A reminder (and tips for beginners)
Mike Fruchter writes about social media for beginners.
Everyone has to start somewhere …
Social media marketing might be something your company is just getting started with. You have established that the fish, your customers are using it. They are using it for sharing information, keeping tabs with friends and family, and most importantly using it for making important research and purchasing decisions.
You should have a set of objective and goals created before you just throw up a Twitter or Facebook account and start broadcasting to an empty silo. Social media, unlike other forms of online marketing is a two-way form of communication. This is where a lot of beginners miss the boat, they broadcast about me rather than about we. In no particular order, listed below are ten general tips for online marketing.
This is basic 101 stuff, but it’s applicable to newbies, or anyone just needing a refresher.
1. Register brand names and create your online identity: At this point in time I’m sure you have done your due diligence, registered and incorporated your business name and have started to operate online under it’s assumed identity. The first priority is registering your domain names. It’s also a good idea to register any spelling variations and domain extensions. Buy the .net, .org and any relevant country extensions before someone else does, and purchase them for multiple years upfront. Most domain name registrars offer discounts for longer registration purchases and renewals. The social media platforms we will use to create awareness, identity and community should have the same vanity urls, handle-names, logos, and overall look-smell-and-feel as the rest of our digital assets. Our messaging needs to be clear and concise. It all starts with our digital properties and corresponding hyperlinks.
2. Learn the webmaster basics: I have been doing this since 1997. It’s the years of day-in-day-out experience that has taught me a thing or two about wearing a webmaster hat. The point I’m making here is one needs to learn as much as possible. Educate yourself on the basics, starting with domain names, DNS, FTP web hosting, and basic control panel 101 stuff. You should know how to register a domain name; create and admin a hosting account; create email accounts; and get familiar with the basics of MYSQL and PHP. The majority of this can be done through set up wizards and control panel automation, it depends on your web host but it’s a pretty common feature. Many hosting companies offer automated script installation. If you needed to set up WordPress, it’s a three to four click process.
Learning the basics will also save you in development costs. When it comes to graphic and website design, this is not an area to skimp and save dollars. If you’re talented and have a background in design, by all means create you brand’s online identity, but if not, spend the dollars wisely and let a professional do the work. As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. In a digital world, your website is the introduction to your organization. With an abundance of available Internet sites, consumers have virtually limitless options. More than ever before, it is essential to get it right the first time. It all starts with a clean, polished, professional and effective website. That polished image needs to carry over into everything you do online. It must be uniform and consistent across the digital board.
3. Don’t fall for the snake oil: You will learn just as everyone does, through trial and error, what works and doesn’t work. It’s all about arming yourself with the resources and knowledge to get the job done. Temptation can set in for beginners to take shortcuts and cause them to veer off the best practices beaten path. There is simply too much disinformation floating out there. There are tons of get rich marketing schemes disguised as lead generators, Twitter software to auto-follow thousands of random people and self proclaimed marketing gurus that can make you a millionaire overnight. The fact of the matter is, there is no magic bullet, book, application or otherwise that will reveal where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. Align yourself with industry thought leaders, read their blogs, comment on their content when you have something to say and most importantly learn how they do it.
4. Add value to the communities you participate on: Adding value to your community is important, it helps you stand out from the crowd and identifies your motives as pure and not self-serving. It takes time just like anything else to be accepted into an existing community. Add value by answering questions; help by lending a hand with maybe graphic or coding expertise; and or sharing relevant quality content that will benefit the community and its members. Once you have established trust, you can gradually ease into promoting your other interests. Be yourself and act accordingly, after all this about business and we all should know how to act like adults when using the Internet.
5. Create good quality content: You hear this one all the time because there’s a lot of truth to it, content is king. If your goal is to brand yourself as a thought leader; brand innovator; or plan on sticking out from the crowd for any particular reason, you will need brand name recognition or quality content with a compelling story to get you there. Quality content comes in many different shapes and forms across multiple platforms. You could establish your persona with a blog. With a commitment of extended writing time, you could brand yourself and your influence as an expert on your subject matter. The same goes for video, if that’s your cup of tea. You or your brand could become a YouTube social media rock star with a little creative brainstorming and editing. Then there’s always podcasting. Good content will work on any platform and it should be optimized as such. Good content gets noticed but can be overlooked. Make sure you encourage social sharing and voting of your content by asking people to Tweet it, Digg it, rate it on YouTube etc, and give them the to tools do it automatically.
