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6 social media platforms at a glance

6 social media platforms at a glance Kent Lewis
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To say that social media marketing is a hot topic is a mild understatement. Due to growing consumer adoption and media coverage, companies have been increasingly engaging in social media strategies. Unfortunately, far too many corporate marketers are making mistakes in their first forays, and errors can be extremely costly. The following guide, including the platform checklist on page 4, provides insights into developing successful social media strategies based on a clear understanding of social platform technology, users, opportunities, and challenges.


Step 1: Understand the benefits of social media
Before we get too deep into analyzing each social media platform, it is always helpful to revisit the benefits of engagement. Social media marketing benefits for companies include:



  • Consumer and competitive insights gained from buzz monitoring and user demographic data

  • Customer support

  • Generating awareness and thought leadership

  • Online reputation management

  • Strategic partnerships and recruiting

Step 2: Incorporate social media success factors
The success of a social media marketing and optimization program depends on the following factors:



  • Transparency

  • Honesty

  • Relevance

  • Value

  • Commitment

Without a level of transparency in your social media outreach, your campaign could blow up on your face (just ask United Airlines and Wal-Mart). Even with full disclosure from your marketing team or partners, dishonest messaging can cause more damage than good, as most information can be quickly validated via online fact-checking. All communications should be relevant and add value to the conversation or community, and no campaign can truly succeed unless significant time and resources are committed over a period of time.


Step 3: Build a foundation
Social media platforms act as "kiosks" for your brand. As such, it is important to provide a centralized resource in order to direct traffic and measure efficacy.


Your corporate website should act as a resource by offering content complementary to social media communities, including articles, press releases, research, and tools. The website should also integrate social media elements, including RSS/XML feeds, status updates, comments, ratings, reviews, forum discussions, and linking social badges/icons. The more your site is able to create a sense of community, the greater the likelihood of generating, retaining, and converting site visitors.

Step 4: Develop a plan utilizing the 2MCE process
To get started on your social media marketing and optimization program, develop a strategic plan. The first step is to conduct an audit of your current presence (as compared with your top competitors) on search engines and social media sites. Determine where you are and where you need to be.


Ideally, develop a crisis management plan in advance that will address any negative ratings, reviews, or comments. Once you have an idea of where you are, develop a cheat sheet to expedite outreach to the social media sites on which you do not have a presence. There are three critical steps to developing a social media marketing plan (otherwise known as 2MCE): monitor and measure, create and communicate, and empower and engage. Details are provided below.


Monitor and measure. The first step in the 2MCE process is to monitor and measure. As with any marketing or communications strategy, it is always best to get a feel for your audience and the tools before developing an overall campaign strategy. For starters, create Google Alerts for your branded terms so you can be notified the moment something on the internet related to your business is published. Also track inbound site traffic via (Google) Analytics filters. You can also use search engines to conduct real-time research (i.e., Google, BlogPulse, and Technorati). More advanced marketers may opt to customize Yahoo Pipes RSS feeds or free (SM2, SiteVolume, Trendrr, YackTrack) or paid social media monitoring services (i.e., BuzzMetrics, Cymfony, Radian6, Techrigy, Trackur).


The bottom line is that you need to build your overall strategies based on where your customers live online, and agree on a set of metrics and benchmarks to measure volume and sentiment of conversations, as well as engagement (comments, ratings, etc.) over time.


Create and communicate. Once you've developed an overall social media strategy and set up monitoring and measurement (i.e., web analytics), it's time to reach out. When creating content for social media profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flicker, Twitter, etc.) try to ensure the content is timely, relevant, unique, and valuable. Once content is published, make sure that it is properly optimized, syndicated, and promoted to your target audiences within those communities and beyond.



  • When creating a fan page on Facebook, be sure to utilize Facebook markup language (FBML) and the API to create interesting custom fan pages and applications that get shared virally.

  • On LinkedIn, create and manage your own group.

  • On Google and Yahoo, create gadgets and widgets respectively.

  • Tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck improve profile management for Twitter, while Ping.fm helps syndicate profile "updates" across multiple profiles (including Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook).

  • If you've created a blog, make sure to promote posts (via search engine optimization, tagging, and RSS syndication) to social profiles like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Engage and empower. Lastly, but most importantly, now that you have a foundation including monitoring, measurement, optimized profiles, and valuable content, it's time to engage with your constituents and empower them to become evangelists for your brand.


One of the most powerful forms of generating awareness and credibility within your industry is to engage in knowledge expert communities like Yahoo Answers or LinkedIn Q&A and Groups. Similarly, participating actively in related online communities and threaded forums can create a level of connectivity with customers and prospects that ad dollars can't buy. Furthermore, Twitter and blogs can be more than one-way communications vehicles. By monitoring the blogosphere and Twittersphere for relevant conversations, you can comment, reply, and generally engage your audience members on their terms, and bring them back to your site or profiles to continue the conversation and nurture the relationship.

Step 5: Identify the platforms
A core component of formulating a social media marketing plan is to understand the ins-and-outs of each of the major social platforms so you can create relevant strategies and tactics around each one. The following outline will help you determine which profiles should be incorporated into your social media marketing plan.


Facebook



  • Community mindset: connect

  • Primary demographic: 25 to 45

  • Ideal fit for: entertainment, lifestyle brands, and non-profits

  • Biggest opportunity: using ads to build fans

  • Biggest challenge: few appreciate Facebook advertising

  • Metrics: fans, comments, likes, wall posts

  • Helpful tools: Lexicon, ad interface, applications, analytics, connect, etc.

MySpace



  • Community mindset: connect

  • Primary demographic: 15 to 25

  • Ideal fit for: music and entertainment

  • Biggest opportunity: providing music samples

  • Biggest challenges: noisy; losing market share quickly

  • Metrics: friends, favorites, groups, impressions

  • Helpful tools: Open Platform, MyApps, MySpace Toolbox

LinkedIn



  • Community mindset: connect

  • Primary demographic: 35 to 55

  • Ideal fit for: service providers, industry associations

  • Biggest opportunity: creating thought leadership via Q&A and Groups

  • Biggest challenge: time commitment

  • Metrics: profile connections, best answers, group members, discussions

  • Helpful tools: Applications, Salesforce plug-in

Blogs



  • Community mindset: create

  • Primary demographic: 35 to 55

  • Ideal fit for: technology

  • Biggest opportunity: develop thought-leadership

  • Biggest challenge: requires significant resources over time

  • Metrics: feed subscribers, comments, Technorati score, pingbacks, inbound links, visibility in search engines

  • Helpful tools: WordPress plug-ins

Twitter



  • Community mindset: create (microblogging)

  • Primary demographic: 35 to 45

  • Ideal fit for: service industry

  • Biggest opportunity: customer service, consumer insight, sales and marketing

  • Biggest challenges: noisy; reliability issues; platform limitations

  • Metrics: followers, @ replies, retweets, direct messages, custom hashtags

  • Helpful tools: BingTweets, TweetBeep, TweetDeck, HootSuite, CoTweet, Mr. Tweet, Twitalyzer, blog plug-ins

YouTube



  • Community mindset: vote

  • Primary demographic: 25 to 45

  • Ideal fit for: big brands and entertainment

  • Biggest opportunity: creating viral content (e.g., United Breaks Guitars)

  • Biggest challenges: noise; conversions

  • Metrics: views, comments, subscribers, ratings

  • Helpful tools: TubeMogul, YouTube Insight

Step 6: Get going!
Armed with company descriptions and links to social media content (images, videos, articles, and press releases), start creating social media profiles. Identify and address any potential issues relating to your company or products by following the success factors addressed earlier. Stay active in relevant communities. Monitor and engage as appropriate, offering suggestions, providing feedback, and answering specific questions. For bonus points, participate in expert forums like Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn Q&A to build thought leadership. Create and syndicate targeted, original content so the influencers can see it.


