Social Media Marketing Tips from the Experts: Rick Burnes

January 25, 2010

Late last year, I sat in on a couple of social media marketing webinars from two of the best: Rick Burnes, Marketing Manager at HubSpot, and Chris Abraham of Abraham Harrison, along with Sally Falkow of Expansion Plus. Here are some of the key takeaways on using social media effectively. This post will review recommendations from Rick Burnes, while a follow-up post will present ideas from Chris and Sally.

Rick Burnes of HubSpotAccording to Rick, inbound marketing is a magnet, attracting new business to your enterprise. Outbound marketing is a sledgehammer, barraging prospects with advertising hoping they will form a positive association with your brand in exchange for interrupting what you are reading, watching or listening to. Outbound marketing can work, as it has in the past for big companies like McDonalds and P&G, but it’s very expensive (and intrusive). Contrast those brands with companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook, which have achieved success with very little advertising but great products and a broad online presence.

Rick divided inbound marketing into two areas, “attract” and “convert.” His formulas for these are:

Helpful web content + blogging tools +SEO +social media = attraction.

Well-designed landing pages + email newsletters/marketing + calls to action = conversion.

The cost of inbound marketing (PPC, SEO, email, blogs, social media) is significantly less than the cost of traditional outbound marketing. Publications (online and offline) have traditionally sold advertising space. But sites like Facebook, Twitter and Digg are essentially “social search engines” that enable prospective customers to find content recommended by their friends and peers, which is both much more powerful than advertising and much lower cost (at least direct cost, though creating great content does require resources). Rick noted at that time that 15% of HubSpot’s website traffic was driven by social media.

For those new to social media, Rick recommended staring by signing up on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, then working these online venues like a “cocktail party.” Find interesting conversions and join in, socially—being helpful, but not with a hard sell approach. Meet people, build relationships, ask and answer questions, build trust, and build a reputation for being knowledgeable and helpful. To start, listen. Then listen some more. Build some relationships. Then share content; this is what drives people back to your site and/or blog and generates referral traffic.

Tools: search for your company name, competitors and industry terms on Twitter to discover who’s talking and what’s being said. Google Blog search and Technorati are helpful blog search tools, and Google Reader is great for listening. Use keyword search on TwitterGrader and tools like MrTweet to find interesting Twitterers to follow. Revver was recommended for video sharing.

Develop a reputation by participating in Q&A though Facebook discussions, Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn Q&A and group discussions.

Social media sharing is not like advertising—it spreads across your social network and their followers. You probably already share great content, but when was the last time you “shared” an advertisement with anyone? Content that is not frequently shared includes product information, free trials and software documentation. Content that is shared includes new data and reports, amusing videos and useful blog posts.

For social media marketing, your blog is “ground zero.” This should be the focal point of social media efforts, but additional avenues for sharing great content include podcasts, videos, photos, presentations, eBooks and even social news releases. This is “marketing by publishing” rather than advertising. The type of content you develop and share should be what’s important to your audience, not just information about your products or services.

Conversion is the process of turning visitors into opportunities, opportunities into leads, and leads into customers. It’s accomplished by including calls to action everywhere (on your blog, at the end of videos, in news releases, etc.) with links to landing pages. An effective landing page has limited navigation; an incentive for response (e.g. a white paper, report or webinar registration); and a contact form, kept “above the fold” and as short as possible. In order to generate quality leads, it’s imperative to know your audience and write for them.

Success can be measured using tools like TwitterGrader, Facebook Grader and tracking referral sources through web analytics software such as Google Analytics. Succeeding in business with social media requires a constant stream of new content, which is why blogging and other forms of content creation are critical. Content can come from anywhere; for example, when answering a complex question from a colleague or customer, consider turning that answer into a blog post. Marketers need to look for opportunities to create content everywhere, developing a “content mindset.”

Advertising is high cost but requires a relatively low time commitment. Social media marketing is the opposite; there are few direct costs, but the time requirement is substantial.

Finally, social media marketing can be applied to virtually any industry; it’s a matter of searching to find out where your customers, prospects and industry influencers are congregating, then joining the conversation.

FTC Disclosure Notice: I have absolutely no financial relationship with HubSpot whatsoever, and have not been compensated for this post in any way—other than hopefully a few retweets.

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