ADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — What’s your YouTube or MySpace strategy? Are you hopefully engaging your target audience and shouting from your page, “Come write on our wall! While you’re at it, check out a video of our CEO jumping up and down on our products to demonstrate their durability. Feel free to share it with all of your friends! … Ohhh, what’s that you say? You don’t want to be our friend and our overly zealous CEO scares you?” Intelligent online marketers know that social sites present a fresh opportunity to gain exposure, boost credibility and build business. Have you found an effective way to tap into this new frontier?Ever since the emergence of MySpace captured the attention of consumers, a steady barrage of “social” enterprises have swollen to become the barely definable world of social media. These days, you can network at Facebook, meet friends at MySpace, view pictures at Flickr, microblog at Twitter or bundle many of these activities together through social aggregation platforms like Plaxo. The goal, as I understand it, is to share experiences that build interwoven communities of somewhat like-minded people. We can debate whether any of these people have the tolerance to actually interact with many of their “friends” outside the veil of their online personas, but we cannot deny the ability for these ready-made armies to spread the word and make – or break – a product or service.
So far, most of the success that stems from marketing through social media has been at the hands of major brands with major dollars. We all know of the occasional viral hit that propelled an unknown name onto the scene, but we also know how difficult – and serendipitous – that was to achieve. How, then, does the average mid-size company that sells a quality product or performs an outstanding service invest in the social media world? Are there opportunities for gaining market share? Enterprising marketers are finding ways to do just that by exploiting the platforms where people socially interact.
Leverage Your Assets
My agency mainly focuses on clients with direct marketing goals. When these clients discuss social media with me, they are ultimately seeking to invest in new growth strategies that will provide solid ROI. Most are loathe to unleash their troops to “play” on social sites but realize those same troops strikingly resemble their customers. What they need is a strategy, some accountability and someone who will protect the integrity of the brand they are cultivating.
One client we developed a social strategy for plays in the specialty apparel space. They mainly manufacture for private label retailers but also maintain their own online outlet for overstock and excess inventory. Through effective SEM strategies, the outlet has become a meaningful part of their bottom-line. With their appetite whetted and the smell of revenue in the air, we began to discuss additional Internet marketing strategies. Because their marketing lead is no slouch, social media marketing quickly became top of mind.
In reality, social already played a role in their campaigns and we were ready to advance the ball. From a tactical SEO standpoint, we had already become involved in various blogging activities and were seeking new opportunities to boost link popularity and create new assets to rank. So we began to discuss what role various types of social sites could play. After some discussions, we focused in on a few assets their organization possessed that could be leveraged. Those centered around a large portfolio of high-quality photographic content and the lead designer responsible for those designs. I think you can guess what came next. We setup a Flickr account to display and optimize the photos and recommended a “Meet the Designer” program on MySpace. In the end, we ended up achieving our primary goal of improving rankings – in some cases they control 3 or 4 of the top results for important general keywords – while also lighting the social fire within their organization.
Play to Your Strengths and Stay True to Your Brand
Some clients are much better suited for an easy transition to social. Another client I work with that is tailor-made for the space produces a fitness product they sell through DRTV. With an energetic, appealing spokesperson, celebrity endorsements, tons of video content and a huge amount of offline buzz, the social world is theirs’ for the taking. For other clients, the opportunities are not so clear and the goals need to be more realistic. I often talk about the fallacy of the “viral” success story and my opening comment about the video of the CEO jumping up and down on his products is not a big stretch from what has actually taken place. Unfortunately, lacking a clear strategy and short on results, many marketers have steered away from social media.
It’s important to stay true to your brand and be honest and engaging. The backbone of the social world is predicated on the ability of the social web to sniff out the truth. This in turn creates what will become your reality. Watch how quickly a virus will spread if you’re caught being dishonest or disingenuous. My colleague who heads up our SEO team was recently published discussing the lasting effects of negative publicity online. The last thing you want showing up when your brand is Googled is a blog post from some guy who caught you posing as your own customer making false assertions about your products.