Larry BraunerI work at a watch company for which social media and web marketing are key tools for accelerating its business expansion.

As Social Media Director, I flew with our team to Basel, Switzerland in March to attend Baselworld, the grandest and most important watch and jewelry event of the  year.

Social Media Help Wanted

Haurex 1K374UNN INK Collections Featuring Aluminum and Rubber as Announced at Baselworld 2011I explained in My Social Media Mission Abroad that I was visiting at Baselworld 2011 with the dozens of watch brands we represent to discuss social media collaboration and ideas for future projects.

I realized, of course, that I’d need substantial help to carry out the social media plans made in Basel.

Besides freelance writers who can appreciate and blog about luxury, fashion and watches, I’m also looking locally in the Greater New York area for an art director, PR expert and advertising specialist.

New Social Media Profit Centers

For decades, I’ve been intrapreneurial. Now, in addition to leveraging our Internet properties to promote our firm and its many watch brands, it’s my intention, as well, to turn these websites into profit centers and totally new income streams.

So far we have several work-at-home bloggers and a few candidates for the in-house positions. To recommend someone or apply yourself for any of these opportunities, check out my Connect page.

Social Media Watch

I’ll keep you informed about our social media moves and their effectiveness. Please subscribe and join me on Facebook — and don’t hesitate to leave me a comment. ;-)

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Larry Brauner3 Key Social Media and Web Marketing Strategies for 2011 discussed the decline of open networking on Facebook, the revival of Ning networks and the continued relevance of websites and SEO in building your web presence.

Here are several more social media marketing ideas for the new year that can be especially helpful for small business marketers and entrepreneurs.

Bigger Long-Term SEO Objectives

GoogleOne of the most serious social media and web marketing mistakes I’ve ever made was choosing Online Social Networking as the name of this blog.

I considered naming my blog Social Networking Sites but decided not to, because social networking sites seemed too competitive a keyword phrase for the newbie that I was. Online social networking is searched for 12K times monthly compared to 250K for social networking sites. 12K per month seemed like more than enough traffic to me at that time.

Online social networking was a “reasonable” keyword term. Since it was much less popular than the often searched-for term social networking sites, I hoped to rank for it relatively quickly. However, in the long run, I believe that social networking sites would’ve brought me both greater and more profitable traffic.

My blog probably wouldn’t have yet hit the #1 spot in the search engines for the search term social networking sites as it has already for online social networking, but it would’ve ranked much higher for social networking sites than the present #32 and might have still placed close to the top for online social networking.

I should have considered long term potential and selected more ambitious keywords, just as I have for Gevril, for whom I’ve chosen tough keyword phrases, such as luxury watches and mens watches.

In month one, Gevril Group received 150 search visits. I’ll let you know what happens in month two.

Ning Network Groups

Ning Social NetworksNing groups function like Facebook groups with a few welcome exceptions:

  • Your potential emailing list is unlimited. You can broadcast to Ning group members even after their count exceeds 5,000.
  • The content of your Ning group can be indexed by Google and other search engines, and the greater your group membership, the greater your authority with the search engines will tend to be.
  • Group activity is displayed in your Ning network’s activity feed and transmitted to Ning group members who elect to follow you.

I’m ready and able to assist any group owner on my new Small Business Network who’s dedicated to building a large and influential Ning group, and the group need not necessarily be business-oriented.

Connecting One-to-One

SkypeYour personal network will be strong and prosper if you focus on networking one-to-one. Speak on the phone or over Skype even one time to each person, and you’ll surely build solid online relationships.

If you’re growing a Facebook page, a Ning group or a Twitter account, individually adding one-to-one connections can amount to a large number over time — and perhaps these connections will even help you make many more.

Hope you’ll find these social media and web marketing strategies useful.

Wishing you a successful year. :-)

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Larry BraunerThe social media and web marketing space is evolving, and we must therefore continually revise our social media and web marketing strategies and techniques.

Here are several cases in point that affect social media and web marketing practice, especially for small business.

Good-Bye Facebook Open Networking

FacebookFor years, Facebook was an open social networking site that permitted members to befriend people whom they didn’t know despite mounting privacy concerns.

However, in 2010, Facebook tightened its friending policies in order to combat phishing and spamming practices.

It appears that Facebook now evaluates friend requests based on degrees of separation and profiles users who repeatedly go out-of-bounds, restricting their friending capabilities.

Consequently, we must regard Facebook as a closed networking site going forward, despite the Facebook Freedom to Share and Connect principle, and find approaches to building our Facebook networks that don’t raise red flags.