Remember, social networks are ideal for proactive online reputation management. Well-optimized profiles tend to appear in search results for your brand, which, in turn, block out less desirable content.


Conclusion
Social media can be time consuming, confusing, and difficult to measure. By following the six steps outlined in the social media marketing checklist above, the marketing team at any company can outpace the competition and come out shining in the eyes of executive management and its customers.


Kent Lewis is president of Anvil Media and Formic Media, two search engine and social media marketing agencies based in Portland, Ore.


On Twitter? Follow Lewis at @kentjlewis. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

With a background in integrated marketing, Lewis left a public relations agency in 1996 to start his career in search engine marketing. Since then, he’s helped grow businesses by connecting his clients with their constituents via the...

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Comments

to leave comments.

Commenter: Kent Lewis

2010, February 09

Kay,

Indeed, there are regulations in regards to healthcare & pharma that you need to be aware of. When we worked with a Fortune 250 pharma, we were not allowed to engage in social media, due to the "averse effects" clause, where our client has an obligation to respond to any comments from customers regarding any averse effects of their medications. Compound the issue with HIPAA and SEC compliance (if publicly traded) then you've got challenges indeed. Feel free to drop me a line with questions kent (at) anvil media dot com.

Commenter: Kay Ram

2010, February 09

Hey Kent ,

I loved your article and I was wondering if you can help me ... what about legal regulations regarding social media in the pharmaceutical branch ?

Many thanks

Commenter: Julia Kinslow

2010, January 13

Great content on developing and utilizing a viable social media strategy.

I wrote a similar post talking about the stages of making a social media presence and strategy. I believe it's important to stress spending time "listening" first to what is being said about your company, and then finding out where your customers are. Then it's time to engage.

All the best, Juila
http://wp.me/pCpWj-bq

Commenter: Andrew Ballenthin

2009, October 10

Kent, great content. Where did you collect the data from? I'm presently writing a book on social media monetization for Pearson and looking to share this type of data. I'd like to be able to quote this data in my book but need to know where the demographic data came from and who the origniating author of this content is.
Please email me at your earliest convenience [email protected]

Commenter: Radu Trandafir

2009, September 08

Excellent article. Thanks for organizing the info in such a functional way!

Commenter: Lenni Eubanks

2009, August 28

Thanks for the article, really helpful, esp the summaries in Step 5.

Commenter: Kent Lewis

2009, August 25

Kip, thanks for the comment. At a glance, metrics should be based on your campaign objectives, audience and platforms. You're on the right track, in that basic metrics include friends, followers, fans, connections, views, etc. but you should be looking at focusing in on and weighing engagement metrics more heavily:

-Twitter: retweets, replies, mentions, etc. (think Twitalyzer)
-Facebook: wall comments, likes, shares, etc.
-LinkedIn: recommendations, best answers, etc.

I suggest checking out the articles in our Resources section for additional detail:
http://www.anvilmediainc.com/search-engine-marketing-articles.html

I hope this helps.

Commenter: Gunther Sonnenfeld

2009, August 24

Kent - great overview on the use of SM platforms; this should give folks, particularly those new to the space, a good idea of the possibilities.

-G

Commenter: Leslie Cawley

2009, August 24

Excellent article and I might add that even with negative reviews and ratings, you can till take from the comments and learn how to improve on what you have to offer the targeted audiences. As Mr. Lewis has already done, the demographics are clear for each of the popular social netoworking sites and all one has to do is visit to learn even more about the user interests, what ads are posted, what they don't like and what can be added to create more value. Just use the internet and search engines as a guide and even talk with representatives of the groups you may know fo find our more about them. It can be done.

Commenter: kip steele

2009, August 24

Great article Kent.
What would you suggest which statistics people use to measure the success of a social media campaign? Twitter = followers? Facebook = friends? Thanks. Kip

Commenter: Andrew Ettinger

2009, August 24

This was a good article