Marketing On The Social Web: A Few Key Ingredients

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Marketing successfully on the social web, can be compared to cooking your favorite dish. If the ingredients are just not right, or are missing, you are left with a sub-par product. It’s imperative that you get the dish correct. Lack of a little salt and pepper can make or break a dish. The same can be said for social marketing, to be effective with your campaign, you can not leave out any of the key ingredients, because if you do, you’re left with a sub-par marketing campaign. Sub-par is just not acceptable on the social web. After all, marketing is selling. If you’re not doing it effectively, you can certainly bet the next person is, your competitor.

I recently  wrote a good primer called 40 key elements to getting started in social media. It’s mainly for beginners, but the majority of the elements, ingredients applies to marketers as well. That should be a good starting point for anyone just getting involved with social media, and marketing on the social web.

When I got involved with Internet marketing back in 1997, the game was completely different. There were primarily three forms of marketing  back then. The first was marketing for search or what’s commonly called SEO nowadays. We optimized our own sites with the guidelines that still hold true to this day. You can read about a few of them on a post I wrote called 15 tips on improving search engine visibility.  Of course PPC campaigns was around then, and was very profitable and cheaper than it is today. There was less competition jockeying for keywords and the big name in town for search was Overture. This is before Yahoo bought them out, and way before the days of Google.

The second form of marketing was email. Today it’s commonly called spam. These were the days before opt-in existed. These were also the days where you could do a mailing to a million people and average close to 100 sales. Those days are long long gone. These were the early days of the web, keep in mind it was truly the wild wild west. Thankfully a decade later, the web matured and for the most part cleaned itself up. The third form of marketing was the traditional media buys of banner advertisements. It was all about CPM back then, a model I never liked and still don’t.

That was then. Today is a completely different ball game for marketing:

While the same avenues for marketing still exist. Today the social web needs to be factored in along with the traditional mechanisms for marketing.  The traditional marketing methods of one-way, one-sided communication simply do not work when applied to social media.  Social media is all about two-way communication.

What social media is:

The foundation and core of what social media is, consists of the five C’s. Conversation, community, commenting, collaboration and contribution. These are the five fundamentals that companies and marketers must understand to be able to successfully market on the social web.

What social media is not:

Social media marketing is not about spamming. It is not about list building with the intent to spam them with your wares. It’s not about one-way communication.

Social media is not Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. Social media is about the conversations that are taking place on these platforms, some may be about your brand some may not.

Social media is not about the tools. The tools are only facilitators of the message.

Starting with the basics first, a blog:

Establish your identity and presence. This starts with a blog. The Twitter and social networking accounts come second. Your blog is your home base. You might already have a website established as your home base, this is fine, but you need to attach a blog onto it.  Your blog is your voice, your website is not. The website is your secure point of sale for your product. Your blog is not used to spam your product, but to promote it.  Create newsworthy, thoughtful, intelligent content that has immediate usefulness. Offer tips, tricks and informational content relating  to your product and or industries. Your blog affords you the opportunity to become an expert and authority for your related product field, use it wisely. You know your product best, be passionate about it and let people know . Blogging is an open tw0-way forum of communication, encourage commenting as often as possible.  Your blog is a tool for getting the message out there, in time others will pick up the message and spread it.

Be creative, add product videos, tutorials, and other forms of user/customer generated content. Answer customer questions and feedback directly  and openly using your blog. Your blog is about promoting your product, finding the necessary hooks should be easy. By doing this you’re also establishing a footprint with the search engines. Blogs are an excellent source for search engine traffic. Be consistent with your blogging, optimize each and every blog post correctly, and you will  start seeing the benefits from search engine referrals. Remember Google does not discriminate, on the same hand you need to tell Google you exist, and that your blog is an authority on a subject matter. Telling Google you exist is the easy part. The authority part comes from inbound links, quality at that.

