The 10 Rules of Social Media Marketing Engagement

As the social media landscape grows with both mainstream and specialized sites, so will the creative ways to communicate to friends, followers and fans. Although the current social network behemoths are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, other venues like Pinterest and Google+ are also carving out a niche for themselves. And MySpace still has a strong foothold amongst the younger demographic. But don’t forget that social marketing isn’t just for networks. Forums, chat rooms, message boards and blogs are the granddaddies of Web 2.0. These venues are where socializing and interacting in communities originated. Some call it old school, others an untapped resource when used correctly in your online marketing mix. However, before you starting posting away, it’s a good idea to know the “best practices” that help make up a successful social marketing program.

As the social media landscape grows with both mainstream and specialized sites, so will the creative ways to communicate to friends, followers and fans.

Although the current social network behemoths are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, other venues like Pinterest and Google+ are also carving out a niche for themselves. And MySpace still has a strong foothold amongst the younger demographic.

But don’t forget that social marketing isn’t just for networks. Forums, chat rooms, message boards and blogs are the granddaddies of Web 2.0. These venues are where socializing and interacting in communities originated. Some call it old school, others an untapped resource when used correctly in your online marketing mix.

However, before you starting posting away, it’s a good idea to know the “best practices” that help make up a successful social marketing program:

1. Be Aware. Get to know each community’s rules. Each site (network, forum, blog, chat room and bulletin board) has its own set of rules—many you have to agree to, if you read the fine print, when you sign up for membership. If a site has a specific area for promotional or marketing messages, keep posts of this nature restricted to those areas. If rules dictate what type of messages are allowed (such as no overtly self-serving, defamatory, illegal, elicit or pornographic material), follow the rules. Any deviation will prompt a warning by the site’s moderator or immediate ban from the site.

2. Be Active. Don’t be a “hit and run” marketer. In other words, don’t just go in a few times and hit members with your marketing message then forget the site for weeks or months at a time. Get involved. Participate in discussions. Interact with members. Read and respond to engaging posts with no hidden agenda. Involvement encourages interactivity and interactivity solicits followers and reinforces credibility within the community.

3. Be Relevant. Some “rules” are not imposed, but is common sense if you’re a seasoned marketer. Targeting your message to the right, relevant audience will prompt better results. Make sure the community and site itself are synergistic with your goal, target audience and message. Also, ensure you’re posting in sub areas of the site that are relevant to the topic you’re discussing. Many forums have segmented subfolders by category and interest level. This granular dissection to your target audience helps the members easily find the topics they’re interested in and keeps you from muddying the waters in unrelated areas of the site.

4. Be Genuine. Posts that are contrived, unrelated and have a hidden agenda can be seen a mile away. Let the conversations flow organically. Contribute real, thought-provoking comments that members will find interesting. Talk to your audience, not at them. Not every post has to be a marketing message.

5. Be Useful. As a social community member, your goal is to participate in intelligent, useful discussions. Make sure you’re adding value to the site in some way. Your comments should also be valuable to the readers and not random posts. Nothing gets under members’ skin more than messages that are blatant spam.

6. Be Subtle. Many marketers embed their entire message with URLs to whatever page they’re trying to drive traffic to. If a community allows links in your post, use them sparingly. Less is more here. Some sites even have rules about not allowing links in the body copy of a post, but keeping them only in the auto signature field where your username is. Links should be relevant to the post (such as a great article that you want to share with members—then enclose the link so they can read for themselves).

7. Be Balanced. Mix up your messages. Not all your posts have to be promotional (and they shouldn’t be). Hang out in the community. Read other posts. Get to know the members and the site. See which areas have topics and discussions that vibe with you. Mix up your posts. Find balance with the editorial and marketing messages. The idea is to provide value and engage.

8. Be Informative. Be aware of what’s happening in your area of interest. Be able to have intelligent discussions about different news, events and publications under your subject matter. If you see other related articles that you think members would find interesting, even material from other publishers, share the knowledge. After all, that’s ultimately what social media is about.

9. Be Personable. Develop relationships with the community on both a “friend” and an “expert” level (for your area of specialty). Let your personality and credentials shine through with the information you share. Offer free expert advice. Share funny stories. Have witty discussions. Start to truly develop a memorable presence and bond with the community members. This helps your posts stand out in a whirlwind of background noise that passes readers each day in their news feeds.

10. Be Respectful. Don’t spam your fellow members. Some social communities allow users to post their email addresses on their Profile pages. This could lead to a flurry of unsolicited emails from social marketing barracudas who use this personal information for their own self-serving purposes. Remember, just because an email is posted on a user’s profile page doesn’t mean that person opted in to receive solicitations, promotions or similar email communications. Sending unwanted and unsolicited email is spam, plain and simple. Don’t exploit community members’ personal information.

