If you have been living under a rock for the past year or so, you wont be aware that on the web, one of the best ways of generating new, direct traffic to your website or blog is via Social Media marketing. The blogosphere and twitter trail is all a buzz with the term, which can seem dauntingly new and intimidating to marketers with traditional experience. Hopefully this guide should help to summarise how to interact online, and what services to use.
Social media is all about giving back to the web community via numerous source online, and if you have no idea on what social media strategy to use for your business read on.
Be more visible, Grow your personal Identity.
This is not something terribly new or ground breaking but the more that you appear online on forums, blogs and relevant websites in your sector, the more likely you are to get noticed by customers, and other bloggers – which is of utmost importance in growing your business online, and gaining backlinks and social commentary. However the web has never been about a blanket approach – don’t get seen as a social spammer by visiting numerous places, dropping your name, and giving nothing back.
After all your identity online is your brand, and your brand is your identity.
Every time you help someone out, that build your brand. Everytime you Digg a link that the community enjoys, that builds your brand. Everytime you give something back, whether it be providing content for others (guest blogging), or giving someone a backlink or product mention (via your own blog) – the community or indeed the owner of the product will repay you three fold with backlinks.
Don’t be an island, and remember for every service you signup online – tie either your name, or your website brand to that account in someway, so people recognise you.
Blogs – Reach out and connect
Blogs are the most powerful medium for social interaction today, mainly because they explore the thought processes of both the reader and the writer, and are conversational in nature. If you can encourage comments on your blog, whether it be personal or commercial, you are half way to turning prospects into either subscribers or consumers – depending on what your focus is.
Today’s shoppers trust opinion, and tomorrow’s shoppers (i.e. Generation Y) trust blogs and social media websites opinion – so you need to get involved. Remember that when you comment on someone else’s blog, that it is part of your identity online. If you are simply bouncing around different blogs listed in Technorati just posting “Great post” to get a backlink – you are missing the true power of blogs.
It is better to completely forget about commenting unless you are going to contribute something of value. You will also find that a well thought out comment results in much more clickthrough traffic.
Forums – Move up the ranks
Forums are another great way to give back to the web community. Starting at the bottom, and moving your way up through a new forums ranks is a great way to be seen as someone of importance online. The more you put in, the more you will get out of a forum.
The people with the highest number of posts get a certain amount of priviledge. Normally they get to drop links to their own sites in the footer of their posts. They also get the power to moderate other people’s posts. The list of users in the forum is commonly sorted by the number of posts – again increasing your exposure. Just remember to let your personality shine through in your forum postings, as again, this represents your brand online.
The personal Touch – Be seen to be seen
So what is the best way to give a personal feel to what you say and do online? Your blog (and / or website) should tell me who you are. Admittedly I have yet to provide a photo on this website, but I have posted my Facebook account profile link before.
Case in point I can think of a couple of prolific people around the web, that I remember off the top of my head, what their sites are, and what they look like. The reason for me giving them “prolific” status is my own perception of their brands online, and the fact that I remember what they look like helps enormously with this pursuit – I remember faces better because by nature human’s can recognise a face easier than remembering textual content.
f you are wondering who the people are, they are nearly all on my Google reader list of subscribed blogs:
1) Darren Rowse of Problogger. (Web link)
Darren is brilliant at this, and has recognised that the personal touch matters. He frequently features a video blog post on his homepage reinforcing his personal brand, and associating Problogger with him exclusively. This is despite the fact that numerous other bloggers do guest posts for him every day.
2) Nate Whitehill (Web link)
Nate is one of the bloggers around my age, that reached out and connected with me via Facebook, and we exchanged a few comments back and forth. Incidently I remember him as a happy guy on Facebook – and that’s got to be a positive.
3) Michael Gray. (web link)
Michael’s SEO blog is something I keep up to speed with, and whilst I haven’t seen any pictures of him on his own site, I still know what he looks like. I remember him as someone who endorsed text-link-ads.com on Youtube, and rightly or wrongly that is the image that I associate him with.
4) Alvin Ashcraft. (web link)
Alvin is someone who connected with me initially via this blog, who then followed up contact via LinkedIn, and Twitter, who then invited me to FriendFeed, and is one of the major players in the social link promotion field over at Dzone.com. In fact his status over there is now link master – Alvin has promoted my links in the past over at DZone, and for that I remember him. Instead of continually promoting his own blog, Alvin has become more prolific by helping others get noticed. I also frequent his DewDrop link post at his blog when he announces it via Twitter – which shows you the sort of power of social interaction.
