Building Awareness Through Social Media Marketing

The awareness stage of the marketing funnel is where you introduce potential customers to your brand. You build awareness and encourage prospective customers to remember your brand name so that when they do make a purchase in the future, they include your brand in their consideration mix.

Typically, marketers use television, radio, print, and direct mail to build awareness. They also sponsor events, conduct promotions, and invest in product placements to get further exposure. Marketers also use public relations professionals to influence editorial content in magazines and newspapers.

In the digital realm, you typically create awareness using display advertising on major websites, paid searches for category-related keywords, and sponsorships across the web. Email marketing has been successful at building awareness. Historically, creating awareness online is a lot cheaper but without the same mass scale effect of a 30-second television spot.

Building Awareness Through Social Media Marketing

You can use social media marketing to build awareness of your brand, too. The reason is simple: As a marketer with a loyal customer base, you can encourage your customers to build your brand by talking about your product with their friends. Many a marketer has incentivized existing customers to tell their friends and families about their purchasing decisions. You aren’t the first. In fact, you can also reach out to expert influencers to help you here. One important consideration with using social media marketing at the awareness stage is whether your SMM efforts can give you the type of scale that you can get with television, radio, or print. For a long time, marketers believed that social media marketing couldn’t give that scale. That’s changing fast, thanks to the likes of Facebook, YouTube, Google, and Twitter. In fact, marketers now recognize that you can get as much scale and often much more efficiently as TV could in the past. Some brands are moving toward a digital-only model for all their marketing efforts as a result. Expert influencers are the people who are experts in a field and have large audiences.

Social Media Awareness Tactics

Here are some Social Media Marketing Tactics to consider for building awareness:

✓ Publish advertisements to YouTube and tag them with category terms

For example, if you’re publishing advertisements for orange juice on YouTube, use the tags orange, orangejuice, beverage, vitamin, and drink in addition to the brand name. Highlight these YouTube video clips on the corporate website, too. As you do this, first consider whether your advertisement is YouTube ready: Would people enjoy viewing it, would they share it, should it be longer, does it evoke strong emotion, and is it truly enjoyable?

✓ Nurture relationships with expert influencers, such as bloggers who publish content related to the specific product category you’re marketing

Take the time to share product samples with these influencers, answer their questions, and invite them to special events. If required, sponsor a post on an influential blog. These expert influencers build awareness for your brand.

✓ Set up a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account, and a LinkedIn profile

Run polls, offer special discounts, publish games, promote coupons, and give members of these pages or accounts product sneak peeks. Share entertaining and educational information through them. Boost that content with paid advertising so that it reaches the right people.

✓ Provide RSS feeds for content on the corporate website

An RSS feed is a content format that easily allows anyone to pluck the content from your site and place it on their website, application, or in an RSS reader. Google Reader is probably the most popular RSS reader today. Just visit www.google.com/reader for instructions on how to set it up. Then each time you see the RSS icon on a website, you can click it and have that content fed into your RSS reader on an ongoing basis. Also allow for the easy sharing of information from your corporate web- site onto the social networks. Services from companies like AddThis (www.addthis.com) and ShareThis (www.sharethis.com) allow you to make your content sharable.

✓ Allow new customers to broadcast their purchases to their social networks

Each time a customer makes a purchase, you can ask her whether she would like to announce the purchase on her favorite social network. Services like StrongView and ShareThis, along with Facebook Connect, allow you to set this capability up on your website for your customers. If you’re planning to broadcast customers’ purchases, be sure to ask the customers for permission to do this before you do.

✓ Leverage social ads

Because social ads are highly engaging — by virtue of the fact that they tell the customer what his friends are doing — they’re useful for building awareness and establishing consideration. For example, if a customer sees an endorsement from his friend in an ad unit for a movie, he is more likely to go for the movie. Also review the new social ad options from Facebook at (www.Facebook. com/advertising), which give you awareness-building opportunities at scale.

✓ Support a cause via a social network

Promise to match the contributions of participants who encourage friends to participate in the cause as well. Companies like Network for Good (http://www1.networkforgood.org/) help you run marketing campaigns that integrate cause marketing elements into them.