In September 2007, I was offered the role of ‘Social Media Manager’ at a company in Cape Town, South Africa, which I took without much hesitation. I knew my job would focus on the ‘general’ projects such as proposals, running campaigns, and devising social strategies for clients who had something they wanted to generate a buzz about online. Little did I know I would be training up the other team members completely from scratch on the subject, but I can confidently say it was the most enjoyable part of the job. Here are 15 of the most important things about social media marketing I taught to those completely new to the approach.
- You must get involved in the top social media sites to understand them thoroughly. My thought process behind this was that the only way to start understanding the type of content that works is by being exposed to the stories, titles, and content on a daily basis. Therefore, this mainly involved using Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon on a regular basis.
- You must be a real user. When getting staff to start using these sites I encouraged them to forget about the client side of things. I simply asked that they vote for what they found interesting, whether it be fashion, cars, or music, and then add content submitters as friends if they wanted to read articles on the same subjects. At no point did I tell them to focus on our clients’ needs or topic areas, as then there would be no interest in the social side of social media.
- Not everything you try will work. I’ve spent hours on a content piece that had all the hallmarks of popular social media content. It was a list post, was relevant to current events, and had a catchy title. Nonetheless, it didn’t make the Digg homepage, received minimal votes on StumbleUpon, and no bloggers really picked it up. Just because the content is good, it doesn’t guarantee success. All pieces of the puzzle have to fit together, and you never know in advance what’s going to click with social media users.
- Digg failure doesn’t mean campaign failure. I dislike the fact people think Digg *is* social media marketing. What people have to understand is it’s not Digg that can drive the links to your website—it’s the people that notice your content from Digg. Remember, they can notice your content from a lot of other places as well. As an example, two articles that didn’t make it on Digg but attracted a lot of links from social media sites include 50 Beautiful Things You Can Do With Vaseline and The 22 Worst Place Names In The World.
- Results can’t be guaranteed. If you’re responsible for social media marketing, it’s important to convey to account managers that not everything can go viral. Just because we’ve made the Digg homepage, the StumbleUpon buzz page, or had over 100 bloggers write about an article previously doesn’t mean it will happen again—and we can’t guarantee it for clients. This is very similar to why you shouldn’t guarantee search engine rankings because you can’t control them.
- Going niche is often better. If I were helping a client to spread an article about environmental issues, I would expect to have much better success on the likes of Hugg and Care2 than I would on Reddit or any other general news sites. Focusing on a niche might send fewer visitors, but these visitors will likely find the content more relevant and are more likely to talk about you and help expose your content to like-minded people.
- Don’t try to game the systems. Voting submissions between site friends is one thing, but really trying to game the systems with sites like Subvert and Profit will almost always be obvious to the community—and do your clients or your own reputation no good.
- Respect client brands in the process. When promoting content for huge automotive companies and consulting with them to network with the top bloggers, I made it clear they must never try to force things on people, and our staff must never spam the content anywhere. This could only get ourselves or the brand in trouble.
- Go light on selling or promotional messaging. Any advertising in content is a huge turn-off to social media users, so minimize anything related to buying or selling products. Instead, make content that’s not directly about a company or product, but rather more of a byproduct of what they are about. For example, don’t write about how great your client’s cars are, but rather about the greatest cars in the world.
- Engage in communities. Whether this be on social networks, forums, blogs, or social news sites, it’s important to really embrace and engage with communities. From joining groups on Facebook and discussing a topic to leaving comments on blogs or helping users on forums—all of these things can help build online presence and get people to notice what you are all about.
- Offer people value. Value means different things to different people. Some people want content that makes them laugh; others want to know how they can hack a wireless network. A lot of content you see on Digg and Mixx is created for people on Digg and Mixx, and the authors of the content understand they have to offer value whether it’s in newfound information, an interesting study, or even a funny image people can share with their friends. If you aren’t offering people value you are just marketing at them, not to them.
- Create something that is honest. Sony was famously outed online when the company created a fake blog called All I Want For Xmas Is A PSP (no longer live), where two people were trying to get others to promote their wish for a PSP. Turns out these people were actors. Sony subsequently was subjected to a backlash of brand bashing, which really highlights the risk involved in a dishonest marketing campaign.
- Understand the benefits. If I’m asking others to spend a large amount of time engaging in popular sites and watching what content gets a lot of reviews on StumbleUpon and makes the Digg homepage, I need to make sure they understand why they’re doing this and how they (and subsequently, our clients) will benefit. In my initial presentations I explained that doing well on social media sites can easily lead to a lot of traffic and a lot of link potential.
- Keep track of what is going on. A few months ago, graphic and logo designer David Airey was on the Digg homepage with news of somebody stealing his domain. As soon as he got it back I submitted the news to Digg and it made the homepage as well. I only submitted because I knew the original story had been on there in the first place. Keeping up to date involves knowing what people want to read about, the memes on the web, and new ways or sites that get people’s attention such as Pownce or Mixx.
- Social media marketing is only one strategy. Although it can bring great results, it shouldn’t be totally relied on and certainly should not replace any existing SEO or PPC campaigns. I am also a fan of ad buy to get people to content that may encourage them to interact with a site.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.