Change your blog permalink structure immediately:

By default, WordPress uses web URLs which have question marks and lots of numbers in them. This will severely limit the amount of traffic you will see from search engines. Make sure any content you publish on the web has the keywords of the subject or story headline formatted in the permalink/web URL.  As an example, look at the url of the last post I published, it was called “Netvibes:  The New Social Media Dashboard. ” The permalink for that post is, michaelfruchter.com/blog/2009/01/netvibes-the-new-social-media-dashboard/. Your permalink structure should look like this at the very least. You can also take it a step further and completely eliminate the month and year from the url structure. The point is keyword placement, every thing you publish needs to have the relevant keywords in the URL. This will make you or break you in terms of search engine relevance and rankings.

Go where the conversations are taking place:

Your customers are on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and so forth.  Establish identities on these networks, groups, and most importantly a following.  Simply creating an account on these networks with little or no interaction is pointless.  If you are going to use these tools as a one-way form of communication, then you will accomplish nothing. That equates basically to spamming, and you will be ignored rather quickly. Gain insight into the  communities of interest and actively participate in them.

Venture into new territories:

News flash, the social web is not just Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace.  If you plan on successfully marketing, you need to constantly be expanding your horizons. There are tons of other opportunities you need to be looking at and establish a presence on.  The first that comes to my mind is Ning. Ning is very niche and targeted as it allows users to create their own social websites and social networks. This is not an opportunity to spam, but rather an opportunity to join the conversation, participate and add value to it. The marketing part comes later, only after you have earned the trust and respect of the community, never beforehand. Ning is also a place to create and form a community around your product, that is if one does not exist already. There are also alternatives to Youtube and Digg, see what I mean? Never limit yourself, that’s foolish.

Create, build and maintain a following:

People who express interest about your product are either  friends, followers or fans.  It’s vital that you friend these people and follow them back on all the social networks you are on, and will be participating in. Friending anyone and everyone is list building, this is meaningless. Only friend and follow the people back who are conversating about your brand. Anyone who has even the slightest interest in your brand, follow back. You need to be receptive with people who are trying to engage you positively. Without a following you don’t exist, it’s that simple. Remember social marketing is basically word of mouth marketing, these are the mouths that will be spreading the word. These are the people who will be Twittering your content, Digging your content, sharing your content and so forth. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have meaningful relationships with these people. They are for the most part loyal brand endorsers. You need to be as loyal to them as they are to you. This is done by engaging and replying to them in conversations, wherever they may be taking place, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, Blogs etc. Send them free stuff every once in a while, people love the free perks.  You get the picture.

Forget email marketing. Your fans and friends are your opt-in marketing list.

I won’t say email marketing is completely useless, but this is not 1997, 98, or 99 anymore either.  You should definitely set up an opt-in email list for customers or potential customers who legitimately want to be notified of product updates. Do not rely solely on email marketing or email list buying, it’s a waste of time in todays Web 2.0 era.  On the social web your followers and friends are your opt-in email list. Lets face it, email marketing ends up as spam, either the user who opted-in marks it for spam, or spam filters marks it as spam.  There is also a cost involved with sending emails. The costs are for the list leads, sending the emails, and the cost involved with possibly getting shut down for a brief period of time by your web hosting company. How much does it cost to send updates to your followers on Twitter, Facebook and so forth?  That’s right, you guessed it, nada, nothing, zero. Your followers don’t have the option of marking your messages as spam. Sure they can ignore it or unfollow you, but that’s about it.  If they are following you, it’s for a reason. You will always have their attention for the most part. Do people forward email marketing messages to other friends and family? Highly unlikely. Now can we say the same thing about Twitter, one word, retweet. You get the picture now?

