In the previous post, Social Media Marketing (A Warning), I pointed out the potential dangers of using Social Media properties the wrong way. Here, we'll look at ways you can run a social media campaign successfully, without fear of ultimately doing more harm than good.
You have a website or an online business that you want to promote. You need traffic, and you need search engine rankings. Where do you start? Well, right now all of the experts are raving about Social Media - and how you can use these services to get "tons of inbound links" and an "avalanche of website traffic".
The problem is that they are both right and wrong...
Wrong because done without a clear objective, it can actually come back to 'slap' you. Unfortunately, most people get tips in twitter-size bits: bookmark your links on all the bookmarking sites, tweet all of your blog posts, set up multiple squidoo lenses, interlink all of your lenses and hub pages, etc (that list could go on and on)...
At the moment, some of that is actually working - and working fairly well even. But most seasoned marketers already know that it's short-lived, and that those practices will leave footprints that will ultimately backfire on you.
Its called SPAM. We all dislike it, yet to some extent people will rationalize that its okay to do in their own business. Using software to blast your links out to hundreds of social bookmarking sites... is spam. Setting up dozens of social media properties solely for the purpose of getting inbound links to your website... is spam. Even Digg'ing your own blog posts is spam (in my personal opinion).
Right because used correctly the social media services can give you a platform for brand awareness, exposure, networking, and a huge boost in traffic & sales.
As a small business, or an online business, social media campaigns give you an edge over larger competitors. Studies show that most companies are not yet adopting social media, leaving a sweet gap for the "little guy" to do big business in that space.
And that's what we're going to discuss here today: how to use Social Media successfully. Meaning for long-term benefit to your online business. I'll break this down in a "top ten" list real quick, but I encourage you to both take it literally... and also consider what I'm sharing and how you can apply it in any way that specifically fits your business model & marketing plan.
10 Smart Ways to Use Social Media... Successfully
1. Map Out A Clear Objective Your social media plan should stand on its own two feet, and not even include "how to get better search engine rankings". Consider how you would use social media properties if the search engines did not exist. Ideas to consider in your overall objective might include:
- Relationship/Trust Building
- Customer Relations (think @comcastcares on Twitter)
2. Customer Comes First While mapping out your objective, consider what your customer - or your ideal website visitor - wants to see from you. Get an image of that ideal person clearly in your mind, and consider what they see on their end with everything that you do. They are the person you ultimately want to attract into your funnel, so you want to make a great impression no matter where they find you on the web.
(Note: what impresses humans, also impresses search engines!)
3. Consistent, Quality Content The content that you post to social media properties should be both consistent as in regular updates, and also consistent with your overall message or objective.
If you are an MLM recruiter for example, provide quality resources for recruits. If you own an ecommerce gardening site, offer gardening tips. Whatever your message, you want to make it consistent across the web.
(One of my personal pet peeves is to follow a favorite author or blogger on Twitter, only to never (ever!) hear a single peep from them about the topic they are so well known for!)
This helps you achieve your branding objectives, and allows you to create the perception that you want people to have of you or your company. Anyone who follows you online should easily be able to fill in the blank: (You) is known for ___ . Can you even fill in that blank quickly & clearly??
4. Focus on Content, Not Marketing Too often I see people get this backwards. If you focus on valuable, high-quality content then that content will do the marketing for you.
You shouldnt be digg'ing or bookmarking your own content, but rather writing such great content that your readers give it an unsolicited digg or stumble. Your job is to write, and provide easy access to social media services where your readers can share your content with their friends & groups.
When people like what you have to say, they will share it - period. And when they share it, the search engines will take notice. Write something great, and let the rest happen naturally!
5. Caution: Dont Over-Optimize! Obviously you want top search engine rankings for specific keyword phrases, but be careful... because there is such a thing as over-optimization. Using the same anchor text everywhere that you link to (or request a link to) your site leaves a 'digital footprint' too, throwing up a red flag that you may be trying to manipulate the search results.
To avoid this, you want to use natural variations in anchor text for the links that point back to your primary website. You need a certain number of "click here" or similar links to give balance to your optimization strategy.