6. Guest posting: If you’re just starting out with social media you need exposure. Guest posting affords you an opportunity on higher, more relevant industry related platforms then your own to get your voice heard. This is a common strategy used by start ups on a shoestring budget, bartering expertise in the form of 500 words or more for targeted traffic. Remember what you write, and how you write it is a representation of your business and brand. It if it’s intended to be a business driver, make sure you’ve done your fact checking, and use opportunities to link to other content that you have written on your blog or website. Guest posting on sites with a higher pagerank in theory should boost your SEO, due to the inbound links that you can embed on your author byline and content. In addition to your guest post, your byline contains an opportunity for branding yourself and your area of expertise. Craft your bio for the audience you’re writing for, and of course include a link back to your website, blog or a special landing page that you have created to track any byline clicks.
7. Use the tools wisely: Your time will be better managed and more efficient using a social media tool kit that makes sense for you. Social media after all is just a set of tools we use to communicate with. The tools are great, but they tend to make us complacent. Use automation services to your advantage, but be very careful about auto-posting duplication issues that can arise when streams are crossed. I highly recommend and use the micro-blogging service Posterous to capture life’s precious moments, and it works well for that. The service can be used for a professional blog when adding a domain name and masking it. It’s a great platform for a micro-blog, or for short form blogging. It offers some design customization and most importantly it can auto-post, syndicating your content to other social networks such as Facebook, FriendFeed, Twitter, YouTube and so forth. That is where you have multiple networks rebroadcasting and reposting the same content. This is when you have entered into the twilight zone, officially known as, crossing the streams.
8. Don’t over extend yourself: Here he goes with another Cliche, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s true, invest your time and passion where the fish are first. Yes, establishing a presence on Facebook and Twitter should be a top area of focus and marketing priority, provided your fish are there. Maybe the fish are feeding elsewhere or changed their diets, use different bait to catch a different niche of fish. Once you know who your fish are, and where they swim, only then should you build your Rome. After you have an established customer base, or are revamping marketing and advertising efforts you should cast a bigger net and focus on being truly omnipresent.
9. Track everything: Track everything as much as possible when possible. Analytics is key for measuring and tracking the performance of website traffic. Was a particular campaign a success? Did we see spikes in traffic? How are customers finding us? Generating online PR consists of generating inbound links, links you need to be monitoring and tracking for. Google Analytics will give you reporting on all of this information. This makes you better informed about the people visiting your website and how they interact with it. It’s all about working smarter not harder. Tracking links off-site is easily done with url shortening services such as bit.ly, or HootSuite. Both of these services do offer Twitter analytics and management. TubeMogul is a great tool for submitting video to over 50 popular video sharing sites, and it also provides video analytics. Tools exist that track just about anything, most are free. You can use something simple as Gmail, in combination with Google Docs, an excel spreadsheet or create a roll-your-own social media dash board.Paid brand monitoring services are abundant and can be found easily by searching Google.
10. Don’t be fooled, it’s about quality not quantity. With all the spiked koolaid newbies tend to loose sight of the real value factors, quality, and instead focus on the numbers game. Numbers mean nothing when none of them are listening or responding to your call to action. Focus your time on creating quality content and rewarding it by sharing. 150 online connections can be as powerful, if not even more powerful than 150,000. The numbers game is played to stroke blogger egos and to inflate numbers for advertising. Your network in time will grow granted you stay active in some form of participation or content creation. Beginners who are just starting out need to start small, slow and focus on content production and syndication. Focus on network building with the relevant people by using your content. Quality content builds quality inbound links which builds quality relationships and opportunities.
#typed note 08.07..10
Rod Geoghegan works with Marketing Services Agencies, Tech Start-ups and Professional Services Firms to plan and deliver growth.
He is Founding Partner at Metropolis Partners