With the popularity of social networking, sites like Facebook and Twitter are shaping a new way to communicate to the buying public. Today’s ever-evolving online technology is a major contemporary force for connecting with your target audience.
According to Forrester Research (2007), approximately two-thirds of all North American youth use social networking sites daily, while about one-third of North American adults use at least one once a month.
What’s more, it is estimated that in 2006, marketers spent about $280 million on advertising and marketing on social network sites in the U.S. In 2010, that number is projected to reach $1,860,000 (www.emarketer.com).
So how does your company successfully initiative a social networking marketing campaign? Here are five ways to fire up your online community.
1. Understand your target community and what inspires them
Just like any traditional marketing campaign, make sure you first understand your core audience—what motivates them to buy, what they look for in products and services and how they purchase. Knowing your community’s needs and how to meet them will allow you to build a healthy rapport with your new “friends.”
2. Create a measurable value
What will your audience get if they become a part of your social networking community? Is it unlimited access to educational information? A chance to win a free kitchen remodel, or the ability to create their own customizable house online? Whatever the benefit, make it clear and easily accessible.
3. Promote through multiple marketing channels
Just like conventional marketing campaigns, use various channels and mediums to enhance the visibility of your new community. Microsites, e-newsletters, e-mail marketing campaigns and advertisements are excellent ways to increase visibility, solicit engagement and encourage participation in your community.
4. Foster member interaction
The highest aspiration derived from social networking sites is the trust built between community members. Ensure that your online community allows users to interact with one another. The more members participate with you and each other, the more brand awareness and word-of-mouth marketing your social networking campaign creates.
5. Participate in your community

You not only want to encourage member discussion, but your team should join in on the conversation too. Your online friends like to know that when they talk, someone is listening. Companies that respond to their members have the best chance of securing a loyal member/consumer base. Interact with them and recognize them as a valuable part of your business.
It’s imperative that today’s forward-thinking companies look to the internet for their marketing campaigns. What’s more, as the younger generations age, social networking will only increase in popularity. Learning now how to better connect with customers online will help pave the way for your company’s success in the years to come.