As a marketer, you may feel as though you are a dog chasing your tail at times, as big marketing fads come and go. Once thought to be just another marketing fad, social networking has really hit its stride for the marketing industry. As social networking giants have established their roots, it is now clear that social marketing is here to stay. Therefore, what does this mean for marketers or more importantly, what does it mean for a small business owner or new start-up looking to use social marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy? Essentially, it means that small businesses, new start-ups and marketing professionals need to learn how to effectively use social media to their advantage.

The most broadly accepted application of social media for marketing purposes is currently through inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is a form of marketing that provides value to prospects in order to nurture and build relationships that will ultimately increase traffic and sales. This form of marketing is done by providing valuable content on websites that can then be shared via social networks. Inbound marketing is typically how businesses enter into the viral marketing realm.

So how can you hit your stride in terms of inbound marketing through social networks? Social marketing is all about establishing relationships and nurturing sales leads. In order to establish relationships, you will need to be a real person on your social networking websites. Don’t try to sell people on social media. It is important that you check your sales hat at the door before entering into the social marketing realm. Instead, you need to think about what people would want to hear from a business they are following on their social networks. Share useful content that people will benefit from directly. For example, if you run a small fashion boutique, give fashion tips for the season or for social events that are coming up. Maybe you have written a blog post about it on your website and posted a YouTube video within the blog post that demonstrates how to apply the tips in a fun way. Share these links on your social networking sites and you’ll see your efforts enter the viral marketing realm. You will also increase traffic to your website. This is what inbound marketing is all about. While everything you share might not enter the viral marketing realm, it will inevitably generate a buzz, however small, around your business. As long as you skip the hard selling approach and meet people on a personal level, you’ll surely hit your stride in social marketing.

Stop chasing your tail. It looks silly when your dog does it and it looks silly when a business chases after every trend that comes along. Pick your social networks selectively. What works for one business may not work for your small business or start-up. Consider what demographic is targeted for a particular social network. Will your target demographic be using this social network or will you be wasting your time? These are all things you need to consider when establishing your social marketing and overall inbound marketing strategy as a start-up or even as a well-established small business.