Social Networking: You Are Not in Control
CHICAGO -- Social networking has become an important part of the marketing efforts for many companies and can help others improve their search-driven traffic if certain strategies are followed, a panel said at the Search Engine Strategies 2007 Conference & Expo here this week.
One just has to look at the numbers to see the importance and influence of social networks, says Todd Parsons, co-founder of BuzzLogic, an on-demand software company that, according to its marketing materials, "applies the science of influence to social media." Sixty-five million people read blogs on a daily basis, and 60 percent of those do so to find an opinion on a product, service, or something else. In addition, 65 percent of online shoppers read third-party content before making a purchase.
"There are 3.5 billion online conversations every day," Parsons says, pointing out that social networks will also provide links to content carried in mainstream media. "So the way that content is used in marketing campaigns is important." He recommends that companies explore how to promote the independent creation of editorial links rather than proprietary paid ones -- even though companies will have no control over the editorial content.
Individuals -- rather than the mainstream media -- will control 70 percent of Internet content by the year 2010, says Adam Lavelle, chief strategy officer for iCrossing,a digital-marketing company. He pointed out that 3M's "Post-It" notes get more attention from independent YouTube videos using the notes in animations than they do from 3M corporate messaging. So, in effect, the parent company no longer controls the preponderance of content regarding its own product.
Visual content from sites such as Google's YouTube and Yahoo!'s Flickr engages the audience more than text-only content ever could, says Jennifer Laycock, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Guide
, an educational Web site for small businesses interested in search technology. Flickr also enables users to include links to blogs, increasing the traffic in both directions. However, not all Flickr images can be tagged, Laycock cautions. She also recommends that marketers look at subscribing to and offering RSS feeds and joining additional online communities to help drive traffic.
Marketers also can extend their brands by offering free, branded widgets and common licenses that enable site visitors to use the branded, approved content elsewhere -- with proper credit, of course.
Tamera Kremer, founder of Toronto-based Integrated marketing and communications consultancy Wildfire Strategic Marketing, recommends that firms look into ways to leverage social bookmarks through del.icio.us, a Web site that offers what's known as social bookmarking: The primary use of del.icio.us is to store online bookmarks accessible from any Web-enabled computer, and to see, share, and rate links that friends and other people have bookmarked.
Kremer says that leveraging del.icio.us enabled one of her clients to increase Web traffic by a factor of 10. Firms that fail to recognize and use these social networking tools will find it hard to keep up with competitors who do use them, she says.
The one-to-many marketing model is outdated, says Steven Marder, chief executive officer and cofounder of Eurekster, a provider of social-search technologies; in today's environment, it's much more one-to-one marketing, he adds. With that in mind, firms should try to leverage what they already have. For example, content on a particular topic can be turned into a freely distributed widget -- providing such an engaging social networking tool can help extend a brand across the Internet.
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