Content is king,  be creative with content creation and promotion:

Create content that matches the channels you are trying to market to.  Social media content is primarily user generated content. Your marketing content and strategies  should focus on a  mix of professional and  user/customer generated content. Visual sells, visual is also what goes viral. Create content that will get people talking, sharing, digging, stumbling and forwarding emails.  Your content should be remarkable, unique, and newsworthy. Simple static content was good in the Web 1.0 era, but not the Web 2.0 era.  Take a look around on Digg, Reddit, and Youtube, pay attention to what’s hot and what’s not. These are good indicators to follow. Your existing customers are a good source for user generated content. There are so many directions you can run with by using your customer base.  Encourage and give people the tools to promote your content as well. The tools exist and they are free.

Target, readjust and maintain your branded campaign pages:

Take a look at your profile and landing pages and adjust them accordingly to the communities you are targeting. Maintain these pages as often as possible with content updates. All to often, companies have abandoned their branded campaign pages, that were part of a larger marketing campaign often setup by PR firms.  Most of these pages signed up thousands of friends, fans and followers. When the campaign ended, these pages became ghosts. Thousands of friends and followers are left in limbo. You see this time and time again on every social networking site on the net. Every follower and friend is a value target, each and every single one of them, treat them as such.

Track everything:

Measure everything when possible. Anayltics is key for measuring and tracking visitor information. Use tracking URLs in your marketing campaigns and social profiles. Guessing simply does not cut it. A smart marketer is an informed one.

Create a social media dashboard:

Tracking website anayltics is easy. You also need to track and monitor what is being said online about your brand.  Twitter mentions, blog posts, comments, and so forth. Create a central hub to monitor all this activity. You have two options, use a company such as Radian6 or Filtrbox, or create your own monitoring dashboard as I have outlined in this post using Netvibes. Your dashboard should  also integrate your website anayltics, tracking url statistics, follower counts, bookmarks, video plays etc.

There are obviously a few more ingredients to throw into the pot. This post just touched upon a few of the essentials.  You can read more of my thoughts and insight for marketing on the social web for 2009, in this eBook, that  I recently collaborated on with 11 other marketing professionals.

Image by Chotda under Creative Commons License.


-- Download Marketing On The Social Web: A Few Key Ingredients as PDF --


  • http://www.conversationagent.com Valeria Maltoni

    Mike, this is very, very useful even for someone like me who has been doing these things and understands the value of integration. You bring to bear your online experience to really show how all of these parts fit and, most importantly, how they developed. Thank you. I know you put time and thought into it. It shows.

  • Pingback: Marketing On The Social Web: A Few Key Ingredients | Search Engine Secrets

  • http://www.conversationagent.com Valeria Maltoni

    Mike, this is very, very useful even for someone like me who has been doing these things and understands the value of integration. You bring to bear your online experience to really show how all of these parts fit and, most importantly, how they developed. Thank you. I know you put time and thought into it. It shows.

  • http://www.radian6.com Amber Naslund

    Hey Mike,

    Wow, what a great resource for people looking to understand some of the basic elements of social media engagement. Really appreciate too the recommendation for Radian6; listening and monitoring the conversation are such key ingredients because they not only tell you what's being said about you, but they help guide you about the most relevant ways for you to participate.

    Thanks again!
    Cheers,
    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community | Radian6
    @AmberCadabra

  • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

    Hey Mike,

    Wow, what a great resource for people looking to understand some of the basic elements of social media engagement. Really appreciate too the recommendation for Radian6; listening and monitoring the conversation are such key ingredients because they not only tell you what’s being said about you, but they help guide you about the most relevant ways for you to participate.

    Thanks again!
    Cheers,
    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community | Radian6
    @AmberCadabra

  • http://BeSocialWorldwide.com dawntrenee

    Thanks for all the great information. I think most companies are lacking in the tracking/monitoring department. Companies are jumping on the SM wagon w/o a full plan or goal and forgetting to make sure what they are doing out there is “working”

  • http://BeSocialWorldwide.com dawntrenee

    Thanks for all the great information. I think most companies are lacking in the tracking/monitoring department. Companies are jumping on the SM wagon w/o a full plan or goal and forgetting to make sure what they are doing out there is “working”

  • Tia Nelson

    I saw this article and just started following you on twitter. Thank you so much much for bringing all the pieces of the pie together. I've been trying to wrap my brain around promoting products through social media and you've helped me make sense of it.

