Larry Brauner

I explained in Top 10 Reasons for Social Marketing why marketers need to add social media to their repertoire and promised to “write about the unique challenges that social media marketing poses” to early adopters.

Here then are my top ten challenges that social marketers will likely grapple with:

  1. Social media often meets with skepticism and resistance inside an organization. This reaction is normal to anything radically new. I suggest that you present social marketing to your colleagues as an experiment that will complement conventional multichannel marketing if successful, not replace it.
  2. Results aren’t achieved nearly as quickly with social media as they are with direct marketing techniques. When planning an experiment or production, be careful about forming unrealistic timing expectations.
  3. The social media learning curve is very steep. Few books or courses teach social marketing, and much of the information available online is unreliable or even biased. I recommend that you seek experienced outside professional help to chart your social marketing path, set policy and facilitate implementation.
  4. It’s easy to spin wheels and waste lots of time going nowhere. There are way too many interesting social networking sites and lots of hype surrounding them. Be sure to read Social Media Targeting for People and Businesses.
  5. Marketers tend to think in terms of generating leads and building databases rather than building a following and a community — new media style. Furthermore, social media is about relating person to person, not about relating impersonally to people as a company. Be prepared to think in new ways.
  6. Since social media is community oriented, contributing to one’s community is essential. It’s not enough to communicate just to customers or to prospects.
  7. Traditional push marketing and list building techniques are usually regarded as spam and are ineffective in the social media world. Old and new media approaches tend to be incompatible. In the social marketing paradigm information is made available online for discovery and hopefully action, and this process isn’t something that can be forced.
  8. Most newcomers to social marketing think one dimensionally and latch onto fads such as the social media site du jour. Social marketing isn’t one site or one strategy fits all. Once again I recommend Social Media Targeting for People and Businesses.
  9. Social media is still evolving rapidly and tends to be a moving target. While social media is global, participation in non-English speaking countries is stilted towards English speaking demographics such as students and upper classes. Remain alert to changes in technology and new opportunities that are bound to occur.
  10. Social media can work against a brand, not just for it — and can be very unforgiving. However, this is true even if companies elect not to use it for marketing or for their public relations. It’s therefore better to be proactive than reactive.

I’m sure you’ll agree that these are all important issues. I hope deal with them individually and in more detail in subsequent posts.

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Larry Brauner

Even today social media remains a mystery to most marketers. In the minds of most retailers and marketing executives, social media consists of teens messaging on Facebook, sharing pics on Flickr, writing in their blogs or tweeting all their doings on Twitter.

Perhaps they read a few news blogs themselves or have a profile on LinkedIn, but they’re still scratching their heads and wondering how any of this could possibly be useful to them in business.

Coming from the conventional marketing world myself and looking back to my first impression of social media, I can appreciate the retailing and B2B marketing establishment’s legitimate skepticism. That’s why I put together my top reasons for using social marketing for you to share with your colleagues and top management.

Let me caution you however, that social marketing requires its own mindset. Marketing strategies that work well with traditional media won’t necessarily be as effective if applied to new media.

These then are my top ten reasons to take social marketing seriously:

  1. Social marketing is a logical extension of the multichannel marketing strategy of diversification. Social media sites can extend a company’s web presence far beyond the limits of its e-commerce, lead generation or information sites.
  2. Social media builds awareness of products and brands by attraction rather than interruption, and by pulling rather than pushing. Consumers enjoy the discovery process and don’t feel annoyed by it.
  3. Social media employs a community and list building paradigm that’s much more comprehensive, natural and intimate than conventional databases and autoresponders.
  4. Social media marketers engage customers in dialog. They talk with the customer rather than at the customer as is generally the case with conventional media. Social media can also facilitate post-sale support and dissemination of valuable product tips to customers.
  5. Social media used properly can build frequency less expensively than conventional media educating and informing the consumer over time.
  6. Social media can help reach target markets that are too difficult or expensive to reach using conventional means.
  7. Reach doesn’t determine cost, so social media can target a narrow vertical market while at the same time casting a wide net. Efficiency doesn’t really matter much in the context of social media reach.
  8. Search engines like social media, and social marketing leverages free high-quality search exposure which is preferable to paying for low-quality pay-per-click or banner advertising.
  9. Social media sites and your e commerce websites are available 24/7 more or less indefinitely. It’s much like having an ad run in every issue of a publication or like having a catalog or sales letter retained until the customer is ready to make a buying decision.
  10. Using social networking sites it is often possible to connect directly with B2B decision makers without interference from protective gatekeepers.