Hello Ning Open Networking

Ning Social NetworksSince the Ning shift earlier this year from free or paid networks to paid-only networks, protest from disgruntled free-site creators has subsided and, as promised, Ning has come through with improved functionality upgraded periodically.

While Ning cannot compete with Facebook based neither on popularity nor functionality, Ning is nevertheless a great platform for creating niche social networking sites and for open networking.

I’ve dedicated the Small Business Network, my own Ning networking site, to the pursuit of open social and business networking, and I would be delighted if you would join me there.

You can still share via broadcast any of your Ning content, like blog posts or pictures, with all your Ning friends, a feature not found on the Facebook or LinkedIn social networks.

Search Engine Optimization Still Pays Big

GoogleNotwithstanding my remarks in The NEW Search Engine Optimization, search engines are still the mightiest source of website traffic, and SEO is still the most vital web marketing activity.

Social media sites send thousands of visitors per month to Online Social Networking. However, Google and other search engines send much more. Having a website or blog site and optimizing it for search engines and humans is of paramount importance if you want to market successfully on the web.

Put website development and optimization at the very top of your to-do list for 2011.

Please accept my sincere wishes for a healthy, fulfilling and peaceful New Year. I look forward to growing and sharing with you in the years to come.

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Mastering social media one bite at a time the past few years was an effective strategy for me, as the needs of my small number of clients were modest enough.

That’s changing, as I’ve been engaged as social media and web strategist by the Gevril Group in Valley Cottage, NY, luxury watch distributor, a forward-thinking business with ambitious marketing goals.

A one-bite-at-a-time social media marketing approach for Gevril would be way too laid-back and totally unrealistic.

Gevril’s Social Media and Web Marketing Plan

Gevril Group Luxury WatchesI’ve crafted for Gevril a multi-faceted web marketing plan that matches the company’s far-reaching objectives.

All parts of my plan are to be managed and executed concurrently:

  • Community and List Building - Developing a community and building a subscriber base are impacted by nearly all social media and web marketing functions.
  • Content Creation - The story of each Gevril Group brand needs to be told, and articles, newsletters and press releases need to be written, as well.
  • Web Sites - Ivo Jackson and I are designing GevrilGroup.com. The Gevril Group website will be the hub of the Gevril web presence and a key resource for contact list building.
  • Blogging - Blogs will be used to post fresh content, such as news and product information. We’ve launched several Gevril Group blogs: Watch Brands and Luxury Watches and Men’s Watches.
  • Search Engine Optimization - SEO and social media complement each other very nicely. About 50% of my blog’s traffic comes from searches. Whenever new content is created, SEO needs to be applied. The free Google Keyword Tool is my favorite SEO resource.
  • Email Marketing - We’ll email press releases, and news about products and events to our email marketing lists.
  • Facebook - I’ve set up a facebook.com/GevrilGroup on Facebook, a social networking site I’m quite comfortable with. I hope to build an active community of watch enthusiasts around Gevril’s Facebook page.
  • Twitter - I’ve set up @GevrilGroup on Twitter and will use Tweet Adder to manage the Gevril account and build a targeted following.
  • LinkedIn - While still working on a strategy for LinkedIn, I’ve already joined many relevant LinkedIn groups. I will next create a Gevril company page.
  • Social Bookmarking Sites - I’ve lately received a lot of quality blog traffic from Business Exchange, so I created a Business Exchange topic for the watch industry. I’ll also use Digg, StumbleUpon and other social bookmarking sites.
  • Niche Social Networks - Social networking sites and forums catering to watches or luxury will help Gevril connect with watch enthusiasts.
  • Group Buying - I’ve ruled out Groupon and similar sites as potential marketing channels, but very much like GroupGain, a new website with a new group buying concept that has yet to launch.

Gevril Men's 5101 Rose Gold Avenue of Americas Automatic Date WatchThe ultimate goal of Gevril’s marketing initiatives is to increase sales by enlisting vendors and by creating more consumer demand.

Therefore, every aspect of Gevril’s social media and web marketing plan must contribute directly or indirectly to an increase in Gevril’s sales.

Please visit and follow the Gevril Group on Facebook and Twitter. I hope to see you there. ;-)

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Larry BraunerI envisioned when launching my social media consulting practice spending my time creating and executing traffic generating and branding strategies using a wide range of social media sites. I did not envision spending my time optimizing clients’ websites and blogs.

