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 BraunerSeven years ago in November 2003, I began my online networking exploration on Ryze, a new social web site which was, along with LinkedIn, one of the first social networking and business networking sites.

It wasn’t until 2006, after I’d already joined a number of additional social networking websites, that I learned that these sites were the precursors of a much larger social media phenomenon. I also learned about the importance of blogs, explained by Darren Rouse in his video which I embedded in Not Ready for Social Media Marketing.

Third BlogiversaryI launched this blog, Online Social Networking, in November 2007, and yes, I am celebrating my third blogiversary. :-D

In Social Media One Bite at a Time and 7 Tips for Winning the Social Media Marathon, I discuss the social media mindset and some of the social media strategies I’ve found very helpful.

Building My Social Media and Web Presence

Here is a list of my 10 top strategies for building my social media and web presence:

  1. Partnership - Building relationships though blogging, online social networking and social bookmarking sites.
  2. Content - Writing and publishing well thought-out and occasionally useful articles on my two blogs.
  3. Search Engine Optimization - Ongoing keyword research and SEO. 50% of all my web site traffic comes directly from search engines.
  4. Diversification - Creating a presence on diverse social media sites and cultivating diverse web site traffic sources.
  5. Innovation - Experimenting with many ideas, some work out and others flop, while resisting any urges to follow the crowd.
  6. Boldness - Haven’t been afraid to test the limits of social websites and social media strategies. Twitter removed @larrybrauner from their search results, Sphinn terminated my account, and Facebook sends me sweet little love messages when I become more ambitious than they like. All I can say is, “C’est la vie.” Meekness isn’t a good quality in a marketer.
  7. Planning - Always researching and frequently reevaluating and refining my web marketing and branding plan. Flexibility must accompany social media and web marketing planning.
  8. Attitude - Persevering, staying upbeat and focusing, even when I didn’t feel like it, such as when my Dad passed away last year, or when my search engine traffic dipped during this past summer.
  9. Tools - Taking advantage of a variety of social media, SEO and web analytics tools.
  10. Widgets - Integrating social media with my blogs through using website widgets.

Thank you for partnering with me and helping me all these years with my social media and web marketing efforts. :-D

Share Your Social Media Strategies

What are your most successful strategies for building your social media and web presence?

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Larry BraunerI predicted in How Facebook Pages Will Help Facebook Dominate the Internet that before long, every business would want a Facebook page, and my prediction is coming true. I receive invites daily to “like” new Facebook pages.

Before even creating your Facebook fan page, you need to ask yourself why anyone should:

  • Like your Facebook page
  • Remain a fan of your Facebook page
  • Interact with your Facebook page
  • Recommend your Facebook page

What’s in It for Your Facebook Fans?

FacebookUntil you determine “what’s in it” for your Facebook page’s fans, you’re not ready to launch your Facebook page. You’ll only succeed by accident.

Perhaps you can provide useful info, customer service, events, prizes, gossip or entertainment.

In any case, there must be something in it for your Facebook fans, and you must continually create value for them to remain loyal to your page.

Connecting with Your Facebook Fans

On my Facebook page, I start discussions, share content, provoke thought, host networking events, and acknowledge people.

My fans and I are connected. We have a relationship.

When I post on my clients’ pages, I identify myself, so that their fans will connect with me as a person. Making personal connections is what social media is about, even on Facebook pages for businesses.

Facebook Page and Social Media Success Formula

My two basic success principles for Facebook pages, what’s in it for them and connecting on a personal level, apply equally to blogs, Twitter and all social media.

Whether it’s fans, subscribers or followers you want, always ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” Then you can create the Facebook pages and web presence your heart desires.

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Larry BraunerI launched @WelkinCapital and a Facebook page for Welkin Capital Group, a top broker of residential and commercial mortgage loans, located in New York City.

The process is still fresh in my mind, so I thought it would be worthwhile to share a bit of my thinking about the Twitter part of it with you. I prefer to leave Facebook for another time, as I haven’t discussed Twitter with you in quite a while.

Twitter Lists
Here then are ten Twitter social media marketing ideas for you to consider when you set up a new Twitter business account:

  1. Write Your Twitter Business Bio - Write a bio that is pleasant and easy to read. Use your principal keyword phrases so people searching for them can find your Twitter business profile. Appending your own personal Twitter @username will be appreciated by your visitors. For an example of this, please see @WelkinCapital.
  2. Your Twitter Profile Link - Link to your website or blog. However, if you don’t have a website, or your website isn’t ready to receive visitors, consider using your LinkedIn profile or Facebook page instead. In any case, for best results, the page you link to should be relevant and well-designed – absolutely not a sales pitch.
  3. Your Twitter Profile Picture - It makes sense on a business profile to use your organization’s logo. If you don’t have a logo, get somebody to help you create it.
  4. Tweet Before You Follow - Add half a dozen well-thought-out tweets to your business account before you start following other users from it and before you start promoting it. Otherwise, you might look like a spammer, and that would be awful.
  5. Feather the Nest - Follow the new business profile from your own personal account and ask your colleagues to do the same. Visitors will feel more comfortable following it if a few others have led the way.
  6. Update Your Personal Twitter Bio - Since Welkin is in the real estate industry, I added “real estate” to my @larrybrauner bio. This will attract real estate oriented followers to my profile who will then learn about Welkin when I retweet Welkin updates. Use this strategy if it makes sense for you.
  7. Promote Your Twitter Business Profile - Place links or widgets on your website, blog, social networking sites, etc.
  8. Follow Targeted Twitter Users - Target Twitter users using Twitter Grader search, Twellow categories and Listorious Twitter lists, in that order. If you follow relevant people, and your Twitter profile is set up properly, most will follow you back.
  9. Follow Back Relevant Users - Many Twitter users will follow you. Follow back those who are relevant. Ignore those who aren’t. They will unfollow you before long. Block obvious spammers.
  10. Influence - Use your personal Twitter and other social media  influence whenever feasible to support your Twitter business account.

