Going Social for Marketing, Business, and Fun

porkfriedsocial.comSocial Media Marketing isn’t new. 2008 is simply the year that it emerges as THE thing to do if you want your business, charity, or blog to be “in” instead of “out”.

With companies that aren’t traditionally forward thinking in their marketing techniques, such as Ford Motor Company and Starbucks, making a push to enter social media marketing, it is clear that both big and small business are starting to take notice. Even local businesses are approaching anyone knowledgeable they can find on the subject to help them.

Below are some of the social media initiatives and trends from 2007 that tell of things to come in 2008. First, there are ways to create a web presence that goes beyond building a website or a blog. Then there are ways to drive traffic through social media to these websites.

First, Build Something for People to See…

Social Media Press Release

Ford Social Media Press ReleaseFord’s Web 2.0 advertising for their 2008 Ford Focus made some waves in 2007. Not only did they create and market a completely different type of hype-up page that could appeal to and be spread virally by social media members and social networkers, they also branched out with the subdomain media.ford.com.

People can join the network and interact with each other, learn more about Ford products, and share what they find through an easy interface. MyMedia.Ford is the network, and while far from perfect, it is definitely ahead of the curve compared to other automotive manufacturers.

<Expect Ford to expand and other manufacturers to imitate and innovate in 2008. Combining different principals of Web 2.0 will prove to be brilliant. The advantage — appeal to a broader range of people, whether they are the Facebook/MySpace social networking types or the Digg/Reddit social media types. Links throughout to tag on del.icio.us, so no, the social bookmarkers weren’t left out. It’s a social smorgasbord.

Facebooking and MySpacing

Reebok FacebookIt isn’t just for teens and techies. Social networks are getting groups from all around the internet. Facebook has popular groups for Victoria Secrets and Reebok, while MySpace boasts Bombay Clothing and Urban Outfitters.

Both Facebook and MySpace need to (and are, I’m sure) make changes to appeal more to business, not just through advertising, but also through networking. Even though neither format is strong enough yet for significant benefit for business, it isn’t stopping the businesses from flooding in to figure out some way to get their words out.

The emergence of niche social networks should end up being the fix that local and even national businesses are looking for to engage their direct audience. They are popping up left and right, are easy to market online and off, and as more new users swarm to Facebook and MySpace, more older users are leaving, looking for something more personal and less obscene.

Viral Social Marketing

StarbucksStarbucks has never really gotten into advertising their products heavily until 2007. They didn’t need to. When the word Starbucks became synonymous with quality coffee in the 90’s, the buzz fueled unprecedented growth. Now, with more competition and rising costs, the old business model still works, but why not pump it up with some viral marketing.

Their Cheer Chain was extremely innovative and successful, with over 30,000 chains created already. Relatively inexpensive advertising perpetuated by users with a competitive edge to it — what better way to get the word out and expand on their monumental branding. Social media marketing is not just about selling something. Sometimes, the branding alone is enough to make sales happen down the road.

When you have the clout that Starbucks have, you have the luxury of being able to focus on such things. Still, businesses do not have to be mega-global empires to learn from this. Any time you can get your customer base to spread the word and get your logo out in front of the masses, you’ve accomplished something. Perhaps more importantly, it’s dirt cheap.

Twitter and Flickr and YouTube, oh my!

Apple on TwitterSocial media marketing doesn’t have to require long development and planning. Some businesses have recognized that micro-blogging and media submissions are enough for a boost to get more of the word out. With Google’s Universal Search starting to take wings and show up on the search engine results pages in the form of images and videos, this is more important now than ever before.

Companies like Radio Shack and Bowflex have done a little on YouTube, while EBTM T-Shirts and Chumby are active with using Flickr for marketing. Then there’s Tiger Direct, who has created a mini-empire by promoting on YouTube in bulk.

Micro-blogging platform Twitter needs only two words to prove its effectiveness: Amazon and Apple. Though both have modest follower numbers, you can always bank on these two knowing what they’re doing with new and innovative marketing techniques. Businesses large and small would do well to follow their lead on internet marketing matters.

