Entering the realm of social media can be a bit like trying to enter an exclusive club. There are barriers to entry, codes of conduct, and unwelcome outsiders are quickly identified and ostracized. Yet, like an exclusive club, the benefits of membership can be great. Marketers looking to benefit from social media would do well to heed the advice of the three presenters in this SES session, moderated by Pauline Ore of IBM Corporation.
As Kendall Allen, digital marketing and convergence media consultant, pointed out, social media has come a long way since the advent of the Internet. Listservs, user groups and chat rooms have given way to the networking giants of Facebook and Myspace.
These highly organized, more defined social networks have made it possible for marketers to establish a brand presence among their consumers. Kendall stated that social media optimization should be integrated into any comprehensive, cross-platform marketing plan.
Kendall also pointed out a few new ways in which marketers can enter the social sphere. Services like Ning.com allow users to create their own unique social network. Many social networks allow brands to create applications, in the form of surveys, content sharing and more. Companies can enter the blogosphere with the help of Socialspark.com, which connects companies with bloggers who will right about their goods and services for a fee.
Li Evans, director of Internet Marketing at KeyRelevance, highlighted the varied benefits of using social media. Many people mention linkbuilding, but “Links are by products of social media,” Li said. While good social media practices will result in links, Li and the other panelists highlighted several important uses and benefits:
- Talk to your audience Use social media to interact with your consumers in a more ‘natural’ setting outside of focus groups and surveys.
- Gather information Find out what the public thinks of your brand. This can be especially useful to gather feedback when a company has recently implemented changes.
- Create brand ambassadors By directly engaging consumers with your brand, you can create a legion of devoted brand followers who will spread the word to others. This can also result in increased links.
- Give consumers a voice Allow consumers to collaborate with your brand in order to strengthen your products.
- Manage your reputation Directly address any negative brand noise on the web, and monopolize your search engine results pages (SERPs) with the additional content you’ve created. Many social media profiles will rank in SERPs for your brand, and images and video can show up in universal search.
However, before you enter the social world, do your homework. Li highlighted variety of different online users, from creators of content like bloggers, to joiners of social media, to spectators who merely read and absorb online content. She pointed out the importance of knowing where your audience lies in this spectrum, and planning your social media activities accordingly.
Once you’ve identified where and how your audience is using social media, you can begin to enter these networks and interact with them. David Snyder, Search Specialist at JRDunn.com, gave several useful tips for engaging consumers ‘socially.’
- Create optimized profiles Your username should relate to your company or product and be phrased in a way that is familiar to your consumers.
- Create original content Your social profiles should contain creative, thoughtful copy that provides value to your consumers.
- Use keywords In your tags and descriptions for photos, videos or other content, use keywords to ensure these items can show up in universal search.
- Be authentic All three panelists underscored authenticity as a cornerstone of good social media practices. Consumers can recognize a fake instantly, which can have dire consequences for your brand.
As the three speakers in this session indicated, social media can offer many benefits to the marketer savvy enough to use it correctly. Its potential uses move beyond mere linkbuilding to consumer research, reputation management and more. By following the rules, marketers can not only gain entry, but flourish in these social spaces.