Some 70 percent of shoppers trust consumer opinions posted online. Facebook has more than 350 million users. By some estimates, Twitter will have 26 million users by the end of this year. And YouTube is the third most popular website on the Internet, bar none.
Social media cannot be ignored. It is just too pervasive, too ubiquitous. But from an ecommerce marketing standpoint, social media is often too little understood. The need for a clear explanation about what social media is and how to include it in your marketing was made clear to me last week, when Practical Ecommerce and HubSpot hosted a social media webinar. The event attracted dozens of questions before the broadcast and hundreds of questions during the presentation.
As I prepared for last week’s webinar, I read a new book, The Social Media Marketing Book, from Dan Zarrella, who is a marketing product owner at HubSpot, a Cambridge, Mass.-based provider of in-bound marketing applications and advice. The book provided a concise yet complete overview of the social media landscape and discussed specific marketing tactics for many popular social media sites, earning the text four out of a possible five stars in this, “The PEC Review“.
“The PEC Review” is my weekly column devoted to introducing you to the products or service that I believe can help you improve your ecommerce business. This week, I am going to encourage you to get The Social Media Marketing Book and invest about two hours to read it cover to cover.
Types of Social Media
This book was strongest when it described each type of social media, namely blogs, microblogging sites, social networks, media sharing sites, social news and bookmarking, rating and review sites, forums, and virtual worlds.
Zarrella includes enough history about each media form to provide context, describes the protocol for each in brief, and describes best practices and tactics (without labeling them as such) for each media type as he moves readers through this short book at a rapid pace.
Here is a specific example from the book’s section on microblogging.
“Retweets are the most powerful mechanisms for marketers on Twitter. If I tweet something, my followers will see it. If you are following me and you copy and paste what I’ve posted verbatim to your Twitter stream, your followers will see it, and one of them may also retweet it. This way, a message can spread virally through Twitter, reaching tens or hundreds of times as many people as it would if only a single person tweeted it… Because of the power of a retweet, I’ve done extensive research to understand what types of tweets get retweeted most often. “
Zarella goes on to describe when to post tweets for the best response, how to ask for a retweet, and what to include in a tweet to get more retweets.
In fact, in honor of some of Zarrella’s suggestions, I should tell you that you can find him on Twitter @danzarrella, where he would no doubt be pleased if you would consider retweeting his posts. In fact, if you want to do more retweeting, you can find my Practical Ecommerce-related tweets at @ecommerceboy, and you can find tweets from our sister site, Ecommerce Developer, at @ecomdeveloper.
Tools and Techniques
Marketers unfamiliar with social media often fear that effectively communicating with potential customers will be extremely time consuming, and, frankly, those fears are probably justified. But Zarrella offers dozens of suggestions about software and techniques that will streamline social media efforts and make having at least some presence possible for business of all sizes.
I liked that he listed these solutions, even when they might be competitive to the company he works for, HubSpot.
HubSpot’s Presence in the Book is a Great Example
I cannot review this book, without mentioning how it treats HubSpot.
When I first read the book, I got the impression that Zarrella was one of HubSpot’s founders, not because he said so and not because of any kind of a sales pitch within the book, but because of the subtle way that the book promoted HubSpot as an expert on the topics of social media and lead generation.
In fact, Zarrella is, as I mentioned above, a product marketing owner at HubSpot, not a founder. While that title is a little ambiguous—what exactly does a product marketing owner do?—it seems likely that Zarrella had HubSpot and promoting HubSpot in mind when writing this book.
I need to be clear, the book makes no pitch for HubSpot or HubSpot products, other than occasionally including the company in a list of solution providers or mentioning some of its work, but rather the book is a sterling example of social media marketing—or any story-based marketing—done well.
In the text, Zarrella often tells his readers to provide content that helps or interests the community. He does this both directly and by quote experts. Here is what he wrote in the section devoted to forums, “I asked Brett Tabke, founder of WebmasterWorld, one of the largest marketing communities on the web, how marketers should approach forums. His advice was to remember that you can only reach out to people who want to be reached, and that by serving the community rather than promoting your brand, you can earn its respect.”
In my opinion, Zarrella’s book is analogous to the good, community-focused content that is the backbone of social media marketing. He has written a helpful text that helps readers improve their social media wherewithal. The book, which again may be similar in purpose to a blog post, is then picked up by others, reviews are written about it, folks tweet about it (I have personally done so), those topics get retweeted, Zarrella’s blog gets hits, and all the while the credibility Zarrella’s book earns is transferred to both him personally and to HubSpot.
The Social Media Marketing Book is a very quick read, with a picture on nearly every other page. In truth, you can buy and read it in less than two hours, and be considerably better informed about social media. What’s more, the book is itself an example of how to be successful at social media marketing—provide good content and be part of the community.