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Today when people are looking for answers to problems, they go
online first. That’s why social media has become a critically
important marketing channel.
Whenever I begin a speech, I pose four questions to the audience
and ask them to raise their hands if the answer to a question is
“yes.”. How'd you respond?
In your personal or professional life in the past two months, when
looking for an answer to a problem or to research a product, have you:
* Responded to a direct mail advertisement?
* Consulted magazines, newspapers, TV or radio?
* Gone to a trade show as an attendee?
* Used Google or another search engine?
* Electronically contacted a friend, colleague or family member
(e-mail, instant message, Facebook and so forth) who responded with a
Web URL that you then visited?
Over the course of a year, in front of over 10,000 people all over
the world including college students, marketing professionals,
technology buyers and executives at Fortune 500 companies, the answers
were surprisingly consistent. Between 5 and 20 percent of people answer
affirmatively to each of the first three questions. These answers mean
that the ways most companies have historically reached
people–advertising, direct mail, tradeshow booths. Pleas to the
mainstream media for coverage–are only effective in reaching a small
portion of potential customers. However, about 100 percent of people
raise their hands to indicate that they've used a search engine to
find a solution to a problem or to research a product and 90 percent
report that they've checked, out a Web site suggested by a friend,
colleague or family member.
Clearly, establishing a social media strategy and creating
effective Web content that's indexed by search engines is critical for
any business. When people are looking for answers to problems, they go
What're social media?
“Social media”. Is a misunderstood phrase. Much like the
overused “Web 2.0,”. Many people think they know what social
media is. Few can actually describe it. Robert. Scoble defines
social media on his Scobleizer blog by what it's not. Scoble says you
should consider the media that’s in your house or on your desk
(newspapers, magazines, DVDs. TV, radio, the Yellow Pages) and then look
at attributes of social media that are different. Social media (compared
to “mainstream media”) can be changed on-the-fly if something
proves to be incorrect. People can comment on a social media item and
can see in real time how popular an article or video is and how many
times it's been linked to or voted on. You can syndicate social media
via RSS and mash it up (a video in a blog post. Example).
The Social Media Club (of which 1 am a founding member) uses the
Merriam-Webster definition of the words “social”. (“of or
relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the
group. The welfare of human beings as members of society”) and
“media”. (“a medium of cultivation, conveyance or
expression”). The Social Media Club “will bring together
journalists, publishers, communications professionals, artists, amateur
media creators, citizen journalists, teachers, students, tool makers and
other interested collaborators. Essentially the people who create and
consume media who have an interest in seeing the ‘media
industry’. Evolve for everyone’s benefit. we're more than just
users, we're the reason the tools exist–we're the people who
communicate our thoughts and ideas near and far.”
So by way of clarification, here is my personal definition. Social
media describes the way people share ideas, content, thoughts and
relationships online. Social media differs from so-called
“mainstream media”. In that anyone can create, comment and add
to social media content. Social media can take the form of text (blogs
&. Wikis), audio (podcasts), video (YouTube), images (Flickr), and
communities (Twitter, Facebook and more).
“Tuned In”. Organizations that participate in social media
become part of a vibrant online community and show that market that they
are worthy of doing business with. Participating in social media is more
like the way business was done 100 years ago: One person having a
conversation with another person.
We’ve been liberated!
Before the Web came along, there were only two ways to get noticed;
Buy expensive advertising or beg the mainstream media to tell your story
for you. Now we've a better option. Publishing interesting content on
the Web that your buyers want to consume and interact with. The tools of
the marketing and PR trade have changed. The skills that worked offline
to help you buy or beg your way in are the acts of interruption and
coercion. Success online comes from getting “Tuned In”. To your
buyers and creating great information that enlightens, informs and
starts online conversations.
Unlike nontargeted, in-your-face, interruption-based advertising,
social media is content that people actually want to see. How cool is
that? Rather than forcing you to convince people to pay attention to
your products and services by dreaming up messages and ad campaigns,
search engines deliver interested buyers right to your company’s
virtual doorstep. This is a marketer’s dream-come-true.
However, most marketers don’t know how to harness this
exciting form of marketing. Their most common mistake is to spend way
too much time worrying about keywords and phrases and obsessing about
being “on message”. About what their product does. Many
companies are fearful of jumping into the social media waters because it
seems scary to put yourself out there.
