The Value of Social Media
It’s obvious that social-media optimization has value. Look around at sites like MySpace, YouTube, and FaceBook. These are all sites that no one thought would amount to anything. But they did. The generation of kids that have just entered the work force and are growing up right now are Internet pros, and their parents are pretty proficient with it, too. These people are involved in all kinds of activities online, from shopping and downloading music to participating in social networks. The kids are networking socially for different reasons than parents are, but both are getting involved. If you look at an
experiment done by Marketing Experiments Journal (http://www.marketingexperiments.com), you quickly begin to believe that social media might be more valuable than you thought. The experiment compared the cost and effectiveness of social-media marketing against pay-per-click advertising over the span of one year. And the results? (The Value of Social Media)
The value of social media is there. But so are the difficulties that you may face as you try to implement a social-media optimization effort. For example, you can’t rush headlong into a new social network and expect to be able to post your ads anywhere you want. That will get you banned from the community
fairly quickly. It will also create animosity between you and the very people you’re trying to reach. You also have to participate in the communities. You can’t fake your participation, either. Social networkers will recognize your efforts as being fake and will treat you accordingly. But if you can accomplish that, the rewards are better than any marketing plan you’ve used to date.
- Participate: If you don’t participate, your thoughts and opinions will not be welcomed in a social-media network for long. If you’re going to leverage the power of social media, you have to be willing to participate. Find a way to reward those users so they’ll continue to be helpful. Know how to target your
- audience: Audiences can be tough. If you approach the wrong audience with the wrong message, you’ll be slaughtered in the court of opinion. Create content: Content is one key to social-media marketing. I
- Be real: Social networkers can spot a fake nearly as quickly as they could spot a threedollar bill. Don’t try to con your audiences. Eventually, they’ll catch on and annihilate you. Be who you are. That will get you much further than being what you think others want you to be.
- Don’t forget your roots, be humble: When you participate regularly in social media, you may find yourself in the position of being considered an expert. Many people will let
- Be a user resource, even if it doesn’t help you: Today’s Internet users, and most especially those users who participate in social media and social networking, will expect you to provide information that is useful to them. If you’re not providing that information, they’ll go to someone who is. but try to help people without expecting anything in return. Your returns will come just because your actions proved your site’s worth.
- Develop a social-media optimization strategy: As in SEO, you don’t want to be wandering in circles as you’re trying to optimize your social-media presence. Develop a strategy that keeps you on track and helps you target the social networks that are most closely related to your topic.
- Choose your social-media optimization tactics wisely: As great a marketing tool as social media can be, it can also be the most detrimental practice you institute. If you use the wrong tactics in a social-media forum, you can expect to find your efforts worthless. You can also expect that it will be very hard to rebuild the trust that you destroy. Make social media optimization part of your processes and best practices: Socialmedia networks require constant participation. And as with SEO, that means ongoing efforts — daily.
Bhargava and the other social-media experts who put this list together are people in the front line of SEO and SMO (social-media optimization) every day. These guidelines will help you begin your optimization process. And if you follow them, you’ll be well on your way to gaining all the value available from social networks and social media.
But there are also other guidelines that might be helpful as you try to follow the guidelines just listed. Some are technical in nature, and others are simply a matter of etiquette: Spend some time listening to your audience before you join the conversation. This time allows you to gain an understanding of the language, the tone, and the expectations of conversations.
Watch closely at how you’re received, and track your site metrics at the same time. Sudden jumps or dips in your metrics can point to participation that works, or doesn’t. You have to have one. Use the information that you gather as you’re watching and listening on a social network to ensure that your strategy is targeted properly.
Deliver content that will add to the conversation. If it doesn’t add anything, the other participants will roast you faster than you can burn a marshmallow at a bonfire.
Use RSS feeds to enable your content. RSS feeds will instantly update anyone who is watching your content and that’s good for you. It means that your links will spread faster than anything else you could have done to share them.
Social media is all about relationships. Engage and encourage participation. Build relationships. And think of it from the aspect of “what can I give?” instead of “what can I get?”. And stay within that theme. Include articles, webcasts, videos, or whatever else works well with your theme. And try to look at the theme from different angles. That’s the key to opening discussion, dialogue, back links, and all the things that go into making someone want to pass on what you’ve got to offer. If you choose something no one is talking about, you won’t have any results.
Approach social-media optimization as an individual. You can’t approach others in a social network as a corporation. Corporations automatically garner suspicion (as in, “I know you’re If you are trying to market to a 30-something soccer mom, having the 50-year-old male CEO trying to get her attention isn’t going to work.
Consider hiring bloggers or other social-media participants. If it makes sense to use socialmedia marketing for your organization, you may have to devote a large chunk of time to it each week. If you don’t have the time to commit to that, consider hiring someone to do it for you. At ComputerWorld (http://www.computerworld.com) a whole staff of freelance bloggers helps to keep news current and related to the industries in which it appears. If they can do it, you can, too. You can usually pay them anywhere from $10 to $50 per post, depending on the industry.