Determine who your main online competitors are. Research how they work, how they market and how big of a market share you believe they have. Sign up for e-newsletters, research their press releases and determine the strengths and weaknesses of each online competitor. You may even need to purchase something from them in order to understand how they complete their sales process.

After that, you need to make a choice about how to construct an online presence that helps you achieve that goal and create corresponding a marketing strategy for these channels. Maybe you need to set up an e-commerce site. If you’re interested in blogging to drive awareness and subscribers, look into setting up a blog and strategize on how to create great content that would encourage sharing on social media channels. Partnering with a customer that is willing to evangelize your business by creating a case study or infographic can be powerful social proof as customers are evaluating your company. A simple website or landing page with a lead capture form can help you start developing your brand and generating traffic. A basic analytics platform (like Google Analytics, which is free) can help you start to measure how you are tracking your marketing efforts towards your initial goal.


Social media itself is a catch-all term for sites that may provide radically different social actions. For instance, Twitter is a social site designed to let people share short messages or “updates” with others. Facebook, in contrast is a full-blown social networking site that allows for sharing updates, photos, joining events and a variety of other activities.
Social networking websites allow individuals, businesses and other organizations to interact with one another and build relationships and communities online. When companies join these social channels, consumers can interact with them directly.[3] That interaction can be more personal to users than traditional methods of outbound marketing and advertising.[4] Social networking sites act as word of mouth or more precisely, e-word of mouth. The Internet's ability to reach billions across the globe has given online word of mouth a powerful voice and far reach. The ability to rapidly change buying patterns and product or service acquisition and activity to a growing number of consumers is defined as an influence network.[5] Social networking sites and blogs allow followers to "retweet" or "repost" comments made by others about a product being promoted, which occurs quite frequently on some social media sites.[6] By repeating the message, the user's connections are able to see the message, therefore reaching more people. Because the information about the product is being put out there and is getting repeated, more traffic is brought to the product/company.[4]
Engagement with the social web means that customers and stakeholders are active participants rather than passive viewers. An example of these are consumer advocacy groups and groups that criticize companies (e.g., lobby groups or advocacy organizations). Social media use in a business or political context allows all consumers/citizens to express and share an opinion about a company's products, services, business practices, or a government's actions. Each participating customer, non-customer, or citizen who is participating online via social media becomes a part of the marketing department (or a challenge to the marketing effort). Whereas as other customers read their positive or negative comments or reviews. Getting consumers, potential consumers or citizens to be engaged online is fundamental to successful social media marketing.[20] With the advent of social media marketing, it has become increasingly important to gain customer interest in products and services. This can eventually be translated into buying behavior, or voting and donating behavior in a political context. New online marketing concepts of engagement and loyalty have emerged which aim to build customer participation and brand reputation.[21]

Small businesses also use social networking sites to develop their own market research on new products and services. By encouraging their customers to give feedback on new product ideas, businesses can gain valuable insights on whether a product may be accepted by their target market enough to merit full production, or not. In addition, customers will feel the company has engaged them in the process of co-creation—the process in which the business uses customer feedback to create or modify a product or service the filling a need of the target market. Such feedback can present in various forms, such as surveys, contests, polls, etc.


In May 2014, Instagram had over 200 million users. The user engagement rate of Instagram was 15 times higher than of Facebook and 25 times higher than that of Twitter.[50] According to Scott Galloway, the founder of L2 and a professor of marketing at New York University's Stern School of Business, latest studies estimate that 93% of prestige brands have an active presence on Instagram and include it in their marketing mix.[51] When it comes to brands and businesses, Instagram's goal is to help companies to reach their respective audiences through captivating imagery in a rich, visual environment.[52] Moreover, Instagram provides a platform where user and company can communicate publicly and directly, making itself an ideal platform for companies to connect with their current and potential customers.[53]
As the number of sites on the Web increased in the mid-to-late 1990s, search engines started appearing to help people find information quickly. Search engines developed business models to finance their services, such as pay per click programs offered by Open Text[7] in 1996 and then Goto.com[8] in 1998. Goto.com later changed its name[9] to Overture in 2001, was purchased by Yahoo! in 2003, and now offers paid search opportunities for advertisers through Yahoo! Search Marketing. Google also began to offer advertisements on search results pages in 2000 through the Google AdWords program. By 2007, pay-per-click programs proved to be primary moneymakers[10] for search engines. In a market dominated by Google, in 2009 Yahoo! and Microsoft announced the intention to forge an alliance. The Yahoo! & Microsoft Search Alliance eventually received approval from regulators in the US and Europe in February 2010.[11]
Online marketing is the practice of leveraging web-based channels to spread a message about a company’s brand, products, or services to its potential customers. The methods and techniques used for online marketing include email, social media, display advertising, search engine optimization, Google AdWords and more. The objective of marketing is to reach potential customers through the channels where they spend their time reading, searching, shopping, and socializing online.
Social media marketing involves the use of social networks, consumer's online brand-related activities (COBRA) and electronic word of mouth (eWOM)[75][76] to successfully advertise online. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter provide advertisers with information about the likes and dislikes of their consumers.[61] This technique is crucial, as it provides the businesses with a "target audience".[61] With social networks, information relevant to the user's likes is available to businesses; who then advertise accordingly. Activities such as uploading a picture of your "new Converse sneakers to Facebook[75]" is an example of a COBRA.[75][76] Electronic recommendations and appraisals are a convenient manner to have a product promoted via "consumer-to-consumer interactions.[75] An example of eWOM would be an online hotel review;[77] the hotel company can have two possible outcomes based on their service. A good service would result in a positive review which gets the hotel free advertising via social media. However, a poor service will result in a negative consumer review which can potentially harm the company's reputation[78].
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More than three billion people in the world are active on the Internet. Over the years, the Internet has continually gained more and more users, jumping from 738 million in 2000 all the way to 3.2 billion in 2015.[9] Roughly 81% of the current population in the United States has some type of social media profile that they engage with frequently.[10] Mobile phone usage is beneficial for social media marketing because of their web browsing capabilities which allow individuals immediate access to social networking sites. Mobile phones have altered the path-to-purchase process by allowing consumers to easily obtain pricing and product information in real time[11]. They have also allowed companies to constantly remind and update their followers. Many companies are now putting QR (Quick Response) codes along with products for individuals to access the company website or online services with their smart phones. Retailers use QR codes to facilitate consumer interaction with brands by linking the code to brand websites, promotions, product information, and any other mobile-enabled content. In addition, Real-time bidding use in the mobile advertising industry is high and rising due to its value for on-the-go web browsing. In 2012, Nexage, a provider of real time bidding in mobile advertising reported a 37% increase in revenue each month. Adfonic, another mobile advertisement publishing platform, reported an increase of 22 billion ad requests that same year.[12]

