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Once upon a time, all you needed to start your web-based business was to put up a website, create an online store, buy some Google ads and then sit back and watch the money come in. But E-Commerce has been evolving. Current E-Commerce tools like SEO and Pay-Per-Click advertising are no longer delivering the bang they once did, so online merchants have been looking at alternatives for building their businesses. Then something wonderful happened. Social marketing technologies exploded on the scene and better, much of it was freely available for anyone to use. Terms like word of mouth, grass roots, and viral marketing have begun to buzz in the halls of businesses all over, yet there is often much confusion about what the core elements of social marketing are. More importantly, how can the online merchant take advantage of these alternatives without breaking the bank in the process? Here are my top social marketing initiatives … all free … all powerful … to help drive your business. 1) Create an online community. Why is an online community important for E-Commerce? It allows a company to utilize their customers as evangelists; enlisting them to advocate your brand to potential customers. Additionally, this expands your ability to engage with existing or potential customers. For example, take a look at a case study put together by Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) about how customer recommendations influence buying products and services. Myspace offer online networking and Paltalk offers free, on-site communal chat rooms that can include webcam chat. 2) Stay abreast of your category by subscribing to Google Alerts. This is a totally free service that allows a business owner to track trends in their industry. Simply list which keywords you are interested in, and Google will send you news, blogs, web pages, etc…that include those words. Why is this important? It’s because social marketing is about participating in the conversation. Once you see which articles and reporters are relevant to your category, you can participate – and in a meaningful way. 3) Deploy a Customer Feedback platform E-merchants can also take advantage of free customer feedback platforms. One such platform is UserTrust offered by Comodo, a leading provider in online verification and security infrastructure services. UserTrust is a free tool which allows online merchants to gather customer feedback. Just as important, site visitors can see other user’s real experiences. These testimonials provide one of the most powerful social marketing technologies available on the market. 4) Utilize free digital PR In order to create additional SEO rich content, online merchants can create press releases and distribute them using free digital PR sites such as i-Newswire.com, PR-inside.com, PRLog.org, Free-Press-Release.com and 24-7pressrelease.com. Don’t be intimidated to write these releases yourself – they need not be brilliant works of literary art. Your press releases should reflect news that your customers or prospects care about (even if the NYTimes will not). You can announce a new product or a big customer win or even a great review. The point is that this tactic is mainly about driving improved SEO rankings and ultimately traffic to your site. 5) Blog it Creating and regularly posting on a blog is another good way to increase SEO value. Wordpress.com is a free platform that lets users quickly and easily create a blog. 6) "Birds of a feather" affinity marketing It’s useful to know what your customer profile looks like, not to mention those of your competitors. Quantcast is a free service that gives you a demographic profile of a website’s visitors. Their reports also include a fair amount of detail on what your audience likes and even other sites they visit. This information can be invaluable in helping businesses identify opportunities. E-Commerce is evolving, and online businesses will need to adapt to these new realities. But this does not have to be an expensive or complicated undertaking. There are plenty of ways which online merchants can take advantage of these new trends at little or no cost to their business. These changes should be embraced, not feared, because they offer e-merchants new and exciting ways to success.
Judy Shapiro is an industry veteran with deep marketing and sales experience in the technology segment. Prior to Paltalk, she held senior level positions at Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, and AT&T.In addition, Judy spent 7 years at NWAyer as VP, Account Supervisor managing key accounts including JCPenney and AT&T.This blend of client and agency experience drives her passion in uncovering new marketing technologies and understanding their value to drive business results.Her blog, http://trenchwars.wordpress.com provides insights on how to create business value on the Internet.View Judy Shapiro`s profile for more