With the online pandemonium that is the world of Web 2.0, today’s companies are all on the hunt for one scarce commodity: human attention.
Among the panoply of ads, websites, blogs, microblogs, wikis, forums and funny cat videos, brands can easily go unnoticed if they aren’t optimized for the virtual abyss. Social media can be a vehicle for navigating and creating buzz surrounding your brand, achieving high visibility and driving direct traffic to your site.
Social media optimization is using a set of methods to generate publicity through various social media outlets. The focus is on driving traffic from sources other than search engines to achieve improved search ranking.
In this post, I will cover the basic types of social media, touch a bit upon social authority and the overall benefits of using social media for business.
What is Social Media?
In a turtle-in-a-half-shell, social media is the ultimate manifestation of user-generated content. It is the use of online social networking tools to share and discuss information among fellow homo sapiens. Unlike traditional media where power rested in the hands of a few content creators and media distributors, social networking tools give everybody an opportunity to become active participants in a multi-directional conversation.
Whether you’re a big established company, or just a little guy trying to build an online presence, social media means new opportunities to create and communicate with people that care.
Types of Social Media
Social media comes in many ways, shapes and platforms and each have its particular nuances that need to be respected in order to suit the community you’re targeting. Here is a brief overview of each main social channel.
Social news sites:
Websites where users submit and vote and/or comment on news stories or other links. The more votes, the higher the chances of getting on the site’s homepage. (e.g. Digg, Reddit, Sphinn) (Read our tips for success on Digg Part 1 and Part 2)
Facilitate discussion and brand awareness through groups, profiles, and participation (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace). These sites are great for engaging communities where they already exist.
Blogs enhance communication and culture in a corporation and are typically used to inform members and other interested parties of the organization’s activities. They also offer visitors the ability to engage your organization by leaving comments. More importantly, they offer a way to produce continuously updated content.
With widgets, you can provide shortcuts for visitors thatencourage them to subscribe to RSS or bookmark the page on their favourite social media sites. You can also include a HTML link along with targeted anchor text in your widget embed code, helping you attract more links from related sites.
These sites offer a method for users to organize, store, manage and search for bookmarks of resources online (e.g. Diigo, Delicious, Stumble Upon). Consequently, the offer brands an additional source of social media links.
Media Sharing Sites
These sites let you create , upload and share videos or photos with others (e.g. YouTube, Flickr). Not only do these channels offer a way to spread your brand across other communities, but they can help you optimize for blended search — meaning that you can capture more real-estate in the SERPs.
As I mentioned earlier, social media is a vehicle for navigating and creating buzz surrounding your brand. But the wild, untamed nature of social media also means that you won’t be able to completely control your message. Rather, you initiate the conversation in the hopes that you can become a relevant influence in that conversation.
One of the key components in mastering the art of social marketing is building “social authority”. By staying on top of trends in your field and producing high-quality, relevant content, you increase the chances of establishing yourself as an “expert”, with capabilities of becoming an “influencer” in your domain. (Read: Notes on Producing High-Quality content: How and Why. )
Social Media Optimization Benefits:
There are many benefits to using social media as part of your business strategy:
- Visitors can learn what you’re all about and learn from others like them
- You can learn directly from your customers, and make products better
- You can get free customer reviews, which are much more valuable than costly advertising (consumer recommendations are the most trusted form of advertising around the world)
- Real people can play a role in providing feedback and promoting your product (higher chances of developing brand loyalty)
- Offers various ways to track performance and manage your brand’s reputation
New technology has presented new ways for companies to interact with their customers and make them feel like a unique community. Whether it’s by adding social bookmarks, trackbacks and widgets to a site’s page, you can make your online communities more socially-friendly, at a low-cost, while increasing your traffic, sales and credibility.