Making the Right Moves on the Net

When Candi Carter launched a line of educational DVDs for children in March, she had to confront a lack of cash.

“We didn’t have a multimillion dollar budget,” Carter says. So instead of paying for advertising, the 40-year-old mom and television producer turned to social media–blogs, online videos and social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook – to expose her business to potential customers and build a brand.

“Most businesses can benefit from social networking since it takes you where your customers are,” says Jamila White, a Bowie, Maryland-based online marketing strategist known at the E-commerce Diva.

Carter’s customers were mothers of toddlers. She had come up with the idea for creating videos that used hip-hop songs to teach children such basics as their ABCs and numbers when trying to communicate with her then three-year-old-son, Emerson, who was born with a learning disability.

“One day we were in the kitchen and I started beat boxing the ABCs,” she says. “He stopped screaming and was looking at me and I was like, ‘If I can distract him enough to stop screaming, maybe I can put instructions in the songs and [teach him] stuff.” The move worked, and eventually, Carter decided music could also help other children learn. So, with an initial investment of about $45,000 in cash and credit cards, It’s Hip-Hop Baby was born.

With a goal to expose 500,000 people to her products, Carter offered parenting bloggers free DVDs to review on their sites. Of those she targeted, sixty agreed to give the product a try; their combined Web traffic was well over the half a million goal.  Seeing the reach the Internet offered, Carter started her own blog to attract potential customers, offering parenting tips and a forum for discussing parenting issues. And realizing that social media space is a fluid two-way street, Carter agreed to post links to other bloggers’ sites on her blog in exchange for a link to her blog on their sites. She even participated in online discussions to further market her expertise. If someone blogged about childhood allergies, for example, Carter would contribute to the conversation, including a link to her blog, adding that her efforts was “so everyone who sees the comment sees what I offer.”

Next, came Carter shooting videos of parenting experts demonstrating activities such as yoga and sign language for children, and posted them on People searching online for parenting information often stumbled across her videos and, in the process, her brand. “Thousands of people have come to watch the videos not knowing anything about It’s Hip-Hop Baby,” says Carter. But she makes sure there’s a link to the company’s Website on the videos. “They click on the link and you’ve got more people to your site.”

Of course, Carter rounded out her strategy by joining Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace. From profiles to pages to tweets, entrepreneurs looking to use these social media platforms to function in each of these spaces should do so as careful (yet effective as possible); a tailored and subtle approach is a must to gain direct and indirect results. On Twitter, Carter gives fellow moms an incentive to follow her by sharing parenting tips and events for children across the country.