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March 17, 2008

Reflections on social media networking and marketing

Social Media Cartoon
With Bitstrips you don't need to be able to draw to create your own comics. Alas, that's still no guarantee that you'll write something clever.

These days everyone seems to be talking about social networking and/or social media marketing. Until fairly recently these were topics for tech nerds and Web marketers, but now more and more people are wondering how they can use Facebook to market their programs or products, or how Twitter can be leveraged as a tool for campus communication. I don't have an immediate answer to such questions, but I thought this would be a good time to reflect a bit on what I've learned about social media.

Online social media marketing and networking aren't really that new. People have been connecting via blogs for several years now, and even before the World Wide Web, people were connecting on Usenet News, listservs or other services. What's new is the array of social/Web 2.0 tools now available to us. Today we have services available that will allow us to make "friends" online with whom we can:

  • share and organize our bookmarks via services such as de.licio.us or ma.gnolia,
  • send short messages via Twitter or generate discussions and share files and links via Pownce,
  • recommend articles and sites on Digg, StumbleUpon or reddit,
  • network with like-minded souls and share best practices through topically centered networks, such as University Web Developers on Ning,
  • compare music tastes on last.fm or book suggestions on goodreads,
  • archive, share and discuss photos on Flickr and Zooomr,
  • share personal information, promote bands, products or services on MySpace, publish status updates, join groups and become zombies on Facebook,
  • ponder intellectually meaty issues on Big Think,
  • connect with fellow bloggers on MyBlogLog and find out which bloggers are linking to your blog on Technorati, and even
  • create cartoons on Bitstrips.

These are but a fraction of the options available in the social media world of Web 2.0. From the descriptions alone, it is easy to see how many of these could play into our marketing strategies. After all, what organization wouldn't want its public sites being shared online?

Social media marketing: online word-of-mouth

Whether people are buying a new shampoo or deciding on a doctoral program in biomedical engineering, they will weigh the opinions of friends and colleagues more heavily than the brochure they received in the mail. This doesn't mean that we no longer need brochures, just that online word-of-mouth and viral marketing can often serve to enhance our other marketing strategies.

Of course the trick with this is the same as it always has been; word-of-mouth referrals are driven by satisfied customers, not marketers. We can pave the way and create opportunities to make this happen more easily, but we can't put words in people's mouths or on their social networks.

For example, I can't just go digging cool news stories from Case Western Reserve and expect everyone to follow suit unless I develop a reputation for digging worthwhile reading material. To do that I have to become a more active member of the digg community where I make connections, digg the recommendations of others and recommend pages that I think my followers will like. That sort of activity takes more time than most of us have (including me—one does need to sleep after all) and for many organizations spending time on such activities is just not cost effective.

If marketing is the only reason you are considering social media, then it may not work out unless you've got the resources to implement it and a product or service that people like to talk about. But if networking is your goal, then you may get some marketing benefits as a by-product of your other activities. If you're a faculty member making connections with peers in your field via Facebook, sharing sites on de.licio.us or Stumbling your colleague's research articles you could find your peers reciprocate by sharing links to your articles, blogs or Web sites as well. This isn't a matter of quid pro quo, it's more like link karma. Those who respect your work will link to you as you do for them. It happens on social networks just as it does via phone calls or e-mails.

As a result you could soon discover that your sites are getting more traffic, your articles are reaching a wider audience and you're meeting more peers with whom you can share best practices on polymer research, collaborate on a cognitive science study, discuss new insights into Proust, or whatever else may be of interest.

Marketing impact of my social media activity

Last July when I wrote Web 2.0 & Social Networking can enhance "findability", I was just beginning to experiment more actively with social media. I was already blogging, commenting on other blogs, sharing photos on Flickr and tracking blog reactions on Technorati. I just wasn't doing it proactively. Since then I've joined more networks and spent many a night online connecting with Web developers, designers, bloggers, marketers and other like-minded souls all over the world. I started this primarily to learn more about social media. I kept with it because I made some great friends who shared some great ideas and sites. And somehow, in the process, readership of this blog increased substantially.

Between July and December of 2007 subscribers to the blog (those reading via RSS feed) increased by 55%. Unique visitors to the site, # of visits and page views each increased by more than 200%. While readership has risen steadily since I started the blog in 2005, this was a noticeable upturn.

