I recently read an article about social media marketing titled Ten Myths About Social Networking for Business by Neal Rodriguez (which I recommend everyone should read).  The article brings up a lot of great points about myths surrounding social networking.  Rodriguez makes points on both ends of the spectrum with regards to myths that we still hear being perpetuated – all the way from social media providing no tangible benefits to social media being considered the be all end all of current day marketing.  Rodriguez offers a realistic view of the power of social media along with suggestions for taking steps to better your social media/networking strategy. 

One of the major points that I feel should be taken away from the article is that social media does have a position in the business world, but it is something that you need to find a place for in your overall marketing strategy.  Social media can provide a great variety of benefits through active engagement including building brand awareness, increasing customer loyalty/retention, serving as a medium for promotions, functioning as a way to manage customer feedback, and so on.  Sometimes with all of these benefits provided, many start to think that social media marketing is the only way to go.  Rodriguez cautions that social media should not replace real life networking and other marketing tools such as your website.  Like everything else in life, there needs to be a balance, and in this case it’s all about finding out how the social media element can be incorporated into your marketing strategy.

Another important point that was brought up in the article and I feel consistently comes up, is the topic of ROI with social media marketing – being able to truly track the value you are receiving from your social media campaign.  Relating social media activity back to ROI is something that a lot of businesses struggle with.  And to be honest, quite often it’s necessary to establish that you are receiving a ROI as a way to justify a social media campaign not only to others in your company, but also to yourself.  Tracking/monitoring your presence is a good start to measuring ROI (i.e.: search engine rankings, followers, active conversations, etc).  Also, conducting research to understand things such as brand awareness and customer loyalty (and how much was built through social media engagement) is another great way to track ROI.   One other suggestion is to conduct ongoing research with new customers to better understand why they chose your company – being able to relate any business to your strategy is an awesome feeling and can make it all worth it. 

One final point that I would like to add is that even though many people will lay out strategies, there really is no standard social media plan for a company.  Like any other marketing strategy, understanding that it will need to constantly evolve and be refined is the key.  The overall goal should be to find out how social media operates within your industry and more specifically how it needs to function at your individual business.  Honing your social media marketing plan can be a timely investment, but it can also serve as a great learning experience. Engaging with your customers (and even other industry experts) can provide an endless amount of benefits to your business.