Now that you have the basics down for social media marketing, let’s focus on putting together everything you’ve learned so that you can proceed with your promotional strategy for the benefit of the community and for your own marketing motives. We’ve covered social networks, social bookmarking sites, social news sites, and a variety of new media sites, but for the most part, promoting yourself using only one medium won’t yield the biggest success. In fact, for the best ROI, you will likely need to focus your energies on multiple online properties. You may be surprised to see how the community reacts to each different campaign.
This excerpt is from The New Community Rules. The social web provides businesses with a largely untapped marketing channel for products and services -- the trick is knowing how to take advantage of it. With this book, you'll understand how social web technologies work, and learn the most practical and effective ways to reach the people who frequent these websites. You'll get intelligent advice and strategies -- including what works and what doesn't.
Social media is also about declaring your identity early on in the process on the appropriate channels, such as your own website or profile page (but only on services where the community participates in such activity). It is also about creating a communications channel that you actively monitor and participate in. Communications in social media do not necessarily have to happen onsite; the real-life relationships that follow can benefit your company objectives, so use social media as a stepping stone to find other means of communication.
The first step in social media marketing is to be open and honest about your reasons for participating in the space. Who are you and why are you here? Typically, this will be something you declare on your social networking profiles (where you represent yourself as an employee of a particular company) but also on your website’s About Us page. Use this page to articulate your company’s mission statement or to express your role as an employee of the company. If your organization has many individuals who are all active in this big Internet space, share their bios on a single searchable page so that other people can learn more about them.
Once you have declared your identity on this space and have become ingrained in the social media sphere, let people know where to find you offsite. For example, use your biography to share your social media profiles with your readers. Let them know where to find your company and its employees on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, StumbleUpon, delicious.com, Flickr, and all other social media sites. This way, your constituents can affiliate themselves with your brand on yet another level. You may already see an intersection of traditional business and social media, as Twitter is now becoming “mandatory” on business cards, along with other information about you (Figure 12.1, “Not everyone limits their business cards to just their Twitter usernames!”).
In 2007 and 2008, UK agency Immediate Future performed studied the involvement of big brands in social media. The studies, referenced in Chapter 2, Goal Setting in a Social Environment, show the impact of social media on these brands in terms of online interactions, sentiment, and subsequent visibility. Immediate Future looked at some very big brands that have fared well with social media involvement, including Google, eBay, Canon, Porsche, Intel, MTV, BMW, and others, and measured how active they were in a number of social media channels across the Internet.
According to Immediate Future’s information (shown in Figure 12.2, “Brand share of voice in detail”), not one company focused entirely on one single avenue to promote its business objectives. Instead, the brands spread out their involvement across different channels. This makes sense, as the appropriate goal of any social media marketing campaign should be to reach different demographics and users. After all, how many people do you know who actually engage regularly across Digg, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, delicious.com, Twitter, and Bebo (which is popular in the UK where this study was performed), in addition to regular blogs and forums? Chances are, you don’t see that many people who are addicted to all channels at once. I know a few “social media experts,” but even those individuals are not well versed in all the nuances of all social networks and do not participate on a consistent basis across all of the sites.
Therefore, it’s important to think beyond a single social media channel. If the big brands are doing it, it’s for good reason. The reach of each individual sites only extends so far; by touching upon additional channels on the Internet, you’re able to extend that reach even farther.
In Chapter 1, An Introduction to Social Media Marketing, you learned that it can be difficult to get actual numbers for determining ROI on your social media campaign; you can’t put a numeric value on the buzz and quality of an online conversation. However, there are other ways to measure the success of your social media marketing efforts. We’ve reviewed a number of tools that can show you if your campaign is successful. Note, though, that it is not easy to directly correlate conversions with your social media marketing strategy, especially if you have several marketing strategies in play simultaneously.