Social marketing is different from other forms of Internet marketing. I write about the unique challenges that social media marketing poses in Top 10 Social Media Challenges.

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Larry Brauner

A web developer knows how to build a website and how to create a web page that interacts effectively with visitors.  Web developers can often organize information and design web sites with great visual appeal.

Generally speaking however, web developers are neither experienced Internet marketers nor skilled copywriters. They specialize in following, tweaking and implementing the specifications provided to them by small business owners and corporate marketing departments. A web developer is a technician skilled at converting a set of instructions into an interactive web site.

Launching and promoting a web site and building an Internet presence require more than a development effort.  Here are eight other elements that will likely figure into your online presence:

  1. Your niche and perhaps micro-niche - What specific need or needs will your products or services fill?
  2. Positioning and branding - What distinguishes you from your competition? How can you position your brand so that it’s at the top of it’s own category?
  3. Targeting - Who will use your brand and how can you connect with them online and offline?
  4. Your keywords - What terms are people searching for that are relevant to your brand and which are the best ones to compete for?
  5. Content - What do you say on your site? How do you communicate your ideas, and how do you weave in the keywords indicated by your keyword research?
  6. Contextual linking - Creating meaningful hyperlinks within your site content that help the reader and the search engines.
  7. Link building - Getting the best sites to link back to you and other SEO strategies to attract search visitors and drive referrals to your website. Listing your site in appropriate directories. Submitting your site and content to social bookmarking sites, and writing press releases and articles that will also link back to you.
  8. Web promotion and list building - Leveraging video sites, social networking sites, e-zines and PPC ads to drive even more people to visit and register at your website or your blog.

To build a successful web presence requires a team of marketing, design and development professionals to tend to each aspect of your online campaign. In many organizations, some people will assume several roles.

If you’re a small business owner, I recommend that you let a marketing consultant bring together and manage the expertise and skill sets that will be required.

If you have more time to invest than money, Site Build It! is an inexpensive option. You learn each phase as you go and are guided step-by-step through your project.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

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Larry Brauner

When Twitter, Ning and Facebook Compete

Major social networking sites are constantly competing for new users and for a greater share of each user’s networking time.

When Twitter, Facebook and Ning social networks compete, you and I win. Social networking sites are forced to keep improving in order to keep us as members.

Competing Isn’t Easy

However, competing isn’t easy. Simply adding more features will not always produce better results. Added features might make a site slower, harder to comprehend or more difficult to navigate.

There are very many factors that social networking site owners need to consider and to balance when making site improvements. For example:

  1. Competitive Environment - What is the competition doing and not doing? How well is it working for them? Who are they targeting? How are they positioning and marketing themselves? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can we neutralize their strengths and exploit their weaknesses?
  2. Functionality - What capabilities does our target market want? What can we offer? How will product enhancements be perceived?
  3. Design Consistency - How can we add capabilities while preserving our site’s overall look, feel and philosophy? What synergies can we achieve between new and existing functionality?
  4. Cost vs. Benefit - Social network owners must consider the trade off between benefit and cost of each potential site modification?
  5. Timing - How long will it take to roll out site modifications? Faster is generally better than slower when facing competition. Windows of opportunity can sometimes be very small.
  6. Monetization Strategies - How will changes affect the income social network owners derive from the site?
  7. Anticipating the Future - What is needed down the road? How will changes made now interact will future ones?
  8. Legal Issues - Any patents, trademarks, compliance, disclosures or other legal constraints to reckon with?
  9. Site Responsiveness - Are site response times acceptable? Can responsiveness be improved? How will social networking site modification affect responsiveness?
  10. Simplicity - Social networking sites and their features must be easy for members and prospective members to understand.
  11. Ease of Use - Sites must be easy and intuitive to navigate. Members need simple ways to achieve their online social networking objectives.
  12. Visual Appeal - Social networking sites need to look and feel right to members.
  13. Buzz - Social networking sites grow virally when members invite their friends to join. They need compelling reasons to reach out to their friends and easy-to-use mechanisms that automate the inviting process.
  14. Fun Factor - Members will not hang out at a site if it isn’t enjoyable. A positive user experience is critical to online social network success.