I hope you will find these Twitter tips helpful as you set up your new Twitter business account or enhance an existing account.

Please subscribe and comment. :-)

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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 BraunerYesterday, May 4, 2010, was a very sad day for social media and Web 2.0. We all suffered a tremendous loss.  Yesterday was the day that Ning died.

No, Ning, the company, did not die; Ning, the company, is still very much alive, and many Ning social networking sites are alive as well, looking forward to upcoming Ning changes this July.

However, yesterday, Ning, the concept, was laid to rest.

A preliminary autopsy all but ruled out foul play. It suggested instead that perhaps too much user abuse and too little user engagement aggravated the Ning concept and hastened its sad demise.

Ning Social Networking SitesThe Ning concept was beautiful and elegant, a network of social networks.

Not only were contributions of social network end users Web 2.0 content, the individual social networks themselves were Web 2.0 content within the Ning meta social network.

The Ning concept leaves behind thousands of Ning social network creators seeking new homes. Many homes are ready to take them in but cannot accommodate them to the extent that Ning and the late Ning concept had accommodated them in the past.

Nevertheless, bereaved Ning social network creators who loved the Ning concept maintain hope for the future.

Ning concept, 2007-2010, rest in peace. :-(

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Larry BraunerA commodity is any product or service for which there is demand, but for which there is no perceived qualitative difference between that which you offer and that which your competitors offer.

Its market price is determined solely by supply and demand.

With commodities, e.g., electronics or metals, consumers are as likely to buy from your competitors as they are to buy from you and will choose randomly among the lowest priced offerings available to them.

What is Commoditization?

Commoditization or commodifying is the transformation of a product or service into a commodity by external influences such as a commodities exchange or the growing virtual marketplace on the Internet.

Haven’t you yourself ever compared offerings for a product on the web and purchased the one with the lowest price? You used to shop for this product at a neighborhood merchant, but now you tend to shop around for it online.

Commoditization prevents a product or service from standing out and places  downward pressure on its price.

Commoditization in Real Estate

While real estate itself is far from being a commodity, the agents who sell real estate, especially residential real estate, are losing their competitive differentiation in the market.

I attended REMarTech in New York City this past week. The conference was marvelously organized and presented by Ryan Slack and Green Pearl Events. If you’re in real estate, you ought to join the Green Pearl social network on Ning.

Real Estate MarketingI met lots of interesting people at REMarTech and learned some important facts about real estate sales and marketing, as well.

I learned that real estate brokers and agents are no longer the main sources of information about real estate properties and property listings. Buyers readily obtain detailed property information and listings using online services like Zillow, Trulia and StreetEasy, each represented at the REMarTech event.

As a result, the real estate broker listing a particular property is more likely now than in the past to end up splitting the commission for the sale of that property with a competitor.

How Social Media Helps Real Estate Agents

A recurring theme at REMarTech was that blogging, social networking sites, and mobile apps help real estate agents convey to potential buyers and sellers the agent’s depth of knowledge and active involvement in the neighborhood he or she represents.

A number of real estate agents use foursquare to check in and take a stand in their respective neighborhoods.

One speaker reported being the mayor of all the buildings he represents. If you wanted to sell your apartment, wouldn’t you think that perhaps the mayor of your building would be the best person to sell it?

REMarTech Takeaways

I can report to you that leaders of major real estate companies, such as Fred Peters of Warburg Realty, Diane Ramirez of Halstead Property and Jacky Teplitzky of Prudential Douglas Elliman, have already adopted social media within their organizations.

A typical real estate broker or agent has limited social media know-how but wants to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to succeed.

Fortunately, Green Pearl Events, organizer of REMarTech, is eager to help early adopters to adapt — and so is, of course, yours truly. ;-)

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Larry BraunerIn his video, Darren Rouse, author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog,  discusses his blog-centric approach to web marketing.

The idea is that social media sites — since they are controlled by their owners, not us — can serve only as outposts, while blogs and websites — since they are owned by us — are secure enough to serve as our permanent home bases.

I cannot stress enough the importance of starting a blog: I’ve listed many reasons for blogging in the Top Reasons Why I Blog and discussed why “there ain’t nothing like a blog” in Why Blogs Make More Sense.

However, despite all the great reasons to have a blog, you might feel that investing in a blog isn’t right for you and your situation.

Going BloglessIn that case, I want to assure you that going blogless is an option. You can accomplish with a standard website most of what you’d hope to accomplish with a blog.

Fortunately, like bathing suits, web marketing isn’t “one size fits all.” You may, however, need to be a bit more creative.

You’ll add content to your website when convenient, link to your new content on social sites, and engage your online community in discussion via those social websites.

You’ll also place website widgets on your website and use those widgets to connect your site to the social web.

Note that much of your website, especially sales pages, can be unsuitable for social media consumption. Do not be too concerned. People will reach those pages through links elsewhere on your site, search engines and whatever advertising you do.

Your site needs to be well optimized for both search engines and humans, i.e., relevant to your target audience and designed with them in mind.

OK. Gotta run. See you at the beach. :-P

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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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