The personal scribe. Your writing defines you.
Its also worth noting that when attempting to develop your social media strategy, that your writing style is one that defines who you are and ultimately your brand values. If you come across as arrogant, your personal brand is perceived as that. You will also find that your policy on comment moderation on your blog, will have an impact on the overall tone of your site. If you break people’s backs when moderating, expect them to punish you when you make an error.
Social Sites. Where to be seen.
There are a multiude of social Web 2.0 sites out there that are now sizable enough for smaller fry like you and me to feed off. The following sites have numerous social features – with some concentrating more on content promotion and sharing, others are about finding people in your niche and within the blogging community.
1) StumbleUpon (Weblink)
Stumbleupon users promote content by using the stumbleupon toolbar. If they come across something they like, they simply tag it with the toolbar to promote it to others. The best content with the most stumbles gets seen more often, as users “stumble” upon it (i.e. randomly browse new sites). This can result in a spurt of traffic to your site, particularly if your content is useful and applicable to others. Taking the time to tag your content well, will reward you.
2) DZone (Weblink)
Dzone is a website with a community of techie / developer geeks at the helm. Users are more into programming and development than any other subject area, and if you content is technical in nature, and well written you are well on your way to getting it promoted on DZone. Incidently Alvin Ashcraft – (mentioned earlier) is a link master on Dzone.
3) Delicious (Weblink)
At time of writing the wonderful social bookmarking tool delicious had just dropped its trendy web 2.0 domain name (del.icio.us) and went for a complete overhaul of its design and domain. Delicious again works by promoting good articles and things of use.
Again it has a slight technical flavour to it, but no where near as technical as DZone. You do frequently see content hitting the Del.icio.us home page which isn’t geeky. Remember when promoting your content and submitting it, that its userbase favours bookmarkable content (Due to the Del.icio.us toolbar) rather than articles which provoke thought comment or opinion – ala Digg.
4) Digg (Weblink)
Out of all the social bookmarking sites – Digg is the one I dislike the most, many of its userbase are young adolescent males with nothing better to do that instigate flame wars, however if you do have content that you think is breaking news, or is interesting, comment provoking, extremely funny or rude, then package it up with a nice title and you’ll be in with a chance of getting Dugg.
5) Linked In (Weblink)
Much more of a meeting place for than some of the other social bookmarking sites, LinkedIn is like a Facebook for business. It allows you to connect with people whom you have done business with – or would like to do business with. I have found that generally most people have no problem in connecting with you as a friend, even if you just want to pick their brain, but it is also a great idea to start getting noticed by using LinkedIn Answers. Answering questions on your chosen subject matter can build you as an authority in the field, and is a great way to show your knowledge to others. Personally I have found it invaluable for picking up both tips, and new blog post ideas.
6) Facebook (Weblink)
If you are trying to reach a younger audience profile, and connect with the youth of today then before you jump onto Facebook then you could do worse than reading this. Facebook still remains one of the more popular ways to communicate directly with Generation Y consumers, and it’s appeal is helped out with the ability to create Facebook applications for business. If for example, you run an online store then there may be scope for connecting Facebook users with your store data, i.e. allow Facebook profiles to showcase what they have bought in the past 30 days from your store, all with consent of course. This is just one example of something that has potential to go viral on these networks and push traffic back to your website. Bebo in Ireland also falls into the same category, and also has a platform for applications.
7) MyBlogLog (Weblink)
If you run a website with a blogging strategy as part of your marketing, then you should get yourself over to Mybloglog, and start interacting with other bloggers. Interacting with them will result in new connections, and as I’ve said before people are what counts online.
Services such as Twitter and Plurk have given yet another channel to reach out and talk to the community. The major players in the social media field know that these provide an easy way to give back, and can be extremely powerful in their own right. And its for these main reasons:
Branding, Reputation, and Communication.
When you connect with someone with a lot of contacts via either Plurk or Twitter, your reponses to them get seen by numerous other people. They in turn may then choose to follow your updates. That in itself is an extremely powerful, potentially viral way of connecting with others.
Overall Social Media marketing can be extremely powerful, but with great power comes great responsibility – use it wisely and you will be rewarded, spam the networks with useless content and you will damage your brand. Choosing what medium or combination of services suits you as a marketer is half the battle.