Second, Get People there to See it…

Promoting Social Media through Social Media

Top Digger BannedPossibly the most important trend for 2008 is the use of social media to promote other social media. A perfect example recently happened for one girl trying to win a contest. Kina Grannis put a video about Digg on YouTube, had it submitted to Digg, and watched as it flew onto the front page and up the Top in All Categories section.

It has had over 250K views in 10 days, not including the knockoffs and resubmits.

Sometimes, taking events on social media websites and turning them into news for social media websites works well.

“The true gems in the social media arena are folks that not only find good User Generated Content (UGC), but create it as well. Interviewing a top banned Digger and interviewing the Mixx founder were great sources of content for us.” – Brian Wallace, NowSourcing

Any good social media marketing piece should make its rounds. That part is clear. But in these tough-to-find cases, the social media became the social media story. The results — a likely victory for a singer and a nice couple of bursts of targeted traffic for a pair of social media blogs.

StumbleIt! the Right Way at the Right Time

StumbleUponEvery day, many people see a spike in their traffic that they hadn’t seen before. They check their web analytics and see StumbleUpon.com as their top referrer by far. If the content is high quality and they are lucky enough to get a few good reviews and some thumbs up, there’s a potential for this traffic to continue for a few days.

If they get lots of good reviews and lots of thumbs up, the traffic could continue for months.

At some point, these website owners go to SU, create an account, and stumble every page of their website. At this point, they’ve nearly ruined their chances of getting any real traffic from SU, and they don’t know why.

StumbleUpon is an incredible traffic driver, but the algorithm is designed to not be used for spam marketing. First, the more prolific stumblers are the ones who drive traffic, not the ones who just created an account. It takes time and sincere stumbling, discovering, befriending, and activity to build the kind of account that can shut down servers the way Digg can. Second, repeated discovery or stumbling of the same website by one user will result in turning your stumbles into worthless window-dressing on the review page.

If you have time, Stumble earnestly. Create an account, discovery quality content, make friends, and enjoy. You can stumble the occasional page from your website, but for the most part, it’s better to just let people know where your website is by posting it on your profile and hope they discover your pages for you. If your stuff is good, it will get traffic. If not, you might get a burst, but it will die quickly.

Digg, Reddit, Propeller, Mixx, Newsvine, and Everyone Else

Social MediaAs with StumbleUpon, you have to have something high-quality that people want to see for the social news websites to be able to work for you. Whether it’s a new and innovative service, an interesting article or blog post, a funny picture, or a great video, you have to have something that compels social media users to vote it up or it’s a mostly worthless submission. Of course, it helps with search engine optimization, but this is about driving social media traffic.

Submitting your own content is fine as long as it is done sparingly. Still, having someone with some clout find your story and submit it is always best. Many of the top users are flooded with requests to submit things for people. Keep in mind — if it’s crap, it’s crap, and having Mr BabyMan on Digg, TechnologyExpert on Propeller, or QGYH2 on Reddit do the submitting will not get it to the front page if it’s crap.

Best techniques – either spend time, make friends, build up a strong profile on the social media websites, and succeed that way, or just hire a social media marketing company who knows what they are doing. The best of the best have made connections with strong submitters. In some cases, they’ve gone so far as to contract or even hire them. Services claiming to get you on 200 social bookmarking and social media websites for a fee are usually not the best. Services who have a firm grasp of social media marketing are the ones that will make themselves (and you) stand out in 2008.

* * *

Social media marketing is here to stay (at least in internet terms, which means a couple of years or more). Businesses, charities, blogs, and individuals with a message or a product should take advantage of this, as it can be extremely cost effective and fun. You’ll touch people that you probably weren’t touching before. There are many pitfalls and a high chance of failure, as very few understand the concept and even fewer have the ability to practice it, but if you can market through social media properly, you have the potential to reap tremendous rewards.

Special thanks to resources with research that helped: 110 Ways Retailers are Using Social Media Marketing and Get Ready to Get Social in 2008, plus others who offered ideas and advice.

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Learn more about social media at the Social News Watch homepage. We take Web 2.0 News seriously.

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