6. Stop Linking To Your Home Page "Deep Links" or links pointing to internal pages on your website (or blog) help to give it authority and depth. It is not natural to have hundreds of links pointing to your (general) home page, and none pointing to your internal content pages.
All other things being equal between two identical websites, the one with more deep links will outrank the other. This also gives you more exposure in the search engine results, since your internal pages will begin ranking for specific relevant keyword phrases.
For more on this topic see: 7 Practical Deep Linking Tips.
Social media is all about micro-topical discussions, so consider how you can introduce internal sections or pages of your website into these conversations.
Tip: Your home page may not be the best link to share with someone you meet while networking on social sites. Consider linking to your "about me" page instead for a more personable introduction into your site.
7. Be a Valuable Resource There's a reason its called Social Media, and not Self-Promotional Media. Keep that in mind when you are considering what you will post to your social media properties.
If all you post is self-promotional links and requests, you will eventually become a part of your readers "noise" and ultimately be filtered out. They may not unfollow or delete you, but they will begin to scan over your posts and tweets without even realizing it.
Avoid this by becoming a valuable resource in your niche. One way you can do this is by sharing links to domains that you dont own. And I dont mean your own squidoo lenses or myspace profiles - I mean domains you have ZERO association with. Provide value to your groups.
You mean, you want me to *gasp* promote my competitors?! Yes - and become friends with them too. Interlinking and networking is powerful!
8. Use Social Networking To truly achieve your social media objectives, you'll have to do some social networking too. Forget the word "competitor". Other publishers or webmasters in your niche are your best friends in the social media landscape!
One of your goals should be to locate every competitor on your level (or within reasonable range) and create an "inner circle" of friends or business peers. These are people you can interview or be interviewed by, exchange links, joint venture with, etc. Stop looking at them as competition, and start looking at how you can leverage each others position in the marketplace!
Tip: Dont ask for favors. And dont flaunt the favors you do. Simply follow, comment on, link to, or otherwise become "known" to select publishers in your niche and I promise that they will notice... and generally begin to reciprocate. Given a little time the relationship will form naturally and be mutually beneficial.
9. Build Rapport Get involved in discussions, reply to blog comments, ask for feedback (and then respond to it and act on it!), etc. People want to know that you're a real person, and not just a bot spitting out links and sucking in cash.
Dont be afraid to have an opinion or to express your thoughts on hot topics within your niche. Your unique voice in the market will attract your ideal visitors and customers.
Social media gives you an opportunity to be personable. An ecommerce site has its limits when it comes to establishing trust and building long-term customer relationships, so use social media as an opportunity to truly connect with your target market.
10. Link Freely - And Dont Apologize For It! This is somewhat of a combination of tips #3 and #7. One thing that really makes me cringe is the 2 words "shameless plug" - promise me you wont ever use that phrase (ugh!).
The people that follow you, subscribe to your updates, or 'friend you' on social sites... want to hear about your latest news & tips! And if they dont, they'll quickly UNfollow you - which is just fine too. This is not a numbers game or a vanity contest - its a means of syndicating and socializing in a professional yet personable way.
There is a right and a wrong way to hyperlink to resources and content on social media sites. The wrong way is to say "read my blog post" or "visit my website". The right way is to share a cool link (whether its yours, or something of interest to your readers from another website) and to open a discussion on that topic.
As an obvious recent example, I held an open discussion on Twitter.com (a popular micro-blogging service) all last week about the StomperNet promotion. I pointed to my two blog posts (here and here) freely as a resource, and also "opened the floor" for ongoing discussion. Those of you that follow me on Twitter saw that firsthand I assume. Consider it an example to use in your own social media campaigns!
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The bottom line is that you want to have a clear objective, be a valuable resource, and use the social media services in the ways they intend to be used. Anything else will get you filtered out, unfollowed, banned or blacklisted... and ultimately be a complete waste of your time.
Done right, social media can currently grow your online business faster than any other means...
Next I have a Social Media case study to share with you that will show you some of these strategies in action, with great detail and very interesting results.
p.s. The original blog post in this series received over 50 Diggs (unsolicited) in the first few hours. How's that for a nice example of this concept at work?