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March 12, 2009

7 Ways to Make the Social Web Work for You

If you haven’t yet realized that social networking is now the focal point of internet marketing, then you haven’t been paying attention. Utilizing social networking is more than creating a group on Facebook or opening a MySpace account. A business owner who truly understands social networking has a gift for taking a broad view of the internet. Where do people gather on the internet? What do they talk about?

How do they talk to each other? The difficulty with using social networking as a marketing strategy is that social networking requires marketers to step outside of their comfort zones and find new ways to deliver their messages. It doesn’t require a total rejection of traditional marketing techniques, but if you’re unwilling to follow your gut and build authentic relationships, then it might not be right for you.

Potential customers are constantly bombarded with marketing messages in some form or another. What they really want is to make authentic connections with other people, which is why social networking is such an overwhelmingly popular phenomenon. To be successful, you have to make those connections instead of simply throwing your message out there to see where it sticks. In fact, if you’re using social networking the right way, you might not even feel like you’re “marketing” anymore.

Here are 7 keys to building authentic communities on the internet:

  1. Create of map of your customers. Keeping your niche market in mind, find the places on the internet that have the most influence on your potential customers. What are your potential customers and your competitors talking about? Does your company have anything to add to the conversation?
  2. Recruit. Now that you’ve figured out where your potential customers are and what they’re talking about, invite them to talk with you. 3. Determine the appropriate platform(s). Which of the following will work best for your goals: social networking sites, e-communities, blogs, or reputation aggregators?
  3. Engage your community. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is the place where you have to put your most authentic self out there and engage the people you’ve recruited to be part of your conversation. Be real and be genuine. Make this about a conversation, not about selling something. Mostly importantly, find a balance between content generated by your users and content generated by your enterprise.
  4. Measure involvement. Watch your community carefully over time and pay attention to what resonates most with them.
  5. Promote, promote, promote. Your site may not need much promotion. If that’s the case, then consider yourself lucky. But if you find that you need to promote yourself, go seek out places where that can happen. Invite yourself to someone else’s place and then invite them back to yours.
  6. Give incentives. Once you have a quality community, focus on giving people a reason to stay. Be aware of what works and what doesn’t, what people enjoy and what they don’t. Always look out for ways to make your community more friendly, useful, convenient, and rewarding.

The most important part of marketing through social networking is to make sure that your community adds values to its users. If your users feel like they’re getting good advice, good information, and making good connections, then they’re more likely to stick around. And it’s your job to facilitate a quality community. It may not feel like marketing, but it may be some of the most important marketing you ever do.

If you’re not sure whether now is the time to make social networking part of your overall marketing strategy, go ahead and take the plunge. Climb the learning curve now, ahead of your competitors, and build your communities. You’ll be glad you did.

Seomul Evans is a SEO expert with a leading SEO company specializing in internet Search Engines and a contributor of Social Networking Articles