Your Website or Blog

What I found, however, was that clients’ websites had not been designed to appeal to visitors and convert them into subscribers or customers, nor were they set up to attract search engine traffic.

This problem concerned me very much. As I’ve written numerous times, the core of a social media marketing campaign is always your website or blog. Consequently, I decided to offer a full range of services to help clients make more effective use of the web.

Social Media and Web Marketing in Action

Welkin Capital GroupI was asked very recently to market the website of Welkin Capital Group, a high-end real estate finance company. When I accepted the assignment, I knew that my work would encompass more than social media and search engine optimization. It would include a total website makeover, as well.

The transformation of Welkin’s website has been dramatic. The best way to appreciate the changes we made is to compare the new website to the old website. We still plan to add a newsletter and a blog but already, the new site has a better look and feel, more room to maneuver, additional content and a social component.

While working on the Welkin site’s new design, we began optimizing the site’s content for search engines — and for human visitors too:

  • During the first six weeks, March 7, 2010 to April 17, Welkin received 51 unique search engine visits from 25 search terms.
  • During the next six weeks, April 18 to May 29, the company received 152 unique search visits from 63 terms.

We’re still working on the website’s content. Writing and tweaking content is an ongoing aspect of web marketing.

If you’re interested in real estate, you can follow Welkin on Facebook and Twitter.

Conclusion

Your main takeaway from this article:

Web marketing begins with your website or blog, the core of your web presence, and without which your social media marketing plan isn’t complete and cannot succeed.

Please subscribe to Online Social Networking and leave a comment telling me what’s on your mind. :-)

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Larry BraunerSocial media critics are quick to point out that social media marketing isn’t really free.

Using social media requires a considerable time investment, typically by people whose time is quite valuable. Once time is factored into the cost of using social media — as it ought to be — not only isn’t it free to use, it’s expensive to use.

The High Cost of Using Digital Media

High Cost of Social MediaTo say that I’m enthusiastic about using  social media for branding, building a web presence, and online social networking would be an understatement. Yet, I do not contest the critics’ claims that social media is expensive. It is costly, and so are website development and search engine optimization.

Nevertheless, if executed properly according to a sound digital media plan, website development, search engine optimization and social media will be worth more than their cost in the long run.

The High Cost of Using Traditional Media

Buy traditional media and you’ll pay to reach your audience. You’ll invest time to develop your ad campaign and than pay for the price of the media on top of that. The more select your audience, the larger your audience, and the more frequently you intend to reach them, the more you’ll have to pay.

Your Giant Interactive Billboard

Last May I wrote The Long Tail and Social Media. The simple idea is that your website and social media content have value to you long after you’ve put them online. Search engines and social media channels provide you with constant exposure 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, like a giant billboard on a super highway.  Your billboard, however, is interactive and could be worth a fortune to you.

Primary and Secondary Target Audience

Your primary target audience consists of your potential customers or people who care very much about your cause. Your secondary target audience is everybody else who appreciates your content or uses your website. They can spread your message or click through your ads.

The way traditional advertising is priced, it probably won’t be feasible to reach out to your secondary audience. The return on investment would be too small. However, digital media, which has little or no incremental cost, enables you to cast a wide net and reach both your primary and secondary target audiences.

Digital Media Replacing Traditional Media

So far I’ve assumed that you have a choice about digital media, but you don’t. Traditional media is declining and is gradually being replaced by its digital counterpart. The question is no longer which but when. When will you jump on the bandwagon?

Please take a minute or two to leave a comment below and to subscribe.

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Larry BraunerTo what extent do you benefit from social bookmarking sites in your social media projects?

Paul Chaney, author of The Digital Handshake, reveals in his recent article, Social bookmarking’s place in the marketing spectrum, that surprisingly few social media marketers understand and use social bookmarking sites.

Social media practitioners seem to be unaware that social bookmarking sites can send traffic and help them make important connections, and they also seem to be unclear about how social bookmarking sites really work.

I myself only dabbled in social bookmarking until recently. I submitted my own articles exclusively to a variety of social bookmarking sites and gained very little benefit from my efforts.

Using Social Bookmarking Sites Effectively

In December, I joined Business Week’s Business Exchange and adopted a very social and spam-free strategy. In 12 Tips for Using Business Week’s Social Bookmarking Site, I detailed the approach that I had developed for using Business Exchange. This approach has since served as a prototype my use of other social bookmarking sites as well.

Thanks to my change of strategy, I now receive nearly 1,000 visits per month to  my blog from social bookmarking sites, and the number of visits keeps growing. I’ve also met some wonderful people.

