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Protect and promote your Brand within 1 year, using Social Media


Social Media... Where it all started with Blogger and Wikipedia back in 1999-2000, followed by MySpace, LinkedIn and Friendster in 2001-2003, and then Hi5, Flickr, Orkut, Reddit, Yelp and Digg in 2005-2007, things really took off with YouTube, Twitter and Facebook after that.
The rankings attained via Social Media Optimization (SMO) can be achieved fast in the search engines and social/news platforms, sometimes even within minutes (in the case of Twitter or Press Releases), but they are very volatile and disappear again fast from the rankings, as it is "first in, first out" with latest news items.
Core question for the current two largest platforms Twitter and FaceBook is: can social presence sell, or is it more about reputation building and protection? We think it is a mix of both, with more weight allotted to the reputation aspect.

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Social media, a Global Gossip gateway, or the path to the Personalized Web?

Is it not a strange social paradox that people nowadays live in large skyscraper buildings without knowing any of their direct neighbours, while at the same time these people or online on the internet every night, chatting and socializing with dozens of persons in faraway countries? One possible explanation of course is that one does not choose one's neighbours...
Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media use web-based technologies (Web 2.0) to transform and broadcast media monologues into social media dialogues, and allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. Businesses also refer to social media as consumer-generated media or CGM.(quote from Wikipedia).
Social Media Optimization (SMO) for businesses is all about Online Reputation Management, Branding and customer feedback management.
DELL.com is a good example; they use SMO for "crowd sourcing" to get customer feedback for potential new product releases. Mercedes-Benz USA uses their Facebook Wall to receive and display customer feedback on its product lines. Starbucks.com uses Twitter to tweet about the Starbucks rewards program benefits, and their Facebook Wall to show customer reviews and suggestions. Starbucks also shows upcoming events on FaceBook, promoting its products.
Recently, a wave of social "group buying" sites (like Groupon, LivingSocial) has spawned, worldwide. Where that trend leads to yet has to be seen as it appears restricted to certain market segments only (spas, restaurants, gyms, tours, etc).

Examples of social media sites (the ones in bold font are used or advised by us in setting up broad SMO campaigns).
The underlined ones are mandatory in a basic SMO campaign:
  • Communication
    • Blogs: Blogger, LiveJournal, Open Diary, TypePad, WordPress, Vox, ExpressionEngine
    • Micro-blogging / Presence applications: Twitter, Plurk, Pownce, Jaiku
    • Social networking: Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Orkut, Skyrock, Tagged, Hi5, Ning, Elgg, Bebo, Buzz, Google Me
    • Social network aggregation: FriendFeed
    • Events: Upcoming, Eventful, Meetup.com
  • Collaboration/Mashups
    • Wikis: Wikipedia, PBwiki, Wetpaint, Knol
    • Social bookmarking/tagging: Delicious, StumbleUpon, Google Reader, CiteULike
    • Social news: Digg, Buzz, Technorati, BoingBoing, Mixx, Reddit
    • Opinion sites: epinions, Yelp, City-data.com
  • Multimedia
    • Photo sharing: Flickr, Zooomr, Photobucket, SmugMug
    • Video sharing: YouTube, Vimeo,
    • Livecasting: Ustream.tv, Justin.tv, Stickam, bizbuzztour.com
    • Audio and Music Sharing: imeem, The Hype Machine, Last.fm, ccMixter
  • Reviews and Opinions
    • Product Reviews: Epinions.com, MouthShut.com
    • Q&A: Yahoo! Answers, WikiAnswers
    • Employer Reviews: Jobeehive.com, Streetdirectory.com
  • Entertainment
    • Virtual worlds: Second Life, The Sims Online,Forterra
    • Game sharing: Miniclip, Kongregate
Important note:: be aware that conversion of clicks into leads or sales is very low on social media sites.
"Social SEO" is really "social", and not business oriented. Reported CTR's (click through rates) on ads on Facebook are as low as 0.09%; well below the attainable CTR's on Google Adwords, YSM, or MSN Adcenter, which can be as high as 5% to 10%. This is even more so for lead and sale conversion.
So a site can get floods of traffic via social SEO, but be prepared to sell little. Social SEO is mainly used for branding and reputation management; creating awareness for a website. Once a social community embraces a website, it could me marketed (sold) further via newsletters or free white papers to the social group (see below for the major publication platforms).