There are five separate metrics that you can look at to estimate your ROI:
Frequency and traffic
Conversions and transactions
How far is your message traveling? You can determine this by the number of links your story has garnered, the number of people tweeting about your campaign, or the number of connections you’ve accumulated since you listed your Fan page on Facebook. Depending on the channel, you can measure this by seeing how many retweets a specific story or URL has gotten, or you can review a particular URL by using Yahoo! Site Explorer (shown in Figure 12.3, “Yahoo! Site Explorer counts and shows inbound links to a particular URL”) and noting how many “Inlinks” (Yahoo! terminology for inbound links) are now pointing to the URL in question.
How often are people visiting your site? To determine this, open up your analytics software and look at the number of impressions in a specific time period versus other periods. If you see a surge of traffic and you are doing no other marketing at the same time, it may very well be attributed to your social media marketing campaign. You may also want to review your web analytics to see how many visits your website receives on average and how frequently you received visitors after your campaign took off.
How deep are conversations related to your business? Are people actually discussing the subject, or are they looking, commenting (or not), and moving on? If there’s more depth and influence, there’s more potential for conversion and virality.
Are you actually seeing people click through to other parts of your site since you launched that viral piece to raise awareness about your business? Are they downloading the software you’ve asked them to try? Are you seeing additional transactions? Registrations? Purchases?
How long will users stick with you after your social media campaign gets plastered on their radars? Are they going to stick with you once they become aware of your existence, or are they going to go elsewhere? Will you have them for a short while until their involvement tapers off; will you see them only for the duration of the campaign; or are they true customers for life? Figure 12.4, “Web analytics: Traffic before and after a short-term viral campaign” shows what you can expect of a successful viral launch, though results may vary. Before the article shown took off, there was not much traffic generated on the site. After the article was passed along, the site saw more traffic.
You can gauge the success of a social media marketing campaign by looking at these different metrics. However, your internal marketing team should review each individual metric and determine how to best measure the output, so there is no definitive suggestion about what to look for besides results. Plus, in alignment with your SMART goals (see Chapter 2, Goal Setting in a Social Environment), you may need to tweak metrics.
While some of these areas may seem a little broad, you can often assess the overall success of a campaign by reviewing the quality of the reach and influence. For example, influence is something you may not be able to measure directly, but what is the quality of conversation? Are people considering actually trying out the product after being alerted to its existence? Is the promotional message causing users to shy away from your product? The idea here is to start listening to the conversation, and then participating to create long-term relationships that will yield success in the future.
Your big social media marketing viral campaign may have taken months to formulate and execute. You typically won’t want to stop there. Regular interaction is vital. Consider this logic: do you write a blog post and just call it a day after that post has gained momentum? If you don’t write consistently, your subscribers will stop coming to you for more content. According to a survey conducted by blogger Darren Rowse, 29% of respondents said that the biggest reason they unsubscribe from blogs is because the blogger does not update his or her blog frequently enough. If you don’t keep your information fresh, many readers will move on to bigger and better things.
As you can tell, you have a lot of work to do, but it gets easier as you gain credibility in the space. Plus, like real-life face-to-face relationships, online interactions eventually become something you can do without effort as long as you practice at it at first. You may already be a pro without knowing. It doesn’t hurt to take the plunge.
A one-time deal may work for that two-week promotion, and if that is your goal, you should stop right there. For most individuals and organizations, however, a long-term engagement will require a long-term commitment. Just like any type of promotional tactic, social media marketing is hard work. You can work on viral campaigns, but after that, you will also need to be entrenched in the community and involved in the discussion. You may not want to focus on viral campaigns at all, but if you’re considering social media, you’ll still need to be social. Thus, involvement in the community is important.
Listening to the conversation is something you will need to do on a regular basis. Staying silent is a good way to shun your followers and cause them to turn to another provider for the same (or similar) services. Don’t be one of those social media marketers who engage only when it’s critical to silence the naysayers; have a consistent dialogue.
Whether or not you want to participate, you should always be monitoring for mentions of your brand, CEO, public relations people, and industry, and you should use this information as a way to enter the conversation. You can build your brand simply by listening and subsequently participating. Add meaningful comments to blog posts. Involve yourself in the conversations on Twitter, reddit, Facebook, and FriendFeed, especially as they relate to your company. Pay attention to what people say in your industry and use this information to grow and better yourself and your offerings. On that note, what are your competitors doing? Are they listening? Are they not? If they are, can you do it better? If they’re not, can you be the first person to start the trend?