The following are 10 tips for using social bookmarking sites effectively:

  1. Focus on a small number of social bookmarking sites. Don’t take on more sites than you can easily manage.
  2. Look for social bookmarking sites that are appropriate for your particular niche.
  3. Bookmark only high-quality relevant content that’s genuinely worth sharing with other site members.
  4. Don’t bookmark only your own content, since doing so is spammy.
  5. Always be on the lookout for additional content to share.
  6. Bookmark frequently enough that fellow members can get to know you.
  7. Look for opportunities to engage and help other members both on and off the social bookmarking site.
  8. Abide by the policies and norms specific to each of social bookmarking sites you join. Take the time to learn how to use each site by reading articles and watching what others are doing. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
  9. Help grow each of your favorite social bookmarking sites by inviting your friends and colleagues to become members.
  10. Be patient. Make adjustments as necessary. Rome wasn’t build in a day. (You probably didn’t realize that the Romans even used social bookmarking sites.)

My Favorite Social Bookmarking Sites

I invite you to join the social bookmarking sites where I’m currently active:

  • Business Exchange - As the name implies, this social bookmarking site is business oriented. It attracts high caliber business users and members of the info elite. I believe that site improvements are on the drawing board or underway.
  • StumbleUpon - This site is suitable for all niches. To use it, you need to download and install the StumbleUpon toolbar.
  • Amplify - This site is also for everybody and is a good syndication site too. Download and install the Amplify bookmarklet for easy bookmarking.

I also invite you to subscribe to my blog and to share your thoughts about social bookmarking sites in the comment area below. :-)

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Larry BraunerYou want to market on the web and take advantage of the vast potential of social media. You start your blog, create your Twitter account, launch your Facebook fan page, and you’re ready to go.

Or are you? Have you missed any crucial first steps?

Sandy Abrams, begins her new book, Your Idea, Inc., with words that have been attributed to Mark Twain:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking down your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

This quotation presents three problems, which I believe ought to have troubled Samuel Clemens:

  1. Isn’t “breaking down your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks” itself a step in the process?
  2. Aren’t understanding your needs and clearly defining your objectives vital preparatory steps as well?
  3. How do we determine the optimal sequence in which to execute all the small manageable tasks?

Neglected Stepchild of Social Media MarketingThese are three aspects of planning.

Planning is not popular, which explains the all too common lack of direction and focus in social media work.

Lack of direction and focus impedes progress and can cause frustration.

Your Social Media Plan

Before you jump into social media, devise your social media marketing and PR plan. Here are 16 key areas that might factor into your social media plan:

  1. Understand your business and objectives.
  2. Think about your products and services, what makes each special and their respective market segments.
  3. Develop positioning strategies for each market or program.
  4. Compile a list of your online competitors for each market.
  5. Identify suitable social media, such as social networking sites and social bookmarking sites, for both your vertical and horizontal campaigns.
  6. Identify desirable directories and other sites that might link to your content.
  7. Research and evaluate the extent and quality of industry-specific online content.
  8. Devise strategies and techniques for developing and promoting your content.
  9. Define a policy for governing your employees’ interactions with the public through social media.
  10. Study the online methodology of competitors and identify their search engine keywords.
  11. Analyze and critique your existing web presence.
  12. Gauge your competitors’ online success based upon their standing in search engines, the number and quality of links to their site, and estimated traffic.
  13. Identify opportunities to outmaneuver your competitors.
  14. Use a process called keyword discovery to develop a potentially useful vocabulary that will attract targeted search engine traffic to your content through SEO.
  15. Analyze keywords to determine which ones ought to be emphasized, based on the frequency of search and the amount of competition for each keyword phrase.
  16. Create a lexicon as an output of your keyword research and as an aid to your content development.

Action is Everything

You need not be concerned about every one of these areas. Use your judgment, since these are more suggestions than requirements. Certainly, do not use the length of my list as an excuse not to take action.

Action is everything. However, action begins with planning.

What are your thoughts?

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Larry BraunerOur website promotion event and social media party was an enormous success. Hundreds actively participated, introducing their web sites, engaging in dialog and making new connections.

Fortunately, the time frame for the networking phase of the event is open-ended, so drop by my Facebook page any time to meet some new people and check out what they’re up to. I’ll be busy working on the page for a few more days, reviewing web sites I haven’t yet visited.

Self PromotionOur four-day event was in part an experiment, as Tom Woolf pointed out. A key takeaway for me is that many people are promoting their products, services, companies interests and causes but not sufficiently promoting them- selves.