If I'd set out on my experiment with only a marketing goal in mind, I don't know that it would have worked out so well. As I've since discovered the key is in making connections—which can only be done by becoming a participating member of whatever community you join. But if you find a community of interest, whether pertaining to your research, work or hobbies, there are many benefits to be had.

Social Media Resources

The following articles related to this topic weren't found through Google; they were either written or recommended by people I've met through social networking.

Postscript

As another result of social media networking, the Web Development Blog is now a member of BlogHighEd, a blogger network covering a vast array of topics pertaining to higher education and related fields.

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Posted by: Heidi Cool March 17, 2008 11:01 PM | Category: Heidi's Entries , Social Networking , marketing , social media

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Keep up the good marketing. I am a fan!

Posted by DAL on March 18, 2008 01:19 AM

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OK, I'll say it, since I know Heidi is not quite as confrontational as I am — guys, there are no corners to be cut if you want to make it big with your 'blog!

But seriously, all this social networking can be a hard slog to begin with, but the rewards are so many, the effort will more than pay for itself in the long-term.

Heidi, thanks for the links! Always appreciated...

Posted by Wayne Smallman on March 18, 2008 06:29 AM

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Heidi you definitely hit it here. I think looking through your list of social networking sites it is very easy to see how many of these resources there are and also how varied they are. Joining all of them isn't the problem it's keeping a valuable and regular presence on each that consumes our day.

You can only accomplish this if it is something you truly enjoy.

I do think one of the biggest values in it is building a reputation online as a credible resource as you mentioned. The internet provides any individual with the ability to be an expert in their niche.

Posted by Kyle James on March 18, 2008 09:23 AM

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The URL to BitStrips is incorrect :-)

Posted by Sapientia on March 18, 2008 10:17 AM

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Dave, Wayne & Kyle,
Thanks for the great input!

Sapientia,
Thanks for catching that link; I've fixed it now.

Posted by Heidi Cool on March 18, 2008 10:47 AM

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As always, you are right on cue! My absolute favorite blogs, links, etc, came from people I met through social networking, and most likely, always will. Google can provide a lot of links, but through Pownce, Digg, and the like, I am able to connect with other people with the same interests and insights, and they are able to provide opinions and explanations when requested on a personal level that Google and other search engines are incapable of.

Keep up the good work, my friend!

Posted by Twila Marie on March 18, 2008 08:35 PM

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Hi its interesting to go through your site which has good information on networking and marketing.There is no saturation in online market research services when the Internet has no limits.

Posted by online market research services on March 19, 2008 04:13 AM

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Social media network websites are fantastic ways to get some great traffic to your site. Although they won't always have as much SEO benefit, the traffic is undeniable.

Posted by One Way Link Building Bible on March 19, 2008 09:35 PM

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" there are no corners to be cut" ....hard work, risk and luck are the key components to a successful blog IMO.

Great Post Heidi.

Posted by John on March 20, 2008 12:03 AM

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thanks for the post..your posts are really informative...keepup the good work man..added to my bookmark list..

Posted by gamesgeeks on March 24, 2008 01:38 PM

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I found your post to reflect what I have found in our research and business. It takes a serious time commitment to keep up a "follow worthy" blog or a become a followed "poster" at social media sites.
I've found Twitter to be a complete waste of time.
I agree with you that if your only reason for using social media is for marketing you can probably find a better return elsewhere.

Posted by Johnny Mulder on March 27, 2008 04:18 PM

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Many thanks for these tips. This post itself is a excellent example of attracting more and more comments.

thanks you.
Regards.
James

Posted by James Attractive on April 1, 2008 11:43 AM

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I agree with you that social media networking and marketing are very powerful tools nowadays. Sometimes all you need is a group of people that know many other people that know many other people etc.:)

Posted by web pixy on April 2, 2008 08:52 AM

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social media has changed the way online marketing is done, their are many sites that get majority of their visitors from social media sites and not search engines

Posted by koozies on April 2, 2008 12:16 PM

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Social Media is especially becoming more important for companies that are involved in e-commerce. I completely agree with you that you can really benefit your business by using social media. Strategic blogging, press releases, and link building is a new side of marketing that I feel only a select majority of companies do it correctly or if at all. I think social media will only grow stronger and play a larger part as new social media avenues are always being created. I look forward to see what comes next. Great article!