Consistently review and monitor mentions of your company. Watch the sentiment. Is it positive? Is it negative? Can you turn that sentiment around? Try to nurture the opinions of people around you.
All creators of social media sites had one thing in mind: they wanted to connect people with similar interests or to make it easier for friends, new and old, to communicate with one another. At their core, these social networks still exist for this purpose. You must take this into account at all times when considering marketing in these communities.
If you’ve worked in an advertising or public relations agency for several years, your mindset may be, “I’m looking to market my product, so let me get people’s email addresses and start sending them newsletters.” Well, that might be your strategy if you aren’t aware of how to embark on this different type of journey into a world where people who accept your friendship are not necessarily opting in to communications (plus, this is a violation of the terms of service on multiple social networks—read the fine print!) Ask a 20-year-old Facebook addict how you should market your product in her territory (remember, Facebook started off as a social network for college kids), and her answer may be much different than you expect. Overt marketing tactics will not be well received by the youth and active social media users of today. These old strategies may end up causing people to push you away. This, in turn, could also cost you your reputation, and in a world where reputation management failures can really break that business you’ve spent years and generations making, you don’t want to take that risk.
Never look at a social media site solely as a means to promote your product. If that is your goal in social media marketing, you may find that your campaign is a failure. Bring someone on board (that 20-year-old Facebook addict, perhaps) who cares about the community she is involved in. These enthusiasts and avid users are good resources to tap into; nobody already established in these communities would want to ruin their credibility by involving themselves in inauthentic interactions. Only those genuine relationships prevail, and these individuals already have the following and credibility to make your campaign a success. The bottom line is that selfish motives won’t find success in social media marketing, and the companies and individuals who only take and do not give back to the community will be weeded out.
Jay Izso, a 40-something in social media, shared a story with me about a time he was befriended by an individual on LinkedIn, and he immediately accepted. The next day, that person started promoting his business and services to Izso. Apparently, this new “friend” was only looking for people to market to. What did Izso think? Well, he shared that story with me—it obviously left a bitter taste in his mouth. If you’re going to join social networks primarily to evangelize your business, you’re going to prompt people like Izso to share your etiquette missteps with others. Be real first. Let people become curious about what you have to offer, and then you can start marketing to them.
The bottom line is that you can achieve success in social media marketing, even if you’re still focused on a traditional marketing mindset. You can learn by doing and by watching how others participate. Do what other successful community participants are doing. Rinse and repeat. Keep in mind that success takes time. You must be willing to devote that time to the task.
Consider your blog as your home base. This is where you can freely communicate your own objectives and take the community’s questions for future consideration and deliberation. You may receive feedback, so make yourself accessible by contact form or via comments.
Build your company’s presence on online properties beyond your blog. Start that YouTube video channel to upload videos. (If you’re not up to snuff on video production, at least grab a username for your company while you can. Check availability of usernames on social sites using a site like http://www.knowem.com; Figure 12.5, “Claim your name for social media services via KnowEm, even if you don’t plan to be active on all of them”). Create your free Flickr account to share your photographs, and when you find that it’s helping you and you’re getting lots of visitors and have more photos to share, consider upgrading to a pro account. Start registering your username on other social media sites. Don’t use your company name on a site like Digg or reddit, though, especially if you plan to submit stories on your company’s behalf there. If you do, it will smell like marketing and the community members won’t have it.
Figure 12.5. Claim your name for social media services via KnowEm, even if you don’t plan to be active on all of them
Putting all your eggs in one basket is never an ideal strategy. While it may be easier to become an expert in one site, you should try to spread yourself across multiple social media sites (but don’t spread yourself too thin). If you find social media an imperative strategy, allocate more than one individual to the task. Use someone who is well versed in photography and video production. Use someone else who is well versed in copywriting for social media, and use yet another person who is well versed in social media promotion across social bookmarking and social news sites. On the other hand, consolidating all of these roles among one or two people may be the only way you’ll see results, especially in small businesses where manpower isn’t abundant. Either way, bear in mind that it’s a time commitment that you must be willing to invest in at all times.
