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No. 7 Most Read Article of 2013: You Don't Need a Million Fans!

  |  December 28, 2013   |  Comments

Ten social media marketing tactics that don't rely on Facebook fans.

This story was originally published on June 4, 2013, and comes in at No. 7 on our countdown of the 10 most popular ClickZ stories of 2013. As ClickZ looks back over the past year, we're celebrating the best of 2013, as determined by you, our readers. Enjoy!

I know this is kind of old hat but I still feel like a lot of social media marketing conversations I am in boil down to Facebook fan count and engagement. Now I'm not going to say that fans aren't important, but let's face it - the vast majority of companies are never going to have a million fans. Heck, most companies in the world will never have 20,000 fans.

This isn't because they're run by bad people or they make bad products; it just means that they either don't have the budget to invest in building a fan base or their products (or company) just aren't that "likable." Not all brands and products are the type of thing people would publically become a fan of. For example, who wants to fan anti-depression medication or baldness remedies? Both products are used by many people and consumers really want information about these products. However, people just don't want to hit that "Like" button on their fan pages.

So what does this mean? It means that for the majority of companies out there that will never have a big fan base, and for those companies that make less than "likable" products, social media marketing cannot be about Facebook fans. It has to be about utilizing social media to help propagate their products, message, brand, educational materials, and thought leadership throughout the web. It means getting recognized by the vocal influencers out there who are both interested in what you do and active in social.

The thing that's important to realize is that success in social is often realized via search. So this means that the content you put out there may spread through the web via social but people are discovering it via search. Sure, it's great when your content goes viral and people find you via social, but that's typically a flash-in-the-pan event that's hard to consistently replicate. The long-term benefit is when you produce good content and utilize social to weave your content into the fabric of the web. It's great when your site pops at the top of Google, but it's also good when your content (or content about you) pops at the top of Google on another site (blog, forum, mainstream media, etc.) and links back to your site. It's this "off-site" or "off-page" presence that gives your social efforts a long-term echo and ROI!

So here are some tactics you can use to hopefully get that instant social/viral pop we are always chasing, but also some of that long-term social + search ROI that actually builds a brand and business over time.

  1. Socialize in your space. Get to know the other people who are active in your space and social media. It's not about finding the person on Twitter with the most followers - it's about finding the people on Twitter who talk about your products! Follow them, retweet their tweets, @reply to them, direct message them. Same goes for bloggers - promote them and hopefully they will promote you! Get their email addresses if you can. Yes, people still use email!
  2. Be a stage. Now that you found the influencers in your space, put them on a stage! Host webinars and Google Hangouts. They will typically do it just for the fame (or a small fee) and promote it to their audience! Then of course record, post, and propagate the content you create!
  3. Create lightweight content. Create content that is easy to immediately understand and share. White papers and ebooks are great but people like sharing guides, checklists, infographics, and advice. Make sure it can be displayed as a graphic and forwarded as a PDF. Then share that stuff directly with the people in your space (see the first bullet in this list).
  4. Dissect your heavy content. Lightweight content is the way to go. So what do you do with all those long reports, decks, brochures, ebooks, and verbose materials you have lying around collecting dust? Dissect them! Pull out the finer points, charts, and advice and make lightweight materials out of them. Use the excerpts to promote the long-form content!
  5. Socially enable all your content. Make sure you position share buttons (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, email, etc.) under your content to encourage posting. Remember, the share is the action! It's not an afterthought or something that would be nice if someone did it - it's what you want them to do!
  6. Socially enable workflow. So you got someone to download your infographic or buy that cool watch. Did you add a step in at the end (after you got their contact info or credit card info) that said, "Thanks for doing XYZ, now share the experience to get X"? Then put the share button right in front of them.
  7. Infuse your social content with keywords. We all know you should be using keywords in your site content, but how about in your social publishing? How about in your tweets, blog posts, press releases, Facebook posts, LinkedIn posts, SlideShare titles, YouTube descriptions, and other content? You don't have to play a Boggle word game here, but be opportunistic. Use the terms when you can. Instead of titling a SlideShare deck "ACME Solutions Case Study," make it "ACME Solutions Network Security Case Study."
  8. Create a culture of content. Tweeting, posting, and blogging is easy - you just type and hit post! Tweeting, posting, and blogging things of value that people will want to read, watch, and share is hard. So crowdsource from the experts in your company and make it worth their while. Make social publishing part of people's job descriptions. The cream will rise to the top! If even a small percentage of your company contributes a regular stream of content, you may end up with a very nice publishing schedule and archive of content!
  9. Leverage wire services. Blogs do publish news they see on the wire services and they now let you embed social content like YouTube videos in the release. Social media echoes in mainstream media but it also goes the other way around. Drop a nice stream of press releases on the wire services promoting your lightweight content and see what happens. By the way, good press releases will drive site traffic and leads too!
  10. Curate with a blog. No big surprise that I'm telling you to have a blog, right? But what's different here is the way you should use it. First off, don't feel like you have to produce pages and pages of original verbose content. That's good some of the time, but infrequent masterpieces of opinion should be published with very frequent quick-hitting points of view and alerts. Use a blog to promote those influencers you want to promote you, and join the public conversation. Promote and comment on their blog posts, YouTube videos, and SlideShare presentations. Curate the social ecosystem for your industry on your blog. Then tweet and post your posts!

I know this is just a small list and certainly not everything an organization could do in terms of "earned" or low-cost social media marketing. Also, I know these tactics seem very "grassroots." However, they work for companies large and small and are just some of the basic principles and tactics that make up a robust social media marketing foundation. Of course, please feel free to add some tactics in the comments!

Facebook Like image on home page via Shutterstock.

This column was originally published on Feb. 26, 2013.


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Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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