Posted by Willis Wood on April 17, 2008 04:03 PM

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Social media is an awesome way to get the word out about your business. If people feel that they can trust you and they feel they know you they are more likely to do business with you.

Posted by abunza questions and products on April 18, 2008 03:04 AM

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As usual I learned something here. I was not aware of a site where you could draw your own cartoon. This blog is an excellent resource for anyone engaged in internet web marketing. I agree that it is the content that is most important in marketing, whether or not it is social networking or blogging.

Posted by joseph cotroneo on May 2, 2008 05:21 AM

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As someone just dipping their toe into the world of social media, I found your article and the comments that followed by your blog visitors, extremely helpful and insightful. Without a doubt social media networking and marketing are here to stay, and when leveraged properly they can be exciting, powerful tools. Thanks again Heidi. I'll definitely check back in.

Posted by Mike on May 9, 2008 12:49 PM

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There are two primary reasons to use social media sites. The first is to get your message across and the second is to hunt down information which has been assessed and rated by other human beings. At blogbookmark.com our main daily task is deleting spam blogs so that the best blogs are able to become more prominent. We are all here for informational content; making that content readily accessible depends on marginalising those who are desperate to present us with ads. The human element within social media helps that process enormously.

Posted by Top blogs on May 10, 2008 02:24 PM

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I think it is a good idea to add links to your social bookmarking profiles much like I do on my Navy blog (on left, mid-way down). Can add credibility to your blog (people can do more research on ya :)) and can also help you gain "friends/followers" and increase your readership.

Posted by TomG on May 22, 2008 10:13 AM

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I have been reading your blog last couple of weeks and enjoy every bit. Thanks.

Posted by Myspace layouts on June 3, 2008 03:59 AM

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I just found your site and appreciated this post. I've thought about 'digg' and others and you've sure given me a bunch of info! I'm going to bookmark you as I see there is much here for me to read and think about. Thanks for the great information...to quote Arnold...I'll be back.

Posted by Debbie on September 3, 2008 11:58 AM

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I have seen a great increase of traffic to my site just by linking it on many of these social networking sites. For a designer like me that is crucial to showing off my work and getting new clients.

Posted by Jason on September 10, 2008 03:31 AM

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Hey, great summary of the social networking sites and it seems they world of social networking can be fun but takes a lot of time late into the night. I wonder what the hourly rate of return curve is if you run a business for all this social networking.

Posted by Perth SEO Web Design Guy on October 25, 2008 12:02 PM

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Great article. Social media is the new word of mouth and can bring great rewards to all businesses, large and small. The difference is the social proof and actual engagement the business can make to affect the word of mouth that occurs.

Posted by Web Success Diva on October 29, 2008 06:25 PM

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Social networking sites are attracting one out of every 20 Web visits 14. In the month of September 2006, one out of every 20 U.S. Internet visits landed on one of the top 20 social networking Web sites, nearly double the share of visits compared with a year ago, according to a new study released by HitWise. Out of the 20 sites, MySpace is the undisputed leader.

Posted by Web development Company India on December 15, 2008 08:40 PM

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Good points on social networking here. Let's not also forget how this translates into paying customers, relationships, referrals and referral marketing. In that regard, testing for value-reinforcement is an important issue and one that businesses need to do a better job effectively measuring --- whether or not a client/customer is finding value in the relationship. It’s important to discuss whether “value-delivered” (by me as a biz) equates to value-received (by you) in the customer’s mind. Thanks for reminding us.

Posted by client referrals on January 2, 2009 03:56 PM

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IMHO, any day "Wisdom of Crowd" the underlying philosophy of Social Media is far superior than automated results thrown by some algorithm of modern search engine.

However, the process of acquiring information using Social Network/media is something that needs to be refined and looked into.

Right now I believe that this is what is hindering people to replace search engine with social media. I also understand that it's not replacement per se as both can be complimentary. It should be a right mix which at this time is more tilted in favor of search engines

Posted by Vivek on January 7, 2009 02:10 AM

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Interesting

Posted by Guimms on January 13, 2009 04:15 PM

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Great post! I enjoy reading it.I believe that social networking is really attractive.Keep it up!

Posted by web design philippines on January 19, 2009 07:12 AM

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Posted by: hac4 (Heidi Cool) March 17, 2008 11:01 PM | Comments (30) | Trackback