Start adopting a social media mindset throughout your organization. The CEO of your company should understand social media enough to involve himself if necessary, though heavier involvement would be well received by constituents across those services. Even maintaining a personal profile on LinkedIn and a Facebook profile page is a good way to start. Have him contribute to the blog, time permitting, and perhaps he can speak via video about the innovations the company is making for both employees (for your internal newsletter) or for the actual users of the service.
To promote your organizational goals, build genuine relationships with users of social media communities. Share your interests with them and let them get to know you. Be real and genuine, and long-term relationships that go well beyond social networks are likely to follow.
You have already established yourself as a credible member in the community and have created an online identity for your constituents. Now, take that one step further: if you’ve already started initiating relationships online, how about taking those relationships offline? Graco Baby (see Chapter 4, Participation Is Marketing: Getting into the Game) did this by inviting parents and children to participate in offline family-friendly events it created. Mashable, a blog covering the general Internet and social media space, regularly hosts events in both San Francisco and New York City; the blog also accommodates readers outside its two central locations by traveling to other cities. Readers of the blog are invited to mingle and interact and often are presented with demos from other companies in the space. Whether as sponsors or attendees, companies can take advantage of these actual events to network with new prospects, especially if they do not have the budget to host large-scale events themselves.
In reality, nothing is better to solidify a relationship that has evolved online than to network face-to-face. You’ll also find out that you have a lot to talk about, from collaborating to sharing feedback to providing valuable insights and information. Many of my colleagues consider themselves to be successful because they’ve gone out and actually networked with prospects. Have you?
If you are interested in taking advantage of real-life interactions, consider searching for local events in your area that might be a good fit for you. Use sites like Upcoming.org (Figure 12.6, “Upcoming.org lists events based on certain search criteria”) to find out about events in your area or elsewhere.
Additionally, you can join a group of like-minded individuals via Meetup.com, a site that unites individuals with similar interests through real-life, face-to-face interactions. Figure 12.7, “A list of groups hosting events through Meetup.com” shows that you can join 13 groups related to “diabetes” and then find out about local events in your area.
At these events, network with people who are most interested in the topic, and you’ll be able to establish thought leadership (and brand awareness). These real-life interactions are a great way to meet your customers and find others interested in your product offerings.
The key to success is to think outside the box. Do something you may not expect others to do. This strategy worked effectively for UK-based skin cancer charity Skcin, which launched the Computer Tan website in early February 2009 (Figure 12.8, “Computer Tan’s home page: unexpected viral innovation”). The premise behind Computer Tan was that individuals could get tanned through the rays emitted by their computer monitors.
The Computer Tan website was a hoax. However, over 30,000 individuals in the UK signed up to participate in the program within 24 hours of its launch. At the end of the day, these users were informed of the dangers of tanning and the harmfulness of the sun’s rays.
While this tactic may be one of the shadier strategies involved in viral marketing (and I’m not sure the 30,000 individuals who fell victim to this hoax were appreciative of its true nature), this is the exact type of brainstorming you can use to create a memorable and successful social media strategy.
If great ideas don’t come to mind, consider the following successful strategies from social news and bookmarking sites.
This list is going to be awesome.
I’m going to tell you why shortly.
You’re going to love it.
Read the preceding sentences. They’re broken up for easy reading. If I provide the same sort of information in paragraph form, you may not be able to actually absorb each individual segment. In fact, lists (Figure 12.9, “Lists succeed in social media because they’re heavily referenced”) often perform better than paragraph posts or articles.
Lists are viral by nature because they encourage heavy engagement, conversation, and communication, and they also often show that the writer has done some extensive research on a specific subject. With a list, you can comment on a single item listed; it’s a lot easier to isolate and nit-pick those facts you may not necessarily agree with (or, on the other hand, that you agree with a lot). By their nature, lists are:
Scannable and thus easily digestible.
Typically short and the content therein is easy to consume. (If you write a long list, emphasize the main topic of each bullet point in bold before going into specifics.)
Resourceful and can provide a great deal of information in a single article. Lists, therefore, can serve as references for a later date.
