Tips for Marketing on the Social Web

So, all the chatter about social media and user-generated content is nothing new, right? What’s new: a lot more companies of all stripes are waking to the fact that customers hang out in online gathering places and very often talk and post content about them. It’s much like what happened with search a few years ago, and business executives said, “Hey, I think this is important and there’s opportunity here.”

A lot of agencies say they know social media. In reality, they’re only buying advertising and branded pages on social sites like MySpace and Facebook. Meanwhile, other firms perform social media optimization (SMO). However, both services miss the point of what social media and user-generated content is about.

Social media marketing isn’t about optimizing or advertising. It’s about socializing!

It’s about weaving your content and messages into the social Web, making friends and fans. It also means talking to and listening to friends and fans and measuring the impact the social Web has on your business. It’s not one campaign on MySpace or Facebook with a cool page that makes a few friends and is later abandoned when the campaign’s over.

Here’s some advice for opening your social media channel. I realize this list could go on, so please send me your tactics. If you’re a media buyer, these are a few things to think about.

  • Take a long view on your branded profile pages. Don’t put up campaign profiles and company profiles and re-skin them to match your campaign.

  • Make friends and fans and stay in touch with them. It’s like building an opt-in e-mail list.
  • Use your media buys to build your friends and fan networks. Target ads to your desired universe of potential friends and customers.
  • If you’re advertising on MySpace, use some of your impressions to drive people to your branded page and get them to do something meaningful on that page — like a landing page.
  • Create reporting dashboards that track page views, friend and fan totals, video plays, and clicks to your site.
  • Intertwine your content. Put videos from your YouTube channel on your MySpace page. Take flash movies and demos from your site and put them on your Facebook profile. Think about how you can weave your content together.
  • Use tracking URLs in your channels and profiles whenever possible to track traffic from the social Web back to your site.
  • Listen to your friends and see what they are posting on your walls and in comment areas for your profiles and channels. If they don’t like it, figure out why and fix it!

Search for a wide range of brands on the social network and you’ll see dozens of abandoned branded campaign pages posted as part of larger social media buys. Many of these pages signed up thousands of friends and then poof! The campaign was over, and friends and fans were left hanging in limbo. The pages are left floating in the social Web, never to be changed or updated. What a waste!

Plus, the term, SMO, really bothers me. It sounds like it was invented by an search engine optimization (SEO) company to make social media marketing the first cousin of SEO. The social media channel is way too important and visible to to be viewed only from the perspective of how it affects your search rankings on Google.

Don’t get me wrong, social media saturation and marketing can help you build links and get bloggers to talk about you. But don’t do it with that goal in mind. Understand you’re putting copy and content into a very robust environment where people will be very quick to be an advocate for your brand — or worse, reject it and complain about it.

Remember: when you’re at a party, you don’t want to talk at the crowd. You want to be part of the crowd and talk with them. You must interject into the conversation with interesting comments and elicit their response. The same applies to the social Web.

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