4 Methods of Maximizing and Monetizing Mobile Marketing Efforts

A recent study by Google showed nearly 75 percent of consumers surveyed said they want to see mobile-friendly sites. And if you’re site isn’t one of them, you may be losing leads and sales. The fact that we’re a nation that is on-the-go and pretty much living on our smartphones or tablets means that your website should be adapted to these mediums to help monetize your business. It also means that thinking about mobile marketing and how to incorporate various forms of that into your marketing strategy should be high on your list for 2013.

A recent study by Google showed nearly 75 percent of consumers surveyed said they want to see mobile-friendly sites. And if you’re site isn’t one of them, you may be losing leads and sales.

The fact that we’re a nation that is on-the-go and pretty much living on our smartphones or tablets means that your website should be adapted to these mediums to help monetize your business.

It also means that thinking about mobile marketing and how to incorporate various forms of that into your marketing strategy should be high on your list for 2013.

Mobile-Friendly Must-Haves

There are certain “must-haves” that consumers noted they are looking for in a mobile-friendly website. Such features include:

1. Being fast. This means having a site that loads in around five seconds or less.

2. Being user-friendly. Having large buttons, easy search capabilities, limited scrolling or pinching are key, based on consumer feedback. Something to consider is having responsive templates that adjust accordingly based on the user’s device, albeit template, desktop or mobile phone. It’s also important to have quick access to company information, such as easy-to-find business directions, contact numbers, product and purchasing information. Even better, consider adding a “click to call” access button to contact a customer service rep to take an order via the phone, as well as an option for users to visit a non-mobile site.

3. Being social. To continue bonding and viral marketing, don’t forget links to your business’ social media profile page.

If you’re a smaller business that may not have the staff or resources to include these features into your website, there are some free and trial mobile conversion websites worth checking out. These include: http://www.ginwiz.com, http://www.dudamobile.com/ and http://www.mobilizetoday.com.

The App Attack

If you’re pondering if your business “app worthy” or how you can leverage apps for additional sales or leads, here’s some food for thought …

Paid apps could be a great way to add ancillary revenues to your business and free apps could be used for collecting important data (leads), which can be used for cross-selling. Some businesses even obtain revenues through ads that are built in the app from sponsorship partners.

Whichever business model you choose, you still have to decide what your app will feature. Typically, content is king. For instance if you’re a financial publisher, you may consider having an app that has stocks alerts and ideas, technical analysis, commentary and actionable data that your end-user (investors) would find beneficial. Know your audience and decide what kind of content is “app worthy.”

Then, of course, you need to market and distribute your app for increased visibility. You can promote your app though affiliate and joint venture emails, press releases, content marketing, online classifieds, and guerilla marketing in related forums and message boards. You can also include your app in various marketplaces including: Play/Apps Store (Droid and iPhone), BlackBerry Appworld, Apple Apps Store/iTunes, and Amazon Appstore for Android.

Of course, fees and commissions vary, but some are more cost-effective than you think. Here’s a great article with more information: “App Store Fees, Percentages and Payouts: What Developers Need to Know.” I also found a free service worth checking out called Freeappalert.com as an alternate distribution channel for your app.

QR Codes

You’ve seen ’em, those little square bar codes on just about everything these days. But not everyone is using them properly and not every business needs them. QR Codes, used the right way, can be a great way to take offline marketing leads online. For instance, consider putting these little guys on your business cards, collateral material, fulfillment kits, promotional fliers, press kits, brochures and other printed materials. Why? It’s a way for a consumer to “scan” the barcode and be redirected to your sign up/”squeeze page” or promotional webpage to provide further information and, more importantly, collect valuable data on them so you can follow up accordingly.

SMS Texting

Recent studies show that 97 percent of text messages are read within minutes of receiving them. SMS text message marketing allows you to communicate directly to your target market by sending a simple, quick text message. This permission-based program is perfect because your recipients have opted in to receive your messages. If you choose SMS texting for either bonding (editorial) or marketing (promotions), in addition to your standard anti-spam and privacy policy verbiage, make sure on your sign up form it’s clearly stated that subscribers who elect to be contacted this way will receive important messages and special offers from the publisher and select third-party partners, as well as may be subject to text messaging fees from the phone carrier. This article shows a good example of a text message disclaimer: “What Details to Include in a Mobile Marketing Call to Action.”

In my experience, this medium has been most effective with premium-type services where members rely on critical real-time alerts from the publisher that are pure editorial. The marketing aspect is ancillary.

So if you’re looking to be a leader in your industry and not a laggard, it pays to conduct some “due diligence” on your website and think about which mobile marketing strategies may be right for your biz and audience. With our social and communications landscape always changing, staying abreast of the latest tools, trends and is imperative for businesses to survive and thrive.