I recently gave a consultation to a potential client regarding their social media strategies. This company, who shall remain nameless, is already a large, respected, and dominate leader in their space. They have been online just short of a year, made many acquisitions, and they have an active userbase, and community that continues to grow.
Some of the problems they are suffering from, as most sites of their size and caliber, is content, too much of it. Content is king, no disputing that, but when you are producing the sheer amount of it that this company is, it can lead to confusion for the consumer.
We talked about better ways to prioritize their content, and organize it in such a way so that it was not an overwhelming experience for their users. We also spoke about their current social media initiatives, what they are doing right, wrong, and not doing at all.
Lastly, I touched on user retention, ways to improve site usability and expanded on different avenues for monetizing. These are the different variables that I look at and factor in when working with a client to help achieve their desired goals and results. Marketing is just one variable , but the second being the consumer interaction with the website. What happens when a potential customer lands on your site needs to be looked at very carefully. How long they stay on your site, how well they are able to navigate the site, not find or find the relevant content/products, interact, and when required too, make purchases.
This post reflects on some of my observations and suggestions to the client. I touch upon a multitude of areas. I have also added additional thoughts and pointers, some may be relevant to you, some may not. I hope you will pull away something from this and perhaps use it and learn from it.
Collect current and potential users email addresses:
- Capture users email addresses (if system is not in place). Implement an opt-in mailing list solution. Do I really need to further expand on the benefits of this?
Break down the walls:
- Make your most prominent content offerings visible on the front page. Do not bury it in sub-directories of parent links and drop down menus. Give your core offerings high visibility at the front door.
Provide a map:
- Create a sitemap for your content. If I'm lost on your site, throw me a lifeline.
Focus on the expert layer:
- This particular company has done quite a few blog acquisitions, in addition has thousands of site members who publish blogs on the site. Arriving at the site, the distinction between expert, and user generated content was hard to distinguish. With some minor graphical enhancements, that problem is easy solved. Think about how you can incorporate expert layers into your product marketing. Think about the ways you can build and achieve brand credibility. Ask experts to contribute blog posts, video posts, anything that sheds light positively on your product and brand. This might cost you a few bucks, but always make sure your motives are transparent.
Don't guess, just ask:
- Solicit site feedback. Create a site usability survey. Improving site features and functionality comes down to data. Create a customer feedback survey, nothing too lengthy. Let the users of the site speak to you in their own words. Ask them direct questions, what they would like to see more of, less of, and so on. Reward them for participating in the survey, as this will also be used to get them to participate. By participating they could be entered in a drawing to win free shirts, hats, you get the picture.
Optimize for Mobile:
- Create a mobile version of your site, if one is not in place. There are 405 million mobile internet users worldwide, according to Internet research firm eMarketer, and within four years this number is expected to double.
Create outposts. Go where the existing and potential customer base is and establish a presence.
- Establishing a Twitter account is a necessity, and should be a priority. For this particular company I advised them to create one main Twitter account for <insert site name here>, and then gradually experiment with the in-house blogs. The main <insert site name here> Twitter account will be the megaphone for the entire site, so multiple accounts may not be necessary. Create Twitter accounts for the leading branded blogs on the site. Let the in-house bloggers post on them. They will broadcast on these accounts, staff will need to have minimal involvement, except monitoring the accounts from time to time. Let the bloggers create and bring their own followers to the site.
- Use Twitter for brand monitoring.Twitter needs to be paid special attention to. Consumers are voicing their frustrations in growing numbers on Twitter, and businesses are listening. If something is being mentioned on Twitter, it should be relativity easy to track it down using a basic Twitter search. You can also narrow your results down further using search operators or advanced search. Twitter search pages also gives you an RSS feed for the search term results. You can add the RSS feeds to your watch lists in Google Reader.
- Establish a Facebook account only for <insert site name here>. Create a Facebook group for <insert site name here>. Updating will require minimal staff involvement, with the exception of the group. RSS and social content aggregators I.E FriendFeed, Twitter updates etc will update the Facebook profile automatically. Staff can go in from time to time to react to comments, post new links, etc. At the very least this account is to be used for an outpost, any added efforts is certainly a plus.
- Establish a MySpace account and set up the profile with all the relevant news and links pointing back to <insert site name here>. Blog posts and featured content should be imported and posted often. Encourage following on the all the social networking accounts. Remember both of these sites are in international markets, are you targeting them?
- Establish a YouTube channel and other video platforms. This is core if you are creating original video. While we don't want to drive too much traffic away from <insert site name here>, these sites serve a few purposes, one is brand exposure, the second is for SEO. User generated content and the sites that display it tend to rank higher in search engines. The same is true for social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn Twitter etc. These are authoritative links, accounts and links from these sites are weighted much higher and as a result rank higher in search.
- Give people the tools to extend your brand outwards across all the social networks. Consider developing widgets, Facebook applications, Mashups, API's. How many people are using iGoogle nowadays? You get the picture.
- Promote the social networking site accounts with badges/buttons (nice eye candy on <insert site name here>). Encourage following and follow everyone back.
User generated content:
- Give your users the ability to import RSS, flickr feeds, amazon wish lists, Twitter statuses, bookmarks and so forth. This of course depends on your product. This particular company has an extensive amount of user generated content, such as user created blogs, video, and pictures. What I wanted to see was more of alifestreaming element for their users.
- As I mentioned this company has a tremendous amount of user generated blog content. I advised them to create a step by step primer for creating blog posts. In additon to steps for promoting the blogs. The more we can arm the users with information and tools for promotion, the more traffic it will drive back to <insert site name here> in the long term. A weekly series could be implemented by an expert for blogging tips. Since blog content plays a big role on the site, we are empowering the users to become in effect citizen journalists. As long as we teach them and provide the tools, the platform will always be <insert site name here>.
- Empower, and encourage the users to use and link to the content they created on <insert site name here>, on their other social networking sites. Widgets play a big part of this as well. We need to teach the users what RSS is, and how it will benefit their blog promotion.