Twitter, Ning and Facebook are continually evolving. However, recent changes to Facebook seem to have been the most far reaching.

Recent Facebook Developments

Facebook changed the look and feel of the pages used by businesses, organizations and celebrities to make them more similar to personal profiles. As a result, overall Facebook design is simpler and perhaps a bit more intimate.

Furthermore, the way businesses and individuals can now both use the Facebook News Feed seems to more closely follow the Twitter model. This is especially good news for businesses, organizations and celebrities trying to communicate with their “fans” and acquire new ones.

My main Facebook complaints are: its persistent sluggishness, the deluge of quaint applications and requests, and the steep learning curve.

Recent Ning Developments

The way I see it, Ning takes the Web 2.0 concept a step farther than any of their competitors. That’s what makes Ning unique.

Not only do users create site content, they even create the individual Ning social networks themselves.

Ning encourages people to become members of multiple social networks. What has been sorely needed is a way to manage participation across these multiple networks from a central control panel. Ning has recently filled this need by creating a new super meta network at Ning.com that’s conceptually a network of networks.

I applaud Ning’s latest effort, but noticed couple of problems with the new meta social networking site:

  • There isn’t yet a capability to manage outstanding friend requests across networks.
  • The recent friends list isn’t correctly sorted.

Like Facebook, Ning social networks tend to be slow and quirky.

Recent Twitter Developments

The main thing I see at Twitter is a cleaner web interface with fewer rough edges.

Twitter like Facebook and Ning is doing its share to combat spam. Spam in social media is an ongoing problem.

Twitter is much faster than Facebook or Ning. I would however like to see better performance of the Twitter API as it affects the consistency of Twitter tools running on top of it. I can run Twitter Karma many times and get as many different results!

For me and others site performance can be an overriding issue. When a site is too slow, it can be emotionally too painful to endure. For that reason I spend most of my networking time on Twitter, even though conceptually I like Ning and Facebook about as much.

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Larry BraunerI advised in The 80/20 Rule and Social Media not to spread yourself too thin trying to juggle too many social media sites at one time.

In this article I want to caution against another pitfall, falling in love with one social media site and putting all your eggs in one basket.

I’m not exactly sure why but I sense that many MySpace, Facebook and Twitter enthusiasts are married to their social networking favorite and reluctant to branch out.

Why NOT to Marry Your Social Media Site

Here are six ways you can benefit from a strategy that incorporates multiple social media sites:

  1. There’s a risk that your favorite site will decline in popularity, or that for a variety of reasons, some of your favorite people at that site may lose interest in logging in. If you connect at several sites or obtain personal contact information to network offline, your important relationships will be more secure.
  2. All social media sites allow you to share information and files, but each has its own unique structure and set of features. If you use several sites, these sites can complement each other’s functionality.
  3. No two social sites attract the identical people. Using several sites allows you to reach out to a greater number of people.
  4. Different sites attract different types of people. Using several sites allows you to reach out to a more diverse group of people and helps you to better target your social media.
  5. Using more forms of social media or more sites can favorably impact your web presence and your SEO efforts.
  6. The social networking masses tend over time to migrate from one site to another. If you’re lucky enough to have a head start on a site where they land, you might conceivably succeed at leveraging that head start to your advantage.

At the time I decided that a Twitter presence was valuable, I was happy not to be starting from scratch. So too with Facebook, when I started my new Facebook Page, I already had more than 500 Facebook friends.

