Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gasta Marketing:Social Networks

Facebook and Twitter can be powerful tools, but neither has as much juice as your website. Find out how to make your No. 1 digital asset the centerpiece of your social media strategy.

Marketers have spent the last year or so carefully teetering on whether or not to wholeheartedly embrace a social media strategy. On one hand, the allure of crafting a "CEO Blog" brings with it an interesting set of challenges, and on the other hand, maintaining a MySpace page may seem like a fruitless drain on resources. Getting started doesn't have to be an either/or scenario. Instead, there's an easier, more controlled first step: Start with your own site.

When developing a social media strategy, many companies look to external tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to increase opportunities for engagement by developing a brand presence across various channels. However, in the pursuit of maximizing visibility, companies often approach their efforts much like archers shooting at targets -- a course of action as antiquated as the sport itself (no offense to any archers out there).

By forgetting to cross-promote social media activities, especially on a company website, companies miss out on the true potential of an integrated social media strategy.

For maximum impact, social media optimization (SMO) should include publicizing efforts across additional online and offline promotional programs, from the most complex (a Second Life presence) to the simple (the CEO of Zappos promotes his Twitter account on his business card).

Find us online
The easiest way to encourage visitors to check out your social media profiles is to include all the appropriate links on your "Contact" page. If you have a blog, make sure to promote your media presence (Flickr, LinkedIn, MyBlogLog) through your sidebar.

Social media hub
For companies who are thoroughly engaged in an aggressive content strategy, take your cue from the Social Media Newsroom template, provided by SHIFT Communications, and create a Social Media Hub, organizing your social media content into clearly marked areas.

If you are heavy into video, consider a multimedia gallery with all your videos available to embed and share. In addition, make a higher-quality version available for download. Include a link to your YouTube or Vimeo channel as well.

Find your social media tone
Social media efforts have weight and longevity when they provide content that is, to use social shopping site ThisNext's product review rating criteria, "smart, useful or funny." The social media community feeds off irreverence in tone and a modern approach to design. On each page, consider if the user incorporates elements of the smart, the useful and the funny.

You may want to develop specific landing pages optimized in both content and design specifically for visitors who arrive at your site from your social media channels. And please, respect your visitors' quest for content; dial back the sales speak, the banner ads and used car pitches. Visitors will see through your approach and likely rake you over the social media coals as a result.

Everyone loves to share
Copying and pasting a link in an email is so 2007. These days, visitors want to be able to share content instantly. Make all your content, podcasts, videos and articles easy to share across social voting sites and blog platforms, in as close to a one-click-shot as you possibly can. A CAPTCHA code or registration might be useful for you, but that extra step will deter some users from engaging or sharing content from your site.

Make it quick to read
In the world of internet ADD, website copy should be easy to skim and read. Call-outs, bullet points and impactful use of color all allow the eye to glean information and deduce quickly if it is worth bookmarking, sharing or giving the old Ctrl+W.

Companies who focus exclusively on the external uses of SMO not only deplete what time marketers may have available, but also miss important opportunities to leverage such efforts across additional channels. In particular, making a company website social media friendly should be a key component of any strategic SMO plan to help reduce the time spent on keeping so many social media balls in the air and provide an easier --although still not easy -- first step into the all-important web of influence.

Reid Carr is president, Red Door Interactive.