Meant to be shared, thereby increasing traffic and links, and can help increase awareness.
Engaging, and encourage individuals to participate.
The catch to lists is that they are a bit overused in social media channels, so don’t turn every single article or post into list format. Similarly, don’t break up your list into several pages if you can avoid it. On some online publications, the extra page views help boost advertising rates, but if you’re a blogger or writer who does not utilize such advertising, it’s best to steer clear of that kind of list implementation. Most readers may want to either print out the article or to reference the content easily, and adding additional page views that obstruct and complicate their access to the article can cause frustration.
Are you obligated to share only articles in social media? Not necessarily. There’s video, photography, and even short 140-character blurbs that take seconds to digest. Additionally, there’s the quiz or questionnaire. Give people a chance to participate by answering questions about themselves on a variety of topics, from “Are you a romantic?” to “Are you addicted to the Internet?” to “How bad are your spending habits?”, and you’ve got potential to share something about a specific subject that can ultimately go viral.
You can make up interesting questions that are related to your business. Then, give people the option to participate via true or false answers, by multiple choice, or by providing their own input (Figure 12.10, “The quiz: give people the opportunity to share, and score them based on their answers”).
Once the quiz or questionnaire is completed, give people the option to share their results with their peers. They could simply share the data with their friends by linking directly to the quiz. On the other hand, there’s a lot more potential for the quiz to be spread if you create a widget that quiz participants can place on their sites via HTML code once they’ve completed it, as shown in Figure 12.11, “Give your quiz participants the ability to share their results on their websites, social media profiles, or blogs”. You can also extend quizzes to social networks like Facebook; quizzes are often popular on that service. The best part about these HTML codes is that, by nature of their existence, they help build relevant links to your site, especially if the quiz is related to your business objectives.
Figure 12.11. Give your quiz participants the ability to share their results on their websites, social media profiles, or blogs
If you can get a graphic designer to create an interactive game or video that promotes your product, you should definitely pursue that opportunity (see Figure 12.12, “An interactive holiday card”). Let people personalize pages with your product to share with their friends.
Interactive video that users can personalize may be the costliest option, but the return is substantial: users find that they can really engage with your brand while also being able to provide information about themselves. They are compelled to share these videos and games with their friends, and the result is extremely powerful word-of-mouth marketing that works by virtue of social interactions.
Some examples of successful participatory and interactive video include the Gillette ManQuarium (shown in Figure 12.13, “The Gillette ManQuarium interactive game”) and in the promotion of Bob Dylan’s album titled His Greatest Songs. In the former, participants search an online database for the “perfect body” for their “perfect-looking guy” and plaster their crush’s face onto the body. Once the guy is created, participants are asked questions about their crush and can then interact with their guy. The end result offers increased branding for Gillette as well as entertainment for the participant.
In an effort to promote Bob Dylan’s new album, one organization created an interactive game in which users could fill out 10 cards; a video would then launch depicting Dylan flipping through the customized cards to the tune of one of his songs. Figure 12.14, “Bob Dylan’s interactive messaging game” illustrates the game.
Once the cards were filled out and the music video started playing, users could send the video to their friends, which meant that as more and more people received it, there was more and more potential for it to be passed around. This is word-of-mouth marketing at its finest.
As children, we grew up preferring illustrations in our printed books. As adults, we still have an emotional attachment to strong visuals and compelling imagery. In an online society where there’s an excess of information, mostly in the written word, some individuals prefer content that is dressed up with images, as an image can contribute to a story’s success. In a social marketing atmosphere, visuals and images tell powerful stories.
If, for example, you work for a data recovery firm, wouldn’t it be interesting if you shared photographs of the hard drives submitted by some of your customers? You’ve likely had customers who have had their computers burned in fires or smashed by exes, so why not share the customer’s story and use the image of the hard drive to show your readers exactly what became of their precious data? On the other hand, what if you work in a drug rehabilitation home? You may want to bring awareness of the dangers of drug dependency by chronicling the last days of a heroin addict’s life in a photo journal of very emotionally provocative images.
