It doesn’t matter where you go or who you speak to the buzz word is ‘social media’. At networking meetings the chances are the guest speaker will have some slant on ‘social media’. Almost every client is asking about it. But is it all it is cracked up to be? I start to wonder if I am missing the plot or the only sane marketer out there.
I can see the value of social media, of course I can, but it is in my view being over hyped. Yesterday I read the article by Peter Shankman . And found a likeminded soul, at least nearly so.i Now I do think he must been having a particularly bad day because that was a bit of a rant but I do agree with the fundamental thesis, which is that there are no golden bullets in web traffic generation. All the different channels, social media included, have their role to play and different websites targeting different markets will find different channels of particular value.
So get to get back to basics, social media is anything that gets your brand or domain mentioned (and ideally linked from) another site in the context of commentary or discussion. So a listing on a suppliers list isn’t social media but almost anything else is.
So if you are working principally in the B2B market as I am, how should you deal with the social media question? You need a strategy. First lets look at the main types of social media opportunity.
Blogs are definitely good. Getting your brand name out there on respected blogs relevant to your product or service must be a good thing. This means blogs about your product but the really big advantage of blogs is it lets you get visibility in related areas. So if you are selling accounts software for the SME then accountancy blogs are an obvious target. But the blogs serving the whole of the SME market, blogs for start ups, blogs for entrepreneurs, also offer a way of getting your message across to an audience who may not even know you offer a solution to their problem – or even that they have a problem!
Again very valuable. Distributing regular press releases using a service such as prweb is a valuable arm in any traffic generation arsenal.
I think LinkedIn is a great site but an increasingly annoying one. The idea behind LinkedIn is that individual professionals network with each other to their mutual benefit. Excellent. Then company profile pages were added, fine. But then inevitably these company profile pages become a web marketing tool and a lot of companies, simply do not have the time and/or inhouse resources to set up and manage the company profile. The trouble is that LinkedIn does not have any strategy for allowing third parties, ie SEOs, to manage their profles on their behalf. The reasoning is, as I understand it, that everything must be done by the people on the ground. In my view LinkedIN is trying to have it both ways, a professional networking site with integrity plus the commercialism of company promotion.
I am very very wary of Facebook from the business angle. I know that many companies swear by it and if you are serving the B2C market then I would certainly recommend clients consider it. It’s also good for peer to peer communication, I know several creative agencies that have found excellent staff using Facebook. But for organisations that are aiming for larger clients, the corporate market, government contracts etc, there are big dangers. The main one is that it is all to easy for the personal to cross over to the business so that a prospect pulls up a photo of a company employee on a night out instead of one of him diligently working away. I know that there are privacy settings to prevent this from happening but the danger is there, and once on the internet, everything is there for ever. My view is that the way to keep a professional image is to keep Facebook for leisure and LinkedIn for business – unless as I say your market is B2C.
Twitter is definitely a fad that has found its niche, its raison d’etre. I still find the information overload irritating, why anyone feels the need to update the world on an hourly basis (continuously) is beyond me, but perhaps they just lead much more interesting lives than I do. But for communicating interesting ideas and updating on a rapidly changing situation, it is wonderful. Its power in influencing the Arab Spring is testament to that. So my new month’s resolution for June (why just resolve in January?) is to use Twitter better. There is an excellent ebook on how to to use Twitter for Business at Hubspot, not new but still a very good from the basics up guide.
Reeviews are a whole other can of worms but one which I think is going to become increasingly important, I’d even go as far as to say it is going to be one of the main areas in which search engine algorithms develop. This means get your Google Places listing well configured, encourage LinkedIn reviews etc. Of course if you are serving the public directly there are a host of review sites that, in my view, if they are good and credible will carry increasing weight.
So develop a strategy using the various options above and prioritise based on your market and the resources, both time and personnel available to you. There isn’t time to do it all – unless you invest a lot of money and employ full time staff to churn out social media messages (which some large retailers do to great effect) so select the medium that will work best for you, plan out a strategy to implement it, being realistic about what is achievable.
And finally, a few rules of thumb that I believe apply to all SEO strategies.
Quality – far better to put out half the number of blog posts of high value than twice the number of low quality ones – the same applies to tweets, press releases and everything else.
Consistency – aim for regular communication rather than a periods of manic activity followed by silence. This has to be tempered by what news etc you have to offer. If your company does suddenly find itself at the centre of a major news (industry, national or even international) story then communicate, communicate, communicate it.
Even before I got this published another very interesting social media article landed in my inbox. Hoosa Hermani presents a really well written and interesting interview with Julie Joyce. Mainly on link building, Joyce she has some very sensible things to say about the use of social media in a link building context.