Larry BraunerSocial media marketing requires a markedly different mindset than traditional print, broadcast and direct mail marketing — or even PPC or e-zine marketing that use online media.

Marketing Paradigm Shift

Social marketing is not so much about lead development and customer acquisition as it is about brand development, relationship and community building.

Of course social marketers want to generate sales. That’s a given. However, the social marketing medium requires a new and more social approach to the whole marketing process.

Social Media Marketing Flow

Social marketing has its own characteristic flow. Strangers gradually become followers, friends and fans looking to engage with you.

They become increasingly receptive to your ideas and messages. Many eventually sell themselves on your products and services without your intervention. Others may require a little gentle persuasion.

Social media marketing is the art and science of using social media sites to create and nurture social marketing flow.

At the Core of Social Marketing

Social media sites offer the enabling technologies and infrastructure that define the social media marketing platform, but social marketing is centered around people, not around websites.

Furthermore, in social marketing it’s not companies but real people who communicate with people.

Personality, thought leadership, sensitivity, protocol and well-written content are social factors that foster relationship with your market and community participation. Think of social media marketing as charisma marketing.

A community in social media can be built around a blog, a group you start on a social site, or an independent online social network that you create.

The key is to use your personality and your content to give people in your target market compelling reasons to follow you online and to subscribe to your blogs or join your social networking sites.

Then you can speak to your new friends as a group as if they were sitting in your living room and leaning forward to make sure they catch your every word. You won’t need to use old media to yell.

Are you leaning forward?

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Larry BraunerThroughout history social networking has been practiced at religious institutions, business associations, conventions, membership clubs and yes, pubs.

The ancient Babylonian Talmud describes the Great Synagogue of Alexandria which was destroyed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan roughly 1900 years ago. This synagogue was one of the most magnificent edifices ever built.

When a poor person entered, he would recognize masters of his trade, and he would turn to them. That is how he would support himself and his family.

The Babylonian Talmud itself appears to be an early example of social media. It was compiled with source material, interpretations and arguments from notable scholars living in different places and in different periods of time.

I wouldn’t be surprised to discover plenty of additional examples from other religions and cultures.

Coming back to the present, all of us are familiar with social networking at parties, the work place or business mixers. Aren’t we?

How about public bulletin boards? They’re a common form of social media. People tack up or tape notices on them.

Letters to the editor turn pages of newspapers and magazines into social media.

What is new is Web 2.0, social networking sites and other social media sites. The advent of online social networking and online social media has revolutionized social networking, social marketing and publishing.

Online social networking and social media are global. They’re instantaneous. The “paper” and “postage” are essentially free. The “playing field” is level.

Now that’s real freedom of speech.

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Larry Brauner

I’m not asking who owns social media content, although that’s an interesting question.

I am asking who’s responsible for your social media strategy and policy? Who determines your overall social media agenda?

If you’re on your own, and you’re promoting yourself, your ideas or your business, you presumably own your social media. The buck stops with you.

However, if you don’t don’t have a plan, perhaps your social media owns you. Your social media can own you whether you’re a one person show, or whether you’re a large enterprise employing many people.

Ownership is more than simply calling the shots. It’s setting objectives, formulating strategies, devising plans and implementing them. Neglect taking responsibility for these activities, and the likely outcome will be total chaos.

If you’re on your own, you now know that you must develop a sound plan, but what if you’re a large organization? Who will own social media in your organization? Who else will participate in social media?

Here are some possibilities:

  • Marketing is a likely choice for social media ownership, since marketing typically owns traditional media and is the department most likely to turn social media into a money making proposition. In addition, social media is a good branding tool, and marketing ought to understand and own the branding process.
  • Public Relations is another possibility, since PR regularly uses media to communicate with shareholders and the general public. In a business that does little marketing through media, such as one that sells only to government agencies, PR might be a good choice to guide social media strategy and policy.
  • Human Resources can use social media to communicate with employees and must help enforce internal social media policy.
  • Information Technology can use social media to collaborate and manage work flow. Moreover, social media use can expose the company network to additional risks.  IT maintains network security and protects both the company and individual computer users from hackers, viruses and malware.
  • Knowledge Management, and Engineering can use social media to compile knowledge, collaborate and manage work flow.
  • Legal must help Marketing, PR and HR determine what they can and cannot say on websites and in other communications.

