Online marketing means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The biggest vehicles out there for online marketing are Google, Facebook and Twitter. I was once in a meeting with a guy that owned an AC company and he said probably the most honest statement I ever heard. 

"I keep hearing everyone talk about this social media. I don't know what it is but I am pretty sure I need to do something in regards to it. Can you help me?" 

I am going to attempt to condense the basics into this blog post but the most important thing to know is that you need to have several discussions about this before you start. You need to really plan your strategy and once that is done I recommend implementing with the help of a trusted partner.  

What you shouldn't do
  • Static Pages: Create a Twitter or FB Page that has no activity. This is probably more harmful than not having a social media presence at all. People that see pages that are just sitting there think, "this organization is lame, they don't have their stuff together, and they certainly don't understand young people.' As in all things in life I can speak confidently about this because I have made this grave mistake before. Don't be like me, learn from my mistakes!
  • Full-time Staff: Everyone has a dream of getting paid to be on FB, Twitter and Google + all day. And although it sounds cool it's like saying you would love to get paid to go shopping every day. I'm sure some jerkface out there has that job but we are not in fantasy land. If you do decide to get on these social media sites you do have to have someone dedicated to keeping it active but they don't have to be full time. Especially if you are a small business or non-profit you can have it be part of someone else's job. By the time you get to the point where you need to hire someone full time that means your organization is getting big and that is a good thing! 
  • The Bombardment: This one is specifically for the social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, and Google +). There is such a thing has too much content. If you are posting something every hour on the hour chances are you are going to get your feed hidden, unfriended or unfollowed. You need to have content regularly, not to the point where people want to hide from your page.
  • Manage Separately: One of the big problems with SM is that there are so many that you are constantly having to log in and out of each one just to keep them updated. Don't do this. Use a tool that acts like a dashboard so you can monitor it all and update it all at the same time. An example of the one I use for this is below. Hootsuite lets me see my FB and Twitter all in one panel. It doesn't include Google + which is a negative for me but I like what it does otherwise. 

I am now going to give you a 50 mile high overview of the "big 3" online marketers and how you need to interact with them. 

The first thing I would advise people on when creating a Facebook strategy is that Facebook is a community tool. People don't go on Facebook to shop; they go to experience community..............and sometimes spy on everyone around them. The key thing to remember here is that if you are going to create a Facebook page you have to have fresh content. Creating a community is no easy task and so you have to make it to where people want to be engaged with you on the page. Some of the more creative things I have seen done are contests for prizes, games, and relevant articles. Believe it or not the one that I saw the most positive comments on was a "riddle of the week." We did this at the last start-up I was at and when we stopped we had several Facebook friends outraged that we took away their favorite part of the week. You get the point. Ok eSamaritans, tell us some cool ways you have kept your content fresh?!

There are people that are on Twitter but not on Facebook and the other way around. I used to think that Twitter wasn't the best place to promoted your organization until my last job. We had an AC customer that told me he had gotten his largest air conditioning sale for the past two years on Twitter. For the record that is about $10K for a sale of that kind. That is when I knew that as usual, I was wrong about something :-) The one thing I will say is that if you are going to be updating both Twitter and FB you need to setup your account so that when you make a tweet it automatically updates Facebook as well. 

Google Adwords (Google Advertising)
For those of you that don't realize this let me just tell you, Google is an advertising JUGGERNAUT! Every time you google a phrase there are normally between 1 to 3 choices in a very light beige color at the top of the search. On the top right it says "ads." Each of the companies listed in this part of the search are paying google for every single click to their site from that ad. This is a billion dollar industry of people just paying for words!!! Ok, how does this apply to you? I used to work for a company that managed this type of PPC (pay per click) advertising for clients, mostly AC and plumbers. These guys would pay tens of thousands of dollars per month so their ads would come up in those top 3 spots for the products they were selling. If you are a DIY person you can figure out how to do it but I have to warn you, its pretty difficult. For those that don't have that kind of time or patience I recommend that you pay a vendor to handle this for you. The two biggest vendors out there are below:

This industry is pretty dirty if you ask me but the good news is that its pretty easy to judge your vendor. If your business phone isn't ringing then they aren't doing a good job and you need to fire them and find someone else to do your google advertising. 

Note: There are other search engines out there like Bing and Yahoo but to be completely honest you really just want to advertise on Google. They own so much of the search engine market that it's pretty much wasting your money to advertise on the other two. Just my two cents.