Building and designing a successful social media campaign can be a lot like designing and building a skyscraper. You need to research the materials, lay a strong foundation, and continue regular maintenance to ensure your building, or social media promotion, doesn’t collapse.
In Understanding the Complex Social Media Marketing Playing Field, moderator Joe Laratro led a panel of social media marketing architects who shared their social media design tips.
Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz, gave an overview of some of the various materials an online marketer can use when constructing a social media plan. Michael Gray, president of Atlas Web Service, created a strategic design plan for building successful social promotions. Cameron Olthuis, CEO of Factive Media, outlined best practices for interacting with social communities in ten steps. Neil Patel, CTO of Advantage Consulting Services, Inc., ended the session with a controversial look at “the dark side” of social media marketing.
The strongest social media plan involves a mix of the below materials.
- Democratized Social News sites These tools allow online marketers to interact with a community by voting on content and submitting their own content to be voted on by others. Examples include Digg, Reddit, Mixx, and Newsline.
- Editor-Controlled News Sites Sites like Yahoo! Buzz accept and display user-submitted content that fits in with their editorial guidelines. These sites generally have a high profile and can generate huge results.
- Social Sites These sites are a great opportunity to build and interact with a network as well as publish original content in a variety of forms including links, news, photos, videos, and more. Examples include Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIn.
- Micro-Blogging Sites On Twitter, Plurk, and Friendfeed, you can submit interesting content in 140 characters or less. This can act as an instant megaphone, allowing you to broadcast strong points of interest to a large audience.
- Social Bookmarking Sites Marketers can submit interesting URLs to sites like StumbleUpon, Delicious and Blinklist to drive traffic to specific pages. These sites are also good for research in terms of finding out what type of content interests your audience.
- Social Content Sharing Sites Youtube, Flickr, Yelp and DeviantArt all allow you to post specific types of content, from video to photos to reviews. These sites can help marketers build brand messaging and reach new, relevant audiences, and can also show up in universal search results.
- Wiki Sites Wikis are another good way to dominate the search results, as they often rank highly. Use wikis to post original content and edit existing content while reaching a new audience. Wikipedia is the penultimate example of a wiki site.
- Social Question & Answer Sites Marketers can both post questions to other users and answer existing questions on sites such as Yahoo! Answers and Wiki Answers. This can grow brand reputation and authority and is also a good way to conduct audience research.
- Niche Sites Social sites that target a very specific niche, such as Corked for wine enthusiasts, allow marketers to reach a highly relevant audience.
Creating a successful social media campaign requires a well-thought out and detailed plan. Take the proper steps to ensure your social promotions are sturdy and effective.
- Background Research Find out where your audience is online. Look at the content they themselves are submitting on these sites for ideas of what interests them. Also, identify thought leaders to target in order to spread your message to a broad audience.
- Brainstorming Generate as many ideas for promotions as possible. Look at what has worked previously and build upon that without copycatting. Filter your ideas wisely in order to find something that will feasibly work for you.
- Idea Research Follow up on your ideas to see if they will work based upon what is already happening in the social media you are targeting. Be flexible and adapt your ideas if something won’t work. Don’t force a bad idea.
- Story Production and Formatting Ensure you’re writing in a viral writing style. Avoid marketing speak and obvious sales-oriented messaging. Use videos and photos to enrich your stories.
- Schedule and Launch Know the times in the day, week, etc. your audience interacts on social sites. Tie promotions in to holidays and major events to generate timely interest.
Building a Foundation
Interacting with a social community is the key to building a strong foundation for your social media marketing campaign. “It’s called social for a reason,” Cameron Olthuis points out. Be sure you are socializing within a community and following its guidelines.
- Network & Be Social Make new friends, join groups and generally participate in the community. This should be a continual process.
- Be Genuine, Authentic and On Target Stick with what your audience wants.
- Provide Value Give users something they can use, in the form of advice, expert tips, inside information or something entertaining.
- Let People Act Naturally Allow users to play with your content and have fun. Don’t force a specific interaction.
- Listen and Respond Look for both positive and negative reactions by monitoring content once it’s live. Respond to users and improve content accordingly.
- Screwing People Impacting a competitors reputation by submitting useless content from a competitor’s site to social news or bookmarking.
- Social Media Rings Creating a ring of people to vote up your content. This quickly becomes a “dark” practice when abused through overuse.
- Social Media Applications Tube Increaser and Twitter Friend Adder allow marketers to automate adding large quantities of friends to their accounts.
- Forced Actions Patel mentioned iframes code, which is useful for ‘forcing’ people to automatically subscribe to content such as your YouTube channel just by visiting.
- Blog Links Certain blog formats, such as WordPress, can be hacked, allowing marketers to insert their links.
Patel also advised visiting several “light” reading resources, including SEOmoz.org, Techipedia.com and our very own TopRank Online Marketing Blog.
Create a holistic social media campaign by ensuring you’ve put time and effort into the three major stages outlined in this session: the proper building blocks, a strategic blueprint and a solid foundation. Continue routine maintenance by building your profile and interacting regularly within social communities. Conduct regular inspections of your progress by searching for your content on Technorati, Google Blogsearch, search.twitter.com and other monitoring resources. And while going to “The Dark Side” may have its appeal, following social media marketing best practices should generate solid results.