Keeping a low profile may occasionally be appropriate. However, in general, self-promotion is integral to social media marketing and public relations.

These are eight reasons why self-promotion and injecting yourself into your content are very important:

  1. You transcend your interests.  No interest or group of interests, no matter how passionate you are about them, can fully define you as a person. Admittedly, this point is too existential, so…
  2. Your subject matter might lose relevance. For example, your product can be discontinued or your company can go out of business. Your content will become irrelevant with no residual benefit from the effort you put into creating and promoting it. However…
  3. You’re always relevant as a person. You have inherent value, and you’re completely portable from one venue to another.
  4. You and I are unique. People aren’t interchangeable, but products, services and organizations tend to be.
  5. You and I are memorable. People will come to remember us and our faces once they see us a few times.
  6. People prefer to do business with people they know, like and trust. It has always been that way, even before Al Gore allegedly invented the Internet. You and I can relate to people and build solid social capital.
  7. Synergy. Our diverse interests and content work to build a bigger and more insightful picture of us.
  8. Social media is uhh, social. You and I are social. Our jewelry and weight loss products merely facilitate social interaction. People relate to people, and their relationships are ongoing.

More about promoting yourself and personal branding in upcoming articles.

At this time, you can probably suggest additional reasons for keeping it social, and I expect that you will. ;-)

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Larry Brauner

In the past week, social media hype and the competency of  social media consultants have been analyzed from different vantage points by prominent writers.

ClickZ published an article, Here Come the Social Media Carpetbaggers by Rebecca Lieb.

Social Media Carpetbaggers

Rebecca pointed out that a combination of the recession, the decline of traditional media, and the nearly zero cost and barrier-to-entry into social media has spawned 21st century “social media carpetbaggers, in all flavors and colors of the rainbow.”

Which carpetbaggers?

It’s reputable marketers who have built deservedly strong reputations in other digital disciplines: branding, creative, strategy, search, media, and a host of other specialties, who are suddenly labeling themselves “social.”

These carpetbaggers are anxious to get their piece of social media marketing, and their dog-and-pony shows and social media clichés substitute for real experience, competence and substance.

Social Media Snake Oil

Social Media Snake OilBusiness Week published Beware Social Media Snake Oil by Stephen Baker which portrayed social media consulting as sizzle more than steak.

Stephen criticized rigidity, conflicts of interest, reliance on soft metrics, and in the worst of cases, pure hype:

“It’s a bit of a Wild West scenario,” blogs David Armano, a consultant with the Dachis Group of Austin, Texas. Without naming names, he compares some consultants to “snake oil salesmen.”

Beyond Social Media Snake Oil

The David Armano just cited added to the discussion in a subsequent article on his blog, Life After Social Media Snake Oil. David made some astute comparisons between the social media “hype and fuzzy metrics” and the denial surrounding the dot com bubble.

David ended his article by connecting the past and the future:

The true believers who stuck with the Web even when the bubble burst became the people you wanted to work with. If there is a shakeout in the social space, the same will happen. The true believers will remain, while others flock to the next hot field.

Social Media in Perspective

Mark Evans also picked up on the Business Week piece. Mark concludes that we need more perspective:

All the hype surrounding social media and tools such as Twitter and Facebook overshadow the fact that effective marketing and communications will continue to include a variety of tools. To counter all the happy talk from social media consultants about what could be, the biggest thing needed right now is perspective.

My Comments on What I’ve Read

I have several comments to make on the articles I’ve read:

  • Not only social media, but web development, and website, social media and search engine optimization all have more than enough carpetbaggers and snake oil salesmen. In all these areas, service providers, and even their completed work, are difficult to evaluate. Licensing isn’t required either, so they can easily hang up shingles and start practices. Sadly, they’re practicing on your company.
  • In the case of Rebecca Lieb’s marketing firm turned social media carpetbagger, it’s unfortunate that they haven’t yet developed the strategic alliances they will need to compensate for a lack of experience that cannot be otherwise mitigated in the short run.
  • Measuring ROI and developing other hard metrics was a concern shared by several authors. I protested already in my article, The Social Media ROI Obsession, that much of social media marketing is really public relations, and that the use of softer metrics may be appropriate in such a case.
  • While the absence of clear financial justification may cause the social media marketing bubble to burst, I expect that public and customer relations, as well as B2B prospecting will continue to make good use of social media.

And now, it’s your turn to comment on another hot topic. :-)

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