  • Tia Nelson

    I saw this article and just started following you on twitter. Thank you so much much for bringing all the pieces of the pie together. I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around promoting products through social media and you’ve helped me make sense of it.

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  • http://www.marblehost.com Hosting Service

    this is quite a long read, but very informative read i should say. very profound ideas on social web marketing. i have tried the Ning, its quite ok but your tips are very informative.

  • http://www.marblehost.com Hosting Service

    this is quite a long read, but very informative read i should say. very profound ideas on social web marketing. i have tried the Ning, its quite ok but your tips are very informative.

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  • http://www.suzannethepartygirl.com Suzanne

    Thank you so much for your information, Mike. Your site is the best that I have found thus far that outlines what the web can do for you, how to use it and in what order. (And, yes, I have researched, looked up and read A LOT of sites, so it is a compliment!) Thanks!

  • http://www.suzannethepartygirl.com Suzanne

    Thank you so much for your information, Mike. Your site is the best that I have found thus far that outlines what the web can do for you, how to use it and in what order. (And, yes, I have researched, looked up and read A LOT of sites, so it is a compliment!) Thanks!

  • http://www.elevenhearts.com elevenhearts

    Mike,
    Thank you very much for sharing.

  • http://www.elevenhearts.com elevenhearts

    Mike,
    Thank you very much for sharing.

  • http://health4you.usana.com Dyann

    Mike, Thank you so much for this great information. As someone that is trying to understand the social media system you were very helpful in confirming much of what I am in the midst of discovering for myself…thank you! I
    With gratitude,
    Dyann ~ dml.edbd

  • http://thegratituderoom.blogspot.com/ Dyann Lyon

    Mike, Thank you so much for this great information. As someone that is trying to understand the social media system you were very helpful in confirming much of what I am in the midst of discovering for myself…thank you! I
    With gratitude,
    Dyann ~ dml.edbd

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    wow that was detailed ..Track everything is the best tip i think

  • http://copynprofitreviews.info copynprofit review

    wow that was detailed ..Track everything is the best tip i think

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    Have to say Thank You for great tips, Mike . Things like changing permalink has great effect on your SE marketing efforts.

    Thanks again very much

  • http://www.webhostingreviewz.com/ web hosting review

    Have to say Thank You for great tips, Mike . Things like changing permalink has great effect on your SE marketing efforts.

    Thanks again very much

  • http://www.bradfordsbakers.com Hampers

    Very well said. Truly a great marketing scheme needs the key ingredients coupled with the correct way of mixing and cooking. Your post is an eye opener especially to those who still do the usual way and not knowing they are wasting time that should have been used to fruitful marketing.

  • http://www.bradfordsbakers.com Hampers

    Very well said. Truly a great marketing scheme needs the key ingredients coupled with the correct way of mixing and cooking. Your post is an eye opener especially to those who still do the usual way and not knowing they are wasting time that should have been used to fruitful marketing.

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  • Maya

    this was very helpfull. I am new at this and it just nicfely fits in with what everyone else has been saying. Thank you

  • http://Botras@dvancedrombus.com Earline Maske

    I am just more impressed with on-line marketing based on seeing the way the youger generations communicate with their peers with the web. My 14 year old grand daughter just showed me a web system they had put online to manage popular topics for their peer group. They were asking about how to generate online marketing on the page to generate income. I must tell you I am very proud and amazed.

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  • http://www.iwebxpert.com/ Daisy Bono

    Nice! As days goes by we can’t deny the fact that things do change in
    whatever aspect it belongs. One particular thing is technology, changes in
    technology is visible that is why most businessmen are slowly taking steps to
    adapt with these changes. They have already learned to socialize in the
    internet through the use of social media popularly facebook. Businessmen
    chooses to socialize with a bigger population in order for the business to grow
    and optimize.