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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is the founder of Location Based Strategy, LLC a Boston-based consulting company dedicated to bringing the power of location-based marketing to companies and brands.

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Social media marketing is hot hot hot. While the disjointed components have risen and fallien with the VC tide for some time now, a coherent roadmap is emerging for marketing a brand, product or service via social media. No longer just a fad for college kids or a way to virally promote your fart app, social media is emerging as a powerful and rapidly growing low-cost, high-reward force for driving sales.  The price tag is appealing and there is no barrier to entry.

With billions now being bet by the major players on the need for brands to have a mobile ad strategy, social media has evolved in the wings from a nice-to-have to a must-have for every company that sells anything. From a local pizza joint to a consumer packaged goods goliath, the power of human interaction to spread a marketing message though trusted social networks at very low cost is suddenly here (and increasingly measurable).

When did this shift occur? I am not sure, but something clicked into place in the opening months of 2010. Maybe it was Google buying Admob or Apple grabbing Quattro or the first real cold beer handed out for a virtual Foursquare Mayor’s badge, or some combination of forces. Regardless, mobile marketing seems to have finally broken through and social media is at the tip of this spear.

Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. Yelp. WordPress. YouTube. Foursquare. Gowalla. Myspace. Constant Contact. These are not fads. They are content-generating warp drives that harness the aggregated power of specific, personal product and service interactions distributed by a trusted collective of consumers who all opt in to play a role.

Brands can no longer just pitch the merits of their product at consumers. Push is out, pull is in. Consumers want verified, trusted information from people like themselves and know where to find it. They want it stamped as trustworthy and valid not by some pitch-team that dreamed up the slogan at a corporate offsite, but by the members of a social network that they can literally see, and that they chose to join. They have an insatiable appetite for the real interactions that generate a buzz they are a part of. How big is this appetite? Facebook‘s 350 million users post and share  3.5 Billion pieces of content to other members of their “friend” networks, each week.

Consumers know the members of their social media networks and trust their opinions. They can search for information quickly and easily to support these assertions and then walk into a business to buy something armed with more information than the salesman pitching them the product. This is a game changer and calls out the importance of what social media expert and blogger Mike Troiano calls, “Scalable Intimacy“.

Mike describes social media this way, “Social media..is about investing in relationships that create more measurable economic value than they cost. It is about engaging with the people who collectively decide whether to buy or not buy your product, like it or dislike it, recommend it or trash it, shape it or ignore it.”

As noted by Dharmesh Shah of social media software leader HubSpot, a great way to illustrate the power of social media marketing is to enter “(any brand) sucks” into Google. Or note that new social media marketing agencies are springing up, just to hold the hands of brands that tremble on the doorstep of this new frontier. Or consider the fact that 80% of the content read on the web today is not read on the site that originally published the content.

Most companies do not even have  mobile website, let alone an interactive social media hub for managing the way the blogosphere is distributing and discussing their product or service. There is a big opportunity here and a lot to learn.

How to get started? Check your city for informal networking groups like Mobile Monday and attend events, sign up for personal accounts and learn the ropes, ask questions, think about using social media to promote a non-profit you volunteer for, read blog articles from experts like Dharmesh Shah, Mike Troiano, and other thought leaders in the space. Of course, you can always hire someone to help out..

Still not sold? Still unsure if social media marketing is something you need to include in your corporate strategy? Just watch this video:

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