The example image essay in Figure 12.15, “A photographic journey of a mother’s last days with her son as he battles cancer and succumbs to it” shows the photographic journey of a mother celebrating the final days of her son’s life as he battled cancer. The story itself is gut-wrenching, and some of the related photographs may even make you cry. However, the mother’s affection toward her ailing son was clear, and the love of her little boy was shared among thousands. The essay won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for feature photography.
Figure 12.15. A photographic journey of a mother’s last days with her son as he battles cancer and succumbs to it
These examples are testaments to the power of using images to raise awareness of different subject matters, but providing commentary, too, can bring additional success to your viral marketing initiatives.
In a similar fashion, if your customers are interested in learning more about the process of manufacturing your products, you may want to give them a tour of your factory or office. Your followers and stakeholders would be most interested in visualizing the company dynamic, which becomes a great opportunity to share what goes on behind closed doors in a video or photo tour.
Does your industry suffer from a problem that you may be able to solve? Perhaps that need is not yet on the top of your mind, but chances are, there’s something you can do that will help make others’ lives (and even your own) easier. Building tools is one such example. In fact, tools are a terrific way to build high-quality relevant links to your site and to establish thought leadership. For example, do you specialize in computer infrastructure for enterprise management? Perhaps you want to provide a tool that will help webmasters monitor their servers, like the one from Dotcom-Monitor shown in Figure 12.16, “An online tool that monitors websites”.
Think about the big online tools that already exist: you’ve probably seen a mortgage calculator or a calorie counter on a website or through a search. If your industry addresses either of these categories, can you use the same tool’s concept and make it even better? Can you think of another problem along those lines that your users may want to use the Net for to solve easily? These applications benefit just about everyone, even those not necessarily looking to buy a product, and they have the added benefit of being shareable and thus helping promote brand awareness.
The iPhone, Palm Pre, and other handhelds allow for the installation of third-party web applications, and these applications are more ubiquitous than ever. You may want to empower mobile-dependent users by giving them a solution that they can access at any time and from any place. Mobile utilities are becoming a lot more prevalent, as they can help users solve everyday problems. In addition, individuals can easily find mobile applications outside your industry’s website (such as through iTunes, for example), and you may accumulate new interested parties without overtly marketing to them. In essence, your new followers will be able to find you easily without even actively searching for you.
Do people look to you for advice? Teach your users how to do something. The best way to do so is to utilize video for the purpose of illustrating a process. For example, there are a number of great videos out there that teach people how to tie a tie, how to fold a shirt in less than 2 seconds (shown in Figure 12.17, “A video showing how to fold a t-shirt”), and how to shuffle poker chips like a professional.
Videos can really work to promote thought leadership. Further, the most compelling of the videos may be referenced on how-to blogs and on other sites.
In Chapter 4, Participation Is Marketing: Getting into the Game, you learned about the social media methods utilized by the Caminito Argentinean Steakhouse. Its YouTube channel is filled with informational food videos teaching budding chefs how to prepare great meals. For example, it offers videos titled “How to Make Fire-Roasted Sweet Onions” and “How to Make Mate.”
There are infinite possibilities when teaching someone how to do something. You can illustrate the entire process through a series of photographs and explanatory captions, or you can use videos to speak directly to your readers (in a method similar to videoblogging) to teach them how they can do something well.
While social media is about online collaboration and sharing via newer technologies and methodologies, do not forget about those traditional tactics that gave rise to the social media marketing of today. Old technologies are becoming increasingly “interactive” in the sense that they encourage others to participate in these new marketing initiatives.
If you promote your social profiles in your business card, you want to pursue the mindset “less is more.” Think about emphasizing only the social profiles you are active in and want to call attention to. You don’t want to overload the recipient of the card with too much information. As a compromise, if you maintain social media accounts on multiple services, highlight only the strongest and most active.
Send relevant marketing initiatives directly to your peers through email or Instant Message. On the same note, if you have a newsletter, utilize it to promote these stories, videos, pictures, or other related viral campaigns. Ensure that the recipients of this messaging have opted in; you do not want to overwhelm unsuspecting individuals, as this will tax the relationships you currently maintain.
