content or links to content on your social media profile such as blog posts, pictures, videos or any other multimedia.\r\n\r\nThe other method is to place ads on social media sites using their ad networks. Yes, you don\u2019t have to be a member of a social network to advertise on their site. That should come as a relief to businesses whose target market s on Facebook but don\u2019t actually want to be there themselves. This isn\u2019t the perfect solution but if you are active on other social media sites then it\u2019s fine. Use the ad network to drive people to the places you are active.\r\nWhat is Social Media Marketing Best Used for?\r\nAny business whatsoever can benefit from social media marketing, especially local businesses. Geographic features on social media sites make it particularly easy for people in your area to find your profile through searches. I love this aspect of Twitter, I can easily search for local people to talk to and follow.\r\n\r\nYou can offer deals and promotions through your profile that are exclusive to your fans. Using social media profiles this way is similar to using your\u00a0email list. You can increase their loyalty to your brand by offering exclusive bonuses and exclusive content, In Andy Sernowitz\u2019s book\u00a0Word of Mouth Marketing\u00a0he talks about creating exclusive content just for fans. Social media is a brilliant way of stoking your word of mouth marketing activity (and I recommend the book highly).\r\nThe Advantages of Social Media Marketing\r\nSocial media marketing allows you to interact directly with your customers and potential customers. It adds a personal touch to online communications that\u2019s unrivaled by other online marketing methods, when did you last feel welcome from a newspaper advertisement? When people feel like they can interact with you in a more direct way, it engenders loyalty and trust.\r\n\r\nUsing social media sites also allows you to reach a wider audience. You have access to not only your fans but your fans\u2019 friends. On sites like Facebook, whenever your fans interact with you, their friends see that interaction as well and we are all curious about of friends likes and dislikes, so more people get to know your business.\r\n\r\nBecause your customers can contact you easily through social media sites, you can get valuable feedback and learn more about your target market. You can look at your fans\u2019 profiles and find out what they\u2019re interested in. This is the kind of data that marketing firms have paid huge sums of money for in years gone by.\r\n\r\nYou also get SEO benefits by using these popular social sites. When optimised correctly your social profiles appear in search results. Social media sites give you an existing platform that already has millions of users.\r\nThe Disadvantages of Social Media\r\nTo use social media effectively requires constant maintenance. For each page or profile that you make, you\u2019ll need to set aside time for updating and interacting with your fans. For many small businesses, this quickly becomes a bit much to keep up with. Blatent plug, check out our social packages or give us a call. Blatent plug over.\r\n\r\nSince your social media profile isn\u2019t actually your own site, you have to abide by somebody else\u2019s rules. There are certain actions that can get you penalised or banned from social media sites. \u00a0Don\u2019t be a digital sharecropper.\r\n\r\nAnother drawback is that you don\u2019t have total control of your content. If someone leaves a nasty comment or insult in your blog comments, you can delete it. You can\u2019t do this on your Twitter feed. But before you break into a cold sweat, you can block people and you can respond politely to trolls \u2013 killing them with kindness is the only way. It\u2019s hard, but it\u2019s achievable.\r\nHow to Get the Most out of Social Media Marketing for your Business\r\nIt may sound like a lot of work monitoring your profiles, but it\u2019s well worth it. Many businesses find that it\u2019s a fun and enjoyable daily task.\r\n\r\nHere\u2019s how you can make social media marketing work for you:\r\n\r\n\tAlthough it may seem like a chore, sign up for each new social media site that pops up that may be appealing to your target market. You never know which might be the next Facebook.\r\n\tFocus on interactivity and engagement.\r\n\tTry to get your fans and followers engaged in your profile as much as possible.\r\n\tUse tools like widgets and plug-ins to make profile management easier and foster interactivity.\r\n\tConnect all of your social media sites by linking them together.\r\n\t\u00a0Include your website and blog as well.\r\n\r\nThe real key to success is to keep your involvement social. Don\u2019t create your profile and content and then wait for the fans and comments to roll in. Be proactive. Get out there and make friends. Comment on other people\u2019s profiles and join groups for increased visibility. This brands you as a friendly person with your own distinct personality that people will want to get to know better.