Look beyond traffic and links and you will find the real value.
Social media, and by that I’m lumping together blogs, RSS, social networking and social book marking sites, presents the marketer with a rich set of new tools to help in the effort to generate new business.
But, if that’s the only way you view social media, as a set of tools to perform a set of tactics to reach the set of objectives you have always tried to reach with your marketing, then not only are you really missing the opportunity, you will probably find yourself wondering what all the fuss is about.
You can’t approach new media with old thinking. Taking full advantage of social media requires understanding and adopting a specific social media strategy.
First and foremost you must appreciate the differences between social media and, say, direct mail. With direct mail the outcome is likely, to create an action. With most social media, it’s to create a connection. Both of these have equally important places in the long-term health of a business, but how they happen is significantly different.
Try to do one with the other and the results may actually backfire – ie: Ads on Facebook? There are definitely instances in which a social media play can align with an organization’s industry focus and become natural facilitators of lead acquisition.
I think the best way to look at social media, though, is to view it as a way to open up access points. These points can then be leveraged to create content, connection, and community. Do that well, and they can also add to lead generation, nurturing and conversion. Think of your web site as the ultimate destination or bucket to catch what comes through your social media access points.
Blogging – If content is one of the golden measures, blogs are a given. This one has become so mainstream it’s hard to think of in the same light as say Facebook. Blogging enhances all forms of content creation, drives search traffic and enables the start of connection and community in the form of comments and conversation. Employing this tool effectively feels a bit like social media 101 – a required course of action before advancing.
In Action: A blog connected to or functioning as your website, a blog network for your customers, a blog network for your strategic partners, an idea blog for your industry.
Tools – Typepad, WordPress, WordPress MU, MovableType, Drupal, Square Space, Twitter
RSS – Perhaps best known as a subset of blogging, RSS is what drives the spreading, filtering and aggregating of ideas and content. RSS technology has the ability to make content more useful.
In Action: Simply researching through news, republishing news and search results, reformatting information – data and calendars, creating custom news feeds, mashing lots of feeds into one.
Tools – bloglines.com, Google Reader, GoogleNews, YahooNews, aideRSS, mySyndicaat, Feedburner
Social Bookmarking and News – Social news and book mark sites live to promote ideas and reward the creators of those ideas for creativity and consistency. The best social news plays consist of targeted campaigns focused at a specific site or audience.
Getting on page one of Digg or del.icio.us or creating this week’s viral hit on You Tube can send your site’s traffic through the roof, but there a couple things to consider.
These are communities that reward participation and hard work (that’s not to say people haven’t figured out ways to beat the system, but go in realize that methodical work is ahead.)
Choose a community with the proper focus. Digg is technology heavy, Small Business Brief is for small business
Tools: Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, YouTube, Google Video, Mixx, Small Business Brief
Best Practices: Build deep once, Study and read, Find and pitch influencers, Make it easy for you and your readers, Build networks, Promote your chosen site.
Social Networking – The recent rise in popularity of sites like MySpace and Facebook clearly points to the desire for community. As marketers rush to these sites it becomes clear that virtual “no soliciting” signs are hung out.
Networks are networks and while the meeting place may be new, the rules (manners) are the same. If you goal is to establish yourself as an influencer of an existing network, you must be prepared to earn the right, mostly by giving, helping, guiding and building relationships without overt efforts to cash in.
The long term can be very fruitful, with patience you can make connections, improve your visibility and increase sales.
Tools: ecademy, Facebook, mySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Jigsaw, Ryze
Best Practices: Participate actively, Pitch influencers, Make it easy for yourself and your network, Find connections
Building Your Own Social Network – The next wave in community building is the personalized, niche, hand-build community. There are some emerging tools that make this idea much more doable, but creating your own community is a serious investment in terms of time and resources. Done well it can be the ultimate in terms of building a brand.
Tools: Drupal, Ning, KickApps, OneSite
About the Author: John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, award winning blogger and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide published by Thomas Nelson.
He is the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing small business marketing system. You can find more information by visiting www.ducttapemarketing.com