Learner Audience: This page is for community college students in an online marketing and social media course in the business department. The concept is "inbound marketing" - the tools and techniques businesses can use to increase traffic to and conversions of visitors to customers on their websites. Concept map of inbound marketing tools for business website or blog- Search & Content, Media Sharing and Social Platforms Google AdWords - keyword tool for searching popular keywords Link to a tutorial on what is YouTube and how to use it. Link to video on Social Networking in Plain English by Common Craft.

What is Inbound Marketing?

As of October 2011, 10.12 billion web pages have been indexed by search engines. That’s a lot of competition for your customers' attention, so every tool you use to direct your customers to your business site is extremely valuable. Only after your customers have found you, can you then ask them to “take an action."

All of the things you create as part of your website or as part of the marketing mix- videos, blogs, photographs, webinars, white papers, ebooks, podcasts and so on - are all considered web content.

The things you publish to platforms that are off of your own site - Facebook pages, your Twitter stream, your LinkedIn group page or personal profile - are all forms of content too. They create what are called inbound marketing channels- digital paths and portals that brings potential customers to your main site.

Inbound marketing contrasts with traditional outbound marketing, in which businesses push their messages at consumers. With techniques that include direct mail, telemarketing and trade shows, outbound marketing has become less effective over time as buyers have behaviorally and technologically (e.g., TIVO, spam filters, ‘do not-call’ lists) tuned these interruptive campaigns out.

Search Engines & Content Sharing

Your customers read blogs, they google purchases and they ask friends on Facebook and Twitter about products, services and businesses. What is the best content for marketing? Relevant valuable information that attracts people to a business and ultimately converts visitors and browsers into buyers. The main point of your online marketing efforts is to convert visitors into buying customers and loyal fans.  The term “conversions” is used over and over again in online marketing circles and is an important measure of how successful your marketing tactics are. In addition, by repeatedly and consistently creating content that your audience cares about and wants to share freely with their friends, colleagues or groups, your company becomes known not just as a seller of stuff, but as a trusted source of information. 

Overwhelmingly, customers depend on search engines to help them shop online or research information about products and services. What you create online will be searchable indefinitely. It generates Web traffic via search and social media links and is one of the most direct lines to sales and customer loyalty.

Social Media Platforms & networking

In less than ten years, social media has revolutionized our communication culture as well as how we do business. Social destinations such as Facebook, and Twitter allow for 24-hour access to people and information. In addition, social media levels the playing field by allowing anyone access to opportunities on the Web, without restrictions on time, location or social status.

Social media content has to be bigger than a single person or organization. Writing about just you or your organization may keep the search engines happy, but it will bore readers to tears. Businesses must make answer their customers’ questions like “What’s in it for me?” “Why should I care about your organization or company?” First and foremost, businesses must deliver value to readers or visitors. They should think of how to improve lives not by simply selling a product or service, but by talking about it in a way that has an impact. Content does not have to be deeply profound but should provide a reason for someone to stay and listen to your company message. Create value for customers via the content posted in social media and make it relevant to them, not your organization.

Media Sharing

Probably one of the most important reasons that social media works as a marketing tool is because it’s fun. People want to go where they feel they belong, have a voice, are listened to, can create things and enjoy themselves. Businesses need to be where their target markets are, and these days the masses are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Photobucket, Flickr, YouTube, and more. Why? Because these channels and media outlets are fun, informative and entertaining.

Media sharing sites and tools allow users to create and upload multimedia content. This kind of content is sometimes called “user-generated content” or UGC. With the increase in easy-to-use digital cameras and camcorders as well as the availability of free or inexpensive audio and visual creation tools, media sharing sites have become extremely popular. Businesses, organizations and consumers can create multimedia content with very little expertise and upload the content to sharing sites that reach millions of users.
General categories of the types of digital media sites used regularly by businesses and consumers include video/multimedia sharing, photo sharing and audio/podcasting sites. While these sites cover a wide range of media types, there are many features that are present on all of them that content creators should take advantage of if they want to be found by their audience.