Another Social PR Platform: Press Releases, Article Syndication, Newswires

Search engines love fresh content, and tend to index (and rank) it fast, when it comes from a reliable source.
Excellent sites to promote one's business via press releases and articles are below (all are free of charge).
The underlined ones are advised to be used in a basic PR campaign as they carry the largest audience, and rank fastest and best in Google.com:
  • PRLog.org
  • EzineArticles.com
  • GoArticles.com
  • ArticleBase.com
  • ArticleAlley.com
  • Freewebarticles.com
  • ArticleDashboard.com
  • 1888Pressrelease.com
  • Free-Press-Release.com
  • 24-7Pressrelease.com
  • PR-inside.com
  • PR9.net
  • ArticleMarketer.com
  • ArticleHub.com
  • Free-Articles-Zone
  • MarketingSource.com
Note that press releases only rank in the top10 for about 2 weeks; after that their actuality decreases and they drop in ranking. In that 2 week period, about 100-200 clicks on the press release can generally be achieved. If you wish to rank continuously in the top via press releases it is best to issue them with 2-week to 1-month intervals.
Also note that we do not promote use of "RSS" or "Atom" feeds; it used to be a hype a few years ago, but people mainly use it for news updates. Marketing via press releases and articles is faster and more effective. RSS only works when a site already has a lot of traffic. This hold true for newsletters also.
In creating new traffic flows, article syndication proves to be much more efficient.
One note of caution however: flooding the web with similar press releases or articles, on hundreds of sites, is very ineffective; it is considered "spam". Google will start filtering the hundreds of similar articles until only a handful are left in its index. It could even mean the removal of the original (spammy) article, leaving only a few clones indexed.
So articles and press releases should be submitted to only a few (high Google pagerank, low Alexa rank) sites, and preferentially, each press relaese should have its own unique title and content. This way the articles will pass the spam filters, and get indexed fast.



SMO Plans

Our SMO Plans include:

  • SMO Onsite
    • Add Social Tags (Facebook join us/Twitter follow us) to website Home and Product/Service pages
    • Create a Newsletter, with info on new product/service launches, and start community (list) building via registration of signups to the letter.
    • Create a Whitepaper on specific and valuable products/services offered, and start community list building via registration of signups to the paper.
    • Both the Newsletter and Whitepaper are promoted via the current website, and are thus depending on current traffic. The Whitepaper contents can also be promoted via Twitter, Facebook, a Press Release, or small scale Adwords (PPC) campaign (see SMO Offsite list below); creating additional incoming traffic and feeds for the community list buildup.
    • Important: in the Newsletter and Whitepaper, offer solutions and benefits, not sales (people are not looking for a drill, when all they were looking for is advice on how to make a hole). Offer a rich, unique, and fresh source of (linkable/liked/tweeted) content for your target user community, and try to make that a two-way conversation in a later stage via Twitter, Facebook or a website Forum page.
    • Promote tagging and bookmarking, and increase linkability by offering short links
    • (optional): Create a YouTube video to increase exposure in YouTube search. This is a good example: going from a 1000 to over 24 million views for a 1(one)man company product... The story of Orabrush. The story about the viral video has been viewed over 100000 times, and the product video itself over 24 million times (Sept 2010 data). The product video shows that a combination of nerdiness and funniness (and informnation and solutions/benefits!) can work very well..
    • (optional): Create a Blog page, where the company can list (diary style) its most recent achievements and successes, and people can leave replies/opinions and share info with the community by linking to it. Blogs can be made public via Technorati.com. Note however that a blog page can be risky as potential spammers and competitors can leave inappropriate posts. This page thus has to be monitored 24/7
  • SMO Offsite
  • An extensive (20 page) SMO analysis report, with all details and planned optimization steps explained

Mainstream Social Media platforms: limitations, characteristics and demographics:

  • Twitter:
    • maximum of 500 new followings/day
    • maximum number of 2000 followings (depending also on following/followers ratio and account trust)
    • Twitter has about 140 million user accounts, but over 80% are not actively used, so the real count is closer to 25 million (2012 data)
    • overall, 57% of the Twitter users are of the age group 25-44 years, and the male/female ratio is 48/52
    • To see the top100 Twitter user rankings: Twitaholic; the top5: Bieber, Gaga, Kate Perry, Obama and Rihanna (Q2 2013).
      Average number of Twitter followers after 1 month: 150, with a maximum at about 500.
      The only 3 business sites in the Twitter top30 are Youtube, Instagram and Twitter itself (Q2 2013). It's all popstars, moviestars and TV stars and online news tweets in the Twitter top30
  • Facebook:
    • maximum of 50 friend requests/day, else the "add friends" feature will be blocked for 2 days
    • maximum number of same message placings on 5 walls
    • Facebook has well over 1 billion user accounts (2014 data)
    • overall, 64% of the Facebook users are of the age group 25-44 years, and the male/female ratio is 45/55
    • To see the Facebook statistics: Facebook Statistics. Facebook has over 1 billion user accounts (2013 data), and the average Facebook user has 130 friends
    • To see the Facebook top5: Insider Facebook. The top5: Facebook for everyone, Facebook, Youtube, Rihanna, Eminem (Q2 2013). The only 4 business sites in the Facebook top30 are Texas Hold'em Poker, Coca Cola, MTV and Disney. It's all popstars, moviestars, Football stars, TV shows, poker, drinks and cartoons in the Facebook top30
  • LinkedIn:
    • over 200 million users (2013 data), for over 99% individuals, and less then 1% company profiles
  • YouTube (google subsidiary):
    • maximum subscription to 10 channels a day
    • copyright issues must be carefully managed
    • video ownership is recommended (if not, analytics will not work).
  • PRLog, EzineArticles
    • each PR needs to be unique; adding multiple similar PR's is not allowed
    • after launch, an article can be resubmitted, but with only very minor (5-10 words at max) changes in title and summary