Use the “send to email” features on social websites. This a little-used tactic that still performs effectively, though you should use it sparingly to avoid overwhelming your friends and family with too many “look at this!” requests (remember, your not-so-social friends are also dealing with the challenges of information overload).
Your email signature is a great way to promote your social media initiatives as well. You shouldn’t go overboard by adding every single social media profile, but you can highlight the active profiles. My own email signature is as follows:
PROD: Please indent the following simple list.
|This email is: [ ] bloggable [x] ask first [ ] private|
Use forums. Forums themselves are social, but they predate the social media of today. Still, forums follow the same rules of social media marketing; you will need to be absolutely genuine and involved in the conversation to be able to promote without running into problems with the community. You will likely also want to be somewhat established in the community before immediately promoting something so that your posts are not perceived as self-serving.
By also focusing on more traditional avenues outside of the social media world, you may receive additional eyeballs on your marketing efforts. These people may not be active in the social networks that this book discusses, and may otherwise not know about the content promoted on these other channels.
When it comes to social media marketing, the rules of engagement are different. Altruism rules above all. Authentic online relationships can further your cause and help foster real relationships that can flourish offline. In fact, you need to always think about the relationships before you think about the marketing goals, which in most cases will be your bottom line for participation on these services (despite the fact that they are just fun in and of themselves). Your first step should be to seek neighborhoods of shared interest. After you determine that there is curiosity in who you are and what you do, that’s the appropriate time to seek a business relationship. That curiosity may not always come, but you can always participate by overtly identifying yourself (where appropriate) as someone who represents a certain organization, company, or industry.
If you plan on promoting yourself and your company, don’t forget to consider the people around you. Acknowledge them by listening and responding. If you’re a blogger, link out to them and highlight their positive and valuable contributions to your blog, especially if you were particularly moved by their commentaries. They took the time to read and respond, and acknowledging them is a great way to show them that you appreciate their contributions. Showing that you care is a big part of being social, and helps tremendously in social media marketing and fostering relationships, which ultimately can translate to powerful marketing. In fact, the best way to seek out promotion is to promote others before you promote yourself.
Online interactions are different than they were in the past, and being personable is the key to succeeding in this day and age. For example, the standard press release does not work as effectively as an email message where you personalize the message and show the readers that their attention really matters. Public relations executive Todd Defren exemplified this strategy with one of his clients. In an effort to promote a client’s product, Defren’s team took the time to write very personalized messages to mainstream bloggers. Defren’s group often tied the client’s messaging into a previous post on each individual blog, and it was clear that each pitch was well researched and written with the specific blogger in mind. In the end, the messaging was very well received and the client’s product enjoyed a lot of mainstream press.
Defren’s example is a brilliant one, but is one that many public relations professionals do not take time to follow. The problem with many PR agencies is that they only have their clients in mind. Bloggers, however, have to wade through hundreds of pitches on a daily basis and are overwhelmed with incoming press releases. The pitches that succeed are the ones in which the blogger or blog is put first. Marketing motivational speaker and writer Seth Godin summarizes the personalized approach quite nicely: “If you have more than a few people to contact, you’ll be tempted to copy and paste or mail merge. Don’t. You’ll get caught. It shows. If it’s important enough for someone to read, it’s important enough for you to rewrite.”
Social media marketing is not an “easy way out.” Sweat and hard work is required for the ultimate success. Whether that means researching a community thoroughly to determine the exact messaging, networking with people who can influence the success of your marketing message, or writing thorough blog posts or emails that really engage the reader and community, this is not something that you can simply do in 12 hours’ time. You must be willing and able to commit time to the task and consistently work toward building your brand in the eyes of your beholders.
This is the new era, and this is now.
Social media marketing is a comprehensive effort that requires interactions across multiple online properties. When you engage, be open about who you are when and where appropriate. It’s also important to acknowledge that social media is about genuine conversation and communication, and while these are tools to help you achieve that goal, social media marketing goes beyond just utilizing these tools—it is about empowering the voices of both the producers and the consumers. As such, there are many ways to achieve these goals. Tools act as facilitators to make that happen, but the proper mindset should be there all along.