To make it easy for you and I to connect, I set up a Connect page that includes all the social networking sites where I’m either very active or very established. Connecting on my favorite social sites will help us to communicate and will also help you to build your social media presence.

Important Heads Up Regarding Facebook

Facebook was in the forefront of online social networking news last week. Major changes were announced that make Facebook business pages more similar to Facebook personal profiles, and they make Facebook feeds more similar to Twitter timelines.

These changes are bound to further accelerate Facebook’s tremendous growth. Join me on the Facebook journey:

  • Read Facing up to the competition for a brief overview that references a variety of social media news blogs covering the Facebook story.
  • You can also download the Facebook Pages Product Guide directly from Facebook.
  • Visit my Facebook Page and add yourself as a fan. I will be able to publish information to your Facebook news feed, and you will be able to help me spread the word.
  • Join me on Let’s Follow Each Other, a social networking and training community to help build your presence and your relationships on Twitter and Facebook.

Linking More Easily to Facebook

A shortcoming of Facebook is its awkward linking structure. A Facebook link might perhaps appeal to a U.S. Library of Congress file clerk or to a CIA operative, but that’s about it.

You can create a simpler and more memorable link using the Facebook web address application. If you’re a Twitter user, SocialToo might be a suitable alternative. Either choice will help enormously.

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Short Version of My Story

Today I tell some of my own story and share some of my own social media strategy.

This article is about an idea that was planted in my head and how I nurtured that idea. The article is slightly longer than usual, so please hang in there with me.

Creative problem solving has been a forte of mine since my teen years as a math whiz and chess champion. Once I began employment, I applied my problem solving capabilities to helping companies improve their business processes and getting a better handle on many different types of business and scientific data.

Thirty years into my career I learned about the social media and Web 2.0 revolution from Time Magazine’s BIG December 2006 cover story, Time’s Person of the Year: You. I saw that, while I could no longer be one of the earliest adopters of social media, it wasn’t at all too late to position myself near the forefront of this enormous trend.

I had previously experienced and benefited to a small degree from online social networking and social networking sites such as Ryze and Direct Matches, but the Time article opened my eyes to possibilities greater than I’d previously imagined. I decided in January 2007, after reading the Time article, to master social media and to watch and see where that mastery would lead me.

Online Social Networking

Rather than try to master all social media at one time, I instead focused only on online networking and developed a first version of my online social networking strategy. These early conclusions, I based on my observations at MySpace, Direct Matches and Yuwie, social websites I have since rejected.

By September 2007, I was contemplating my next step.

Blogging and SEO

At MySpace and Yuwie I experimented with blogging. The next step was to start an independent blog, and I chose Wordpress.org as my platform in connection with web hosting at Go Daddy.

Before launching my Online Social Networking blog I spent months reading about blogging and search engine optimization, as well as conducting keyword research. The time invested paid off. I got started right, and keyword research become an important skill for me, as well.

I began blogging in November 2007 and devoted a year to learning how to write, promote and optimize my online publication. By October 2008 I no longer viewed myself as a novice blogger.

At present Online Social Networking has more than 350 Feedburner subscribers, receives 2,000+ search visits per month, and is ranked by Alexa in the top 100,000 websites.

Ning Social Networks and Twitter

First Ning networks and then Twitter captured my attention. These two social media platforms are powerful and growing rapidly in popularity.

Just as I’d done with my online social networking strategy, search engine optimization and blogging, I set out to master Ning and Twitter, writing articles on each that have since been read many times and featured by top news sites.

@larrybrauner on Twitter has 20,000+ followers, and thousands of users have already visited my blog.

“One Bite at a Time” Works

The key to my progress is internal motivation coupled with focus.

Rather than go off in too many directions and spread myself thin, I’ve applied the 80/20 Rule, taking one bite at a time out of the social media giant. This strategy has worked well for me and will work well for others too.

It’s March 2009. What will my next bite be?

FacebookStay tuned, but Facebook is at the top of my social marketing list, and along the way, I’m building my social media brand, helping clients, and looking for new ones.

We’ve now reached the point in the article where you subscribe to my blog and join my Facebook business page. ;-)

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

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