Another way search engine marketing is managed is by contextual advertising. Here marketers place ads on other sites or portals that carry information relevant to their products so that the ads jump into the circle of vision of browsers who are seeking information from those sites. A successful SEM plan is the approach to capture the relationships amongst information searchers, businesses, and search engines. Search engines were not important to some industries in the past, but over the past years the use of search engines for accessing information has become vital to increase business opportunities.[31] The use of SEM strategic tools for businesses such as tourism can attract potential consumers to view their products, but it could also pose various challenges.[32] These challenges could be the competition that companies face amongst their industry and other sources of information that could draw the attention of online consumers.[31] To assist the combat of challenges, the main objective for businesses applying SEM is to improve and maintain their ranking as high as possible on SERPs so that they can gain visibility. Therefore, search engines are adjusting and developing algorithms and the shifting criteria by which web pages are ranked sequentially to combat against search engine misuse and spamming, and to supply the most relevant information to searchers.[31] This could enhance the relationship amongst information searchers, businesses, and search engines by understanding the strategies of marketing to attract business.
Social networking websites are based on building virtual communities that allow consumers to express their needs, wants and values, online. Social media marketing then connects these consumers and audiences to businesses that share the same needs, wants, and values. Through social networking sites, companies can keep in touch with individual followers. This personal interaction can instill a feeling of loyalty into followers and potential customers. Also, by choosing whom to follow on these sites, products can reach a very narrow target audience.[4] Social networking sites also include much information about what products and services prospective clients might be interested in. Through the use of new semantic analysis technologies, marketers can detect buying signals, such as content shared by people and questions posted online. An understanding of buying signals can help sales people target relevant prospects and marketers run micro-targeted campaigns.
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Small businesses also use social networking sites as a promotional technique. Businesses can follow individuals social networking site uses in the local area and advertise specials and deals. These can be exclusive and in the form of "get a free drink with a copy of this tweet". This type of message encourages other locals to follow the business on the sites in order to obtain the promotional deal. In the process, the business is getting seen and promoting itself (brand visibility).

Search engine optimization consultants expanded their offerings to help businesses learn about and use the advertising opportunities offered by search engines, and new agencies focusing primarily upon marketing and advertising through search engines emerged. The term "search engine marketing" was popularized by Danny Sullivan in 2001[12] to cover the spectrum of activities involved in performing SEO, managing paid listings at the search engines, submitting sites to directories, and developing online marketing strategies for businesses, organizations, and individuals.
The code of ethics that is affiliated with traditional marketing can also be applied to social media. However, with social media being so personal and international, there is another list of complications and challenges that come along with being ethical online. With the invention of social media, the marketer no longer has to focus solely on the basic demographics and psychographics given from television and magazines, but now they can see what consumers like to hear from advertisers, how they engage online, and what their needs and wants are.[101] The general concept of being ethical while marking on social network sites is to be honest with the intentions of the campaign, avoid false advertising, be aware of user privacy conditions (which means not using consumers' private information for gain), respect the dignity of persons in the shared online community, and claim responsibility for any mistakes or mishaps that are results of your marketing campaign.[102] Most social network marketers use websites like Facebook and MySpace to try to drive traffic to another website.[103] While it is ethical to use social networking websites to spread a message to people who are genuinely interested, many people game the system with auto-friend adding programs and spam messages and bulletins. Social networking websites are becoming wise to these practices, however, and are effectively weeding out and banning offenders.
Learn the introductory theory and strategy behind marketing analytics that provides marketers with the foundation needed to apply data analytics to real-world challenges they confront daily in their professional lives. This course is part of the iMBA offered by the University of Illinois, a flexible, fully-accredited online MBA at an incredibly competitive price. For more information, please see the Resource page in this course and onlinemba.illinois.edu.
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