The Holy Grail of Social Media Optimization

For a business looking to promote its services and products to Twitter and Facebook users, it will need to try to get referred to as much as possible of these 130-150 personal contacts per account; when possible, in a viral way.
A main gateway to the social site users is via the targeting of a specific community of users with the same interest. The identification of these social communities (and the way to kickstart the advertising feed in a viral way) is the crux to success in a social campaign, and 70% of all the work in an SMO project.
A well targeted newsletter, forum posting, press release or small Adwords campaign can accomplish this. But again (see above) only when it is not sales, but user community solution related. The community will then grow in two ways: via users referring and retweeting the item to eachother, and via users signing up for the letter, or responding to the feed.

Facebook, in the early days, owed a large margin of its success to photo sharing (Picasa.com style).
An interesting observation is the apparent maximum number of Twitter followers (6 million) and Facebook fans (25 million). The difference between the Twitter maximum and Facebook maximum is clearly total community size based; where Twitter has about 20 million active user accounts, Facebook claims 500 million active account (2010 data).
In a pyramid scheme of referrals, where 1 person refers to 5 friends, 2 million referrals are reached already 10 levels deep. With 1 person having on the average 140 friends on the web, Twitter currently reaches its peak at 6 million followers, while Facebook reaches a maximum level at 25 million fans. Note that these top values refer to the end of the Gauss curve, with the crest of the Gauss curve located at 140 referrals.
So where do these 140 originate from? In a 1-on-2 referral scheme, 128 referrals are reached after 8 levels. So if a person refers two friends, these two friends then refer onward to 2 others each (4 total) and so on. But apperently, after a few levels of "friends who know friends", the referral dies out. Those handful of levels most likely represent a subset of social circles a person is in: family, work, entertainment, hobbies, sports, special interests, etc, with each social circle attaining most likely only a few dozen referrals.
Target now of SMO is to get the (viral) word out as much as possible, using those social circles, and choose 1): communities with a very focussed (relevant) theme, and 2): communities with a large number of members; or 3: a combination of 1 and 2. That now, next to being able to create a viral-style campaign, is the challenge of SMO.


Your site is attacked and scolded in the Social Media; what to do?

A somewhat lesser talked about aspect of SMO concerns brand protection. Nowadays, where people can put "anything" on the web in a matter of hours, negative user comments can spread very quickly, also viral (especially via video). Just type in google any "Company name" or "CEO name" and the words "scam", "complaints", "hoax" or "lawsuit" and you will see. How to protect oneself from top ranking search engine listings like this? The answers to these protection measures are within SMO itself and are relatively straightforward, and can be implemented fast.


2013-2015: The Personalized Web, and consequences for Digital Marketing

Microsoft tried it very early, in 1999, with the launch of the "MS Passport": a universal single signin (and wallet) on the web for every application platform; it was too early, ahead of the curve. Nowadays they call it Windows Live ID, and it is more commonly accepted as it matches other personalized web developments.
Facebook is making headlines since April 2010 with the launch of the "Open Graph" concept (enabling a webpage to become an object in a social graph/network), while Google is planning to launch "Google Me" since June 2010.
In Q4 2010, Microsoft's Bing tried to personalize search results via a mashup with Facebook, using so-called "social signals" from Facebook to steer search results; meaning that your search results will be depending on what social circles you are in (what your friends "like" will control the output of what you will see on Bing).
Google already personalizes organic search results according to tracked user behaviour, via "web history" (signed in) based search data, and the same "behavioural search" algorithm is in place for their sponsored links (adwords) since 2009 also.
In October 2009 Google launched "Google Wave", their first foray into "social", followed in February 2010 by "Google Buzz", and in March 2011 by Google+1 and in July 2011 by Google+. While the first two are social stream related, the last two offer a possibility to personalize, and share with ones peers, a portion of the web.
All in all, these are all steps towards the "Personalized Web". Which in turn means the Digital Marketing Triad will become a Pyramid, where the fourth apex is the Personalized Web; it is happening while we write this down in 2013. Consequences for Digital Marketing are manyfold and user-trust and privacy related, depending on what people are willing to put public "into the cloud", or pull back from it.




 
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