Marketing successfully on the social web, can be compared to cooking your favorite dish. If the ingredients are just not right, or are missing, you are left with a sub-par product. It's imperative that you get the dish correct. Lack of a little salt and pepper can make or break a dish. The same can be said for social marketing, to be effective with your campaign, you can not leave out any of the key ingredients, because if you do, you're left with a sub-par marketing campaign. Sub-par is just not acceptable on the social web. After all, marketing is selling. If you're not doing it effectively, you can certainly bet the next person is, your competitor.
I recently wrote a good primer called 40 key elements to getting started in social media. It's mainly for beginners, but the majority of the
ingredients applies to marketers as well. That should be a good
starting point for anyone just getting involved with social media, and
marketing on the social web.
When I got involved with Internet marketing back in 1997, the game was completely different. There were primarily three forms of marketing back then. The first was marketing for search or what's commonly called SEO nowadays. We optimized our own sites with the guidelines that still hold true to this day. You can read about a few of them on a post I wrote called 15 tips on improving search engine visibility. Of course PPC campaigns was around then, and was very profitable and cheaper than it is today. There was less competition jockeying for keywords and the big name in town for search was Overture. This is before Yahoo bought them out, and way before the days of Google.
The second form of marketing was email. Today it's commonly called spam. These were the days before opt-in existed. These were also the days where you could do a mailing to a million people and average close to 100 sales. Those days are long long gone. These were the early days of the web, keep in mind it was truly the wild wild west. Thankfully a decade later, the web matured and for the most part cleaned itself up. The third form of marketing was the traditional media buys of banner advertisements. It was all about CPM back then, a model I never liked and still don't.
That was then. Today is a completely different ball game for marketing:
While the same avenues for marketing still exist. Today the social web needs to be factored in along with the traditional mechanisms for marketing. The traditional marketing methods of one-way, one-sided communication simply do not work when applied to social media. Social media is all about two-way communication.
What social media is:
The foundation and core of what social media is, consists of the five C's. Conversation, community, commenting, collaboration and contribution. These are the five fundamentals that companies and marketers must understand to be able to successfully market on the social web.
What social media is not:
Social media marketing is not about spamming. It is not about list building with the intent to spam them with your wares. It's not about one-way communication.
Social media is not Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. Social media is about the conversations that are taking place on these platforms, some may be about your brand some may not.
Social media is not about the tools. The tools are only facilitators of the message.
Starting with the basics first, a blog:
Establish your identity and presence. This starts with a blog. The Twitter and social networking accounts come second. Your blog is your home base. You might already have a website established as your home base, this is fine, but you need to attach a blog onto it. Your blog is your voice, your website is not. The website is your secure point of sale for your product. Your blog is not used to spam your product, but to promote it. Create newsworthy, thoughtful, intelligent content that has immediate usefulness. Offer tips, tricks and informational content relating to your product and or industries. Your blog affords you the opportunity to become an expert and authority for your related product field, use it wisely. You know your product best, be passionate about it and let people know . Blogging is an open tw0-way forum of communication, encourage commenting as often as possible. Your blog is a tool for getting the message out there, in time others will pick up the message and spread it.
Be creative, add product videos, tutorials, and other forms of user/customer generated content. Answer customer questions and feedback directly and openly using your blog. Your blog is about promoting your product, finding the necessary hooks should be easy. By doing this you're also establishing a footprint with the search engines. Blogs are an excellent source for search engine traffic. Be consistent with your blogging, optimize each and every blog post correctly, and you will start seeing the benefits from search engine referrals. Remember Google does not discriminate, on the same hand you need to tell Google you exist, and that your blog is an authority on a subject matter. Telling Google you exist is the easy part. The authority part comes from inbound links, quality at that.
Change your blog permalink structure immediately:
By default, WordPress uses web URLs which have question marks and lots of numbers in them. This will severely limit the amount of traffic you will see from search engines. Make sure any content you publish on the web has the keywords of the subject or story headline formatted in the permalink/web URL. As an example, look at the url of the last post I published, it was called "Netvibes: The New Social Media Dashboard. " The permalink for that post is, michaelfruchter.com/blog/2009/01/netvibes-the-new-social-media-dashboard/. Your permalink structure should look like this at the very least. You can also take it a step further and completely eliminate the month and year from the url structure. The point is keyword placement, every thing you publish needs to have the relevant keywords in the URL. This will make you or break you in terms of search engine relevance and rankings.
Go where the conversations are taking place:
Your customers are on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and so forth. Establish identities on these networks, groups, and most importantly a following. Simply creating an account on these networks with little or no interaction is pointless. If you are going to use these tools as a one-way form of communication, then you will accomplish nothing. That equates basically to spamming, and you will be ignored rather quickly. Gain insight into the communities of interest and actively participate in them.
