June 11, 2007
Before I get started, it is worth defining social media. It has become a widely used and abused term that means different things to different people.
My definition of social media is:
‘online technologies and practices that people use to share their opinions, insights and experiences with each other. Information can be shared as text, images, audio or video via blogs, message boards, wikis, RSS, podcasts and social networking sites‘.
At the heart of social media is the ability of individuals to interact with other people so that they feel involved and part of a community. A big part of this phenomenon is the activity of finding, sharing and recommending products, services, events and experiences to like-minded people. This is where social media crosses over with marketing.
Social media can be a great way to have your website promoted by word-of-mouth.
If you can get people to talk about and recommend your services to their peers, it is more powerful than any marketing you can buy. So how can you get started?
How Can You Make Social Media Work for You?
The good news is it is easy to start the process of using social media to promote your website.
1) Create a MySpace Page
MySpace (www.myspace.com) is the largest and best-known social network. Individuals create profiles about themselves and then invite similarly minded people to become their online friends. When someone becomes a friend, you can communicate with them and subtly direct them towards your own website.
Setting up your own page is simple and free. Go to www.myspace.com and follow the instructions. Put up a brief description about yourself and a link to a more detailed biography page on your own website. Remember, the goal of this page is to drive people to your own site so make sure you get plenty of links included without overtly promoting your website.
Spend an hour every week developing your site and building your líst of friends. Invite relevant people to comment about your website.
2) Add Bookmarking Links to Your Article Pages
A big part of the social web is the ability for people to build lísts of their favourite sites or articles. People with similar interests can then share their lísts and benefit from other people’s recommendations. If your website has free content, you should make these articles easy to bookmark or add to favourites lísts. There are a lot of internet sites that now host and share bookmarks. You can add links to these sites to your article pages.
There are two ways of doing this. You can go to each of the leading bookmarking sites and download their code and links onto your site. The ones that you should include are:
- Digg – www.digg.com
- Technorati – www.technorati.com
- Del.icio.us – del.icio.us
- Reddit – www.reddit.com
However, if you go this route it can be time consuming and you will omit many of the potential bookmarking sites. The alternative is to put a link to AddThis.com on the foot of each page. This gives your users access to over 30 bookmarking sites.
3) Add an RSS Feed
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Syndication, depending on who you ask. RSS allows people to be notified every time new articles are added to your website so they can keep up to date with your content.
Ask your developer to create some RSS code for your website and then put a link on all of your pages to the RSS code page. The link should be a small orange rectangle with the letters RSS in white.
Publish your RSS feeds at Feedburner to encourage distribution and interest.
4) Email to a Friend
Enabling people to easily email an article to a friend is not typically bundled under the heading of social media marketing, but in my view it is another way to encourage people to share and recommend your content. Add an ‘Email a Friend’ link to all of your content pages.
5) Add a Forum
Having a Forum on your website is a great way of building a community around your subject area. Monitoring the forum will both give you a chance to understand what people are discussing and promote your expertise by adding your own comments.
The downside of a forum is it does need to be carefully managed. You need to allow people to make negative comments so they don’t feel they are being censored, but you have to stamp out aggressive behaviour, personal insults, sp@m and meaningless rubbish. This can be time-consuming work, so don’t bother with a forum unless you have the time to do it properly.
You can register your forum with BoardTracker to make it easier for people to find.
6) Create How-To or Product Review Videos
It has never been easier to create short videos that can demonstrate your expertise. How-to videos are very popular. For example, if your website is about Making Money on eBay, you could create a short video on “How to Take Perfect Photos for Your eBay Listings”. Make sure you have your website URL on the opening and closing sequence of your video to promote your website.
7) Share Your Photos
If you have photos related to your subject area, post them on photo sharing websites such as Flikr and PhotoBucket. For example, if your website is about steam trains, take a camera to your next steam train show and post the pictures on these sites. People searching for steam train images are likely to try these sites. They can then follow the link on the photo to your website. P.S. Remember to include links back to your own site from the images.
8) Create a Blog
Blogs are very simple content sites where short articles are listed one after the other on the home page. They are usually used to write about current events or comment on news.
Some successful content websites are blogs. Some are much more like magazines with feature articles. If your site is more feature-based, consider starting a separate blog that can be more informal and brief. Update the blog every day even if it is with just one- or two-sentence comments. Blogs that are infrequently updated quickly lose their audience.
Use the blog to drive traffíc to your main website.
In many ways, today’s social media technologies are still fairly primitive, but I can say with confidence that the phenomenon that they have created – of customers taking control of the buying process – is here to stay. Customers will continue to get stronger, so publishers, manufacturers and anyone else with customers better start listening to what they are saying.
One last point before I finish. It’s really a word of warning. Once you adopt the social media marketing techniques, you are inviting people to comment about your service. You must be ready for negative as well as positive feedback. Good companies listen to the feedback and make positive changes. Poor companies ignore it or worse still, call their lawyers to fight it. If you jump into the social media world, be ready to participate, listen, learn and take action.
Author: Miles Galliford co-founded UK based niche marketing site, SubHub in 2004 with the sole aim of building an affordable solution for publishers who wanted to control their own site and have the option to make money in different ways from their content.