As you get started with social media, you should think of your
initiation as including three steps (and in this order):
1. Monitor. The first thing to do is see what’s going on out
there. “Tune in”. By finding the most important blogs in your
market space and follow them for a few months. Look for YouTube videos
about your target market or industry and watch them. Follow some Twitter
feeds and some podcasts. It’s amazing what you’ll find when
you open your eyes to what millions of people are saying about you, the
market you sell into, your organization and its products.
2. Comment. To dip your toes into the social media waters, your
next step is to begin participating in conversations by commenting on
other people’s blogs, adding your voice to forums and chat rooms,
and updating Wikis. You’re adding to discussions at this stage, not
starting your own.
3. Create. To begin to shape conversations, now is the time to
consider writing your own blog or Twitter feed. Maybe creating a
Facebook group. YouTube video or podcast would be right for you. But
you’ll know what’s right because you’ve already
participated through your “monitor and comment”. Efforts.
There are good reasons for jumping into the social media world
using these three steps. First, by monitoring what people are saying
about the marketplace you sell into as well as your company and
products, you get a sense of the important social media participants,
their online voices and etiquette. it's quite important to understand
the unwritten rules of social media. The best way to do that's to
read and watch. Next, you can begin to leave comments, a strategy that
starts you on the way to being known to other bloggers and allows you to
present your point of view before you create your own social media
initiative. Finally, when you feel comfortable, you can take the plunge
by creating your own efforts.
Social media implementation
Here are some ideas to get the most out of using social networking
sites for marketing:
* Target a specific audience. Create a page that reaches an
audience that's important to your organization. it's usually better to
get tuned in to a small niche market than try to go large.
* Be a thought leader. provide valuable and interesting information
that people want to check out. it's better to show your expertise in a
market or at solving a buyer’s problems than to blather on about
* Create lots of links. Link to your own sites and blog. Those
of others in your industry and network. Everybody loves links–it makes
the Web what it's. You should certainly link to your own stuff from a
social networking site (like your blog). Also link to other
people’s sites and content in your own market.
* Encourage people to contact you. Make it easy for people to reach
you online. Be sure to follow-up personally on your fan mail.
* Participate. Create groups and participate in online discussions.
Become an online leader and organizer.
* Make it easy to find you. Tag your page and add your page into
the subject directories. Encourage others to bookmark your page with
Delicious (a social bookmarking Web site) and Digg (a social media news
* Experiment. These sites are great because you can try new things.
If it isn’t working, tweak it. Or abandon the effort and. try
something new. There is no such thing as an expert in social
networking–we’re all learning as we go!
Social media ethics
Let’s talk about ethics for a moment. All sorts of unethical
practices go on in the social media world. You must be certain to
hold yourself and your organization accountable for your actions.
Some organizations have gotten caught using unethical practices and
have done great harm to their corporate reputations. I’ve included
some of the issues you need to pay attention to, as well as an example
of each unethical practice.
This isn't intended to be a comprehensive list. Rather a
starting point for you to think about ethics.
* Transparency. You should never pretend to be someone you're not.
For example, don’t use another name (or be anonymous) when you
submit a comment.
* Privacy. Unless you’ve been given permission, don’t
write about something that was disclosed to you. For example, don’t
post material from an e-mail someone sent, you unless you've
* Disclosure. it's important to disclose anything that people
might consider a conflict of interest.
* Truthfulness. Don’t lie. For example, never make up a
customer story just because it makes good social media content.
* Credit. You should give credit to bloggers (and other sources)
whose material you've used. Beside being good ethical practice, links
to other bloggers whose ideas you've used helps to introduce them to
your blog and they may link to you.
What're you waiting for?
Everybody I’ve spoken with about social media has said the
same thing (but in slightly different ways). They were all a bit
uncomfortable when they started blogging. or creating a Twitter feed or
making a YouTube video.
They felt a little dorky because they didn’t know all the
unwritten rules. They were even a little scared to push the button on
their first blog post or Facebook update. We’ve all been there.
Don’t worry, jump in to the exciting world of social media. What
are you waiting for?
David Meermann Scott is a marketing strategist and the author of
the award-winning BusinessWeek best-selling book “The New Rules of
Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Viral Marketing and
Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly,”. Which has been published in
24 languages and the new book “World Wide Rave: Creating Triggers
that Get Millions of People to Spread Your Ideas and Share Your
Download his e-book “The New Rules of Viral Marketing: How
Word-of-Mouse Spreads Your Ideas”. Free at
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Editor’s Note: The following two articles look at the world of
social media marketing. The first, by David Meerman Scott, explains how
the emergence of social media is changing the traditional rules of
marketing. The second, by Amber Farley, is a practical guide to bank
marketers getting started with social media marketing.