Venture into new territories:
News flash, the social web is not just Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. If you plan on successfully marketing, you need to constantly be expanding your horizons. There are tons of other opportunities you need to be looking at and establish a presence on. The first that comes to my mind is Ning. Ning is very niche and targeted as it allows users to create their own social websites and social networks. This is not an opportunity to spam, but rather an opportunity to join the conversation, participate and add value to it. The marketing part comes later, only after you have earned the trust and respect of the community, never beforehand. Ning is also a place to create and form a community around your product, that is if one does not exist already. There are also alternatives to Youtube and Digg, see what I mean? Never limit yourself, that's foolish.
Create, build and maintain a following:
People who express interest about your product are either friends, followers or fans. It's vital that you friend these people and follow them back on all the social networks you are on, and will be participating in. Friending anyone and everyone is list building, this is meaningless. Only friend and follow the people back who are conversating about your brand. Anyone who has even the slightest interest in your brand, follow back. You need to be receptive with people who are trying to engage you positively. Without a following you don't exist, it's that simple. Remember social marketing is basically word of mouth marketing, these are the mouths that will be spreading the word. These are the people who will be Twittering your content, Digging your content, sharing your content and so forth. I can't stress enough how important it is to have meaningful relationships with these people. They are for the most part loyal brand endorsers. You need to be as loyal to them as they are to you. This is done by engaging and replying to them in conversations, wherever they may be taking place, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, Blogs etc. Send them free stuff every once in a while, people love the free perks. You get the picture.
Forget email marketing. Your fans and friends are your opt-in marketing list.
I won't say email marketing is completely useless, but this is not 1997, 98, or 99 anymore either. You should definitely set up an opt-in email list for customers or potential customers who legitimately want to be notified of product updates. Do not rely solely on email marketing or email list buying, it's a waste of time in todays Web 2.0 era. On the social web your followers and friends are your opt-in email list. Lets face it, email marketing ends up as spam, either the user who opted-in marks it for spam, or spam filters marks it as spam. There is also a cost involved with sending emails. The costs are for the list leads, sending the emails, and the cost involved with possibly getting shut down for a brief period of time by your web hosting company. How much does it cost to send updates to your followers on Twitter, Facebook and so forth? That's right, you guessed it, nada, nothing, zero. Your followers don't have the option of marking your messages as spam. Sure they can ignore it or unfollow you, but that's about it. If they are following you, it's for a reason. You will always have their attention for the most part. Do people forward email marketing messages to other friends and family? Highly unlikely. Now can we say the same thing about Twitter, one word, retweet. You get the picture now?
Content is king, be creative with content creation and promotion:
Create content that matches the channels you are trying to market to. Social media content is primarily user generated content. Your marketing content and strategies should focus on a mix of professional and user/customer generated content. Visual sells, visual is also what goes viral. Create content that will get people talking, sharing, digging, stumbling and forwarding emails. Your content should be remarkable, unique, and newsworthy. Simple static content was good in the Web 1.0 era, but not the Web 2.0 era. Take a look around on Digg, Reddit, and Youtube, pay attention to what's hot and what's not. These are good indicators to follow. Your existing customers are a good source for user generated content. There are so many directions you can run with by using your customer base. Encourage and give people the tools to promote your content as well. The tools exist and they are free.
Target, readjust and maintain your branded campaign pages:
Take a look at your profile and landing pages and adjust them accordingly to the communities you are targeting. Maintain these pages as often as possible with content updates. All to often, companies have abandoned their branded campaign pages, that were part of a larger marketing campaign often setup by PR firms. Most of these pages signed up thousands of friends, fans and followers. When the campaign ended, these pages became ghosts. Thousands of friends and followers are left in limbo. You see this time and time again on every social networking site on the net. Every follower and friend is a value target, each and every single one of them, treat them as such.
Measure everything when possible. Anayltics is key for measuring and tracking visitor information. Use tracking URLs in your marketing campaigns and social profiles. Guessing simply does not cut it. A smart marketer is an informed one.
Create a social media dashboard:
Tracking website anayltics is easy. You also need to track and monitor what is being said online about your brand. Twitter mentions, blog posts, comments, and so forth. Create a central hub to monitor all this activity. You have two options, use a company such as Radian6 or Filtrbox, or create your own monitoring dashboard as I have outlined in this post using Netvibes. Your dashboard should also integrate your website anayltics, tracking url statistics, follower counts, bookmarks, video plays etc.
There are obviously a few more ingredients to throw into the pot. This post just touched upon a few of the essentials. You can read more of my thoughts and insight for marketing on the social web for 2009, in this eBook, that I recently collaborated on with 11 other marketing professionals.