By Carmina Perez


Last year we saw how social media evolved from being a cool site for kids to hang out at, to a major marketing tool for corporations to engage with their customers. Are you making full use of this new trend? Nowadays a big chunk of marketing plans should be dedicated to social media, so I’ve put together a list of questions to help you get started on that:

Online Social Networks
Are you active in at least one online social network (signing up alone doesn’t count!)? Selling is all about repetition – the more you connect with your customers — in a helpful, friendly way — the more they’ll think of you when they’re ready to buy the type of products you offer or refer you to a friend. Online social networks are perfect for this. These are some ways you could be using your networks:
• Facebook – update your wall & your status with comments, events and links of interest to your target market
• LinkedIn – showcase your talent in the “Answers” section, download your virtual resume, get testimonials
• Twitter – let others in your industry know when you attend conferences or networking events; comment on articles or breaking news
Make sure to also check out niche sites that fit closely with your brand, for example:
• A Small World – if you’re targeting the luxury market
• MiGente – if you’re targeting the Hispanic market
(For a more complete list visit this Wikipedia page)

Strategy: Schedule 15 minutes a day to participate in one or two sites of your choice.

Blogs are a great way to keep your community updated on your business/industry, plus they’re great for search engine optimization. Are you regularly updating your blog? How long has it been since you changed the widgets on your sidebar? Have you explored the different affiliate sales programs so you can sell complimentary products and receive commissions? Do you know what the best sources of ad revenue are for you, whether it’s joining an ad network or striking deals directly with advertisers?

Strategy: Enter at least 1-3 posts a week. Designate a special time or day to do this and stick to your schedule. Freshen up your blog’s sidebar once a month by adding a new poll, or widget or product announcement. Track your site’s analytics monthly (or more often if you have a special campaign going on) to see if there are ways to increase traffic/ad revenue.

Online Directories
Forget the phone book. The new online yellow pages offer you lots of space to add company info (including video), feature special promotions, offer discount coupons, and allow customers to engage with you by writing reviews and posting pictures. Users can also send a link with your information to a mobile phone, and this is important because mobile is the next new internet frontier. Are you on these local online directories?
Citysearch (basic package is $149/mo)
Yahoo local ($299/yr)
Google local, maps
Judy’s Book

Strategy: Get on as many of them as you can, especially the free ones! Also check if there’s any specifically targeting your industry, like if you’re a restaurant there’s, etc.

Collectively these actions will help you build your online reputation the way you want to, and you won’t have to wait around for the press to find you and write about you, when and if. The more you participate in social media, the more you’ll get out of it, it’s that simple. So start socializing!

Carmina Pérez is a writer, speaker and social media marketing consultant. She is a veteran of the financial services, television and internet industries, and a self-diagnosed “new media junkie”. In addition to writing on her blog, Mogulette-in-the-making, and helping companies implement the latest Web 2.0 tools, Carmina also offers workshops on emerging web technologies