As you have seen in this chapter and throughout the book, ROI is not necessarily easily traced back to social media, but you can focus on several different metrics to estimate success. These are reach, frequency and traffic, influence, conversations and transactions, and sustainability. However, even after you wrap up a social media marketing campaign, consider monitoring via listening and responding. Don’t wait until there’s a crisis to get involved. Focus on keeping your content fresh and current so that people will have reason to interact with you. Even if you don’t have a new product release on the horizon, you still have something of value to share with your constituents.
The community should always come first, a premise that should be understood and followed throughout your organization. Those who promote but do not understand the feelings of those around them will not see their messages travel very far. If this concept is difficult to understand, it may be useful to hire someone who eats, breathes, and lives in the world of social media, especially in the networks in which you are attempting to market. Those who really are involved in social media sites will often find a way to self-promote (or promote your business) without being perceived as selfish, because they’re likely giving back to the community as well. If you cannot hire someone who can teach you the path, learn by doing, but be sure to follow the examples of others who have been successful.
Online communities exist in abundance, but there are four main types of social sites (social networks, social news sites, social bookmarking sites, and new media/video/photography sites). Don’t limit yourself to one category; be everywhere. While you don’t want to spread yourself too thin, you should definitely maintain accounts on different types of sites and have a general understanding of how they work in the event that you need to share something worthwhile.
Networking online is the majority of the social media marketing battle, but taking it offline is even more powerful. In a face-to-face relationship, you can have real interactions that are genuine, forthright, and can truly make a tremendous difference. Don’t shy away from asking questions and soliciting feedback or learning about other people. Have an open mind and be willing to learn. If you’re ready to take the plunge into the real world, use sites like Upcoming.org and Meetup.com to find events in your area that are relevant to your industry. Attend conferences and trade shows on these subjects. Never be afraid to network—it’s one of the most powerful tools for marketing, period.
If you’re aiming to raise eyebrows via a computer monitor, start thinking along the lines of viral marketing strategies, which, by nature, can be shared and redistributed. List articles and posts, for example, are successful because they encourage participation and sharing. Quizzes let people provide information about themselves to you and to their friends. This often prompts others to participate, and the result is that people are often paying it forward as they pass the meme around. Similarly, interactive games allow users to identify with specific brands, and in the case of distributable personalized games to share their creations with the world.
Furthermore, a really compelling photo journal can evoke heavy sentiment and emotion. Some of the most powerful viral photography marketing pieces chronicle the lives and deaths of individuals. Other enlightening photography tours can walk viewers through building or manufacturing processes. In photography, sometimes the images speak for themselves, but commentary can also help.
Tools are yet another way to make it easier for someone to do something, so if you can solve a problem or fulfill a need by creating an easy tool, by all means, go for it. You can also make people’s lives easier by using a video demonstration to show them how to do something. If you can do it, why not teach others? This strategy definitely helps establish thought leadership.
The aforementioned tactics can succeed for social media marketing among the various sites discussed throughout this book, but don’t overlook the old tried-and-true tactics of sharing via traditional means, including forums. Some adherents consider forums to be social media, even though they are far older than the social networks and social sites of today. Other traditional strategies include using email signatures (or simply sending out email messages) and IM. Of course, if you’ve looked at a city bus lately, you’ll likely see URLs all over the place; similarly, your social media URLs do not necessarily need to reside on the Internet. You can plaster them on business cards and throughout your print promotional materials.
The bottom line is that social media marketing is about real, genuine relationships. Give of yourself, and others will give back to you because they value what you do. Show others that you appreciate that they are listening to your messaging by putting them first. Also, remember that social media is not a “get rich quick” scheme. Like any marketing channel, it takes time and effort to yield the best results in this space. Your success will come from continued effort and dedication to the task.
Two-way conversation is here, and it is now. Talk to people, listen to them, and keep in mind that it’s not much different than having a real, face-to-face conversation. You truly do not need to fear the big world ahead of you.
If you enjoyed this excerpt, buy a copy of The New Community Rules.
Copyright © 2009 O'Reilly Media, Inc.