I’ve discussed the basic issues surrounding social media ownership. However, I’ve purposely ignored such factors as inexperience, skepticism, company politics, red tape, inertia, denial and whatever else may get in the way of implementing a successful social media plan.

An article that covered these issues in any detail would be too long and much too depressing for both of us, but please do read Top 10 Social Marketing Challenges.

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Larry Brauner

A comment last week to my October 2008 blog post, Ning Social Networking Sites Update, linked back to Ning Exposed - Tech Company Scams its Clients, an article which sharply criticizes Ning’s latest business model and platform, and it alleges foul play on Ning’s part in reacting to complaints by network creators.

As a Ning social network creator and user, I happen to appreciate Ning’s recent platform improvements and tend to disagree with the article’s assessments. While the allegations of censorship are disturbing, my careful reading of Ning’s Terms of Service leaves me hopeful that Ning has acted fully within its rights.

Aggregating Ning Social Networking Sites

I have always looked at Ning as a family of social networking sites. An individual chooses to become a member one or many Ning sites.

Ning members can connect to become friends, and the friendships that they make will extend across sites. Friendships aren’t limited to the site at which they were forged.

I have found managing my Ning memberships and friendships across sites somewhat complicated, so I was pleased when Ning tied everything together for me in one place at Ning.com.

I always viewed myself as a member of the larger Ning community, not just the semi-independent sites which I created or joined, so aggregating Ning sites and Ning members made perfect sense to me. I didn’t view it at all as some kind of sinister plot.

Member Contact Across Ning Sites

The article referenced above mentions a “hole in the system, which is convenient for Ning, which allows people to gather friends across any website using Ning’s technology and then invite them all to join their website.”

The article is referring to the ability of members to share their favorite Ning social networks and content with all their friends across Ning sites as a convenient loophole, not as an intended and beneficial system feature.

I admit that this feature can be and is often abused by members, but that’s not Ning’s fault. The real problem is that people often make friendships indiscriminately. If the friendships were truly meaningful, they would naturally anticipate and welcome contact, even across sites.

Ning Social Concept Epitomizes Web 2.0

As I indicated before, I believe that Ning is true Web 2.0. It takes social collaboration a step farther than Twitter, Facebook, MySpace , LinkedIn and other social networking sites. Individual social networking sites are created and contributed by users, not just the content within these sites.

I applaud Ning for providing us with a unique social networking venue.

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Larry Brauner

The title of this article is purely sensational — as you might expect on April Fools Day. However, the article itself is real and highlights the annoyances and threats that we constantly face when using the Internet and social networking sites.

Before the Net became part of our lives, we worried about pickpocketing,  mugging, burglary, armed robbery and a variety of scams that include make-believe charities, phony investment schemes and identity theft.

Today we must also worry about viruses and malware, phishing and more sophisticated web-based scams including a plethora of silly business schemes, and widespread online fraud and identity theft.

Ning, Twitter and MySpace Attacked

Hundreds of Ning social networks including mine, Outside the Box and Let’s Follow Each Other, were attacked over the past week by “free ringtones” spam. Bogus users popped up everywhere and posted their free ringtones spam on as many member profiles as they could.

Network creators and administrators reacted by changing their site settings to require new member approval. This measure has stopped the free ringtones girl but not without some ongoing inconvenience to both administrators and would-be site members.

Similar spam outbreaks occur frequently on Twitter and MySpace where no simple solution is yet in sight.

Forewarned is Forearmed

Spam is only the tip of the iceberg.

Think BEFORE you click on any link or respond to any pop up including those that offer to upgrade to new versions of your existing software. It’s advisable to write down the name of the software mentioned and check the vendor’s site directly for legitimate updates.

Close pop up windows using Alt-F4 on your keyboard. Do not press ANY buttons, as labeling can be fake and malicious. Pressing buttons can initiate the downloading of some very nasty and hard-to-remove malware to your computer such as Trojans and rootkits.

The most likely places to pick up harmful malware are e-mails you receive, social networking sites, blogs and forums. Make sure you keep your system and virus protection current, but don’t rely on anti-malware programs to protect you. Use caution and common sense.

As far as make money from home schemes are concerned, most of them are time wasters if not outright ripoffs.

If you are serious about finding a legitimate work from home opportunity, contact me, and I’ll point you in the right direction. However, it’s a fact that even the best home businesses usually flop.

Very Useful Information

I found the blog PC Speed Guru very informative and helpful. Any Internet security blogs or websites that you’ve found to be useful, please post them below in a comment.

But no spam, please!

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