Facebook In Your Face: Why You Should Consider Not Sharing Your Brand

I’m both impressed and frightened when I see brick and mortar businesses asking their patrons to check them out on Facebook, but I do believe that whether it be QR codes or Google Goggles, we’re just scratching the surface of the mixing of online and offline worlds and the (most welcome) end of the designation “real life”. Facebook is a big part of this, and as the offline world creeps into Zuckerfication, the online world has been overrun. I remember a 1.0 web before the sharing button concept, but now the Facebook like/page/share seems like the only way to go. Is it? (no) And can it go too far? (yes)

The trendy swell was of people promoting their own first forays into the web with their first sites. The Internet was free and open, and this meant a new place for your and your business. Now the pressure is to get people to connect to a Facebook page, since that’s where so many people are, and where so many people share. Sure, you can try to get them to comment on your site, or you can get them to engage with you through Facebook and share their experience with their contacts. But a presence on an open web compared to a(n extemely closed) corporation’s platform is a totally different animal.

We have never dealt with this before, really. People would find businesses with the paper Yellow Pages, but no business would plaster “Check us out in the Yellow Pages!”, even if millions of people use the Yellow Pages, because they don’t use it socially, and because there’s no additional functionality. That said, Facebook pages themselves offer appallingly little for functionality, but the sharing is enough. If you do want the functionality, though, you have the option to tap into Facebook using Facebook Connect, where people can log in to your site and all it offers using their Facebook account. What a relinquishing! I can certainly understand and in many ways agree with an older fashioned business mentality that doesn’t want to share attention.

 

Facebook is an ever-growing juggernaut. The bottom line is that it can be a great tool as a content sharing and discussing platform. But how much is the brand message cut by having it paired with Facebook? That’s someone else’s logo, someone else’s site. And not just any, but a site that is under constant scrutiny for the misuse of personal data. You can play apologist and blame the person who shares their life willingly, but it’s like the con man who says “I didn’t take his money – he gave it to me.” A person is smart – people are stupid. That doesn’t mean you should exploit stupidity, or partner with someone who does.

Kay forgot one thing in the video above; people are lazy, too. If enough people around them do something, they’ll just go along with it and assume it must be safe. Facebook has, after all, banked on popularity to muscle through ethical toe-lining from its very beginnings.

Even if you are certain that a few sharing buttons here and there are a clear net positive, you think your brand is completely intact, and you have no concern for the multi-billion dollar unchecked information leech in the age of identity theft and wiretaps, you have to acknowledge that there are limits.

As an example of a site that no perception whatsoever of these limits, let’s take the Huffington Post. I followed a Digg link to an article there, and my experience there actually spawned this whole post. Forgive the image size, but have a look below, and see the highlighted yellow as parts relating to Facebook, red for Twitter thrown in for good measure. Click on this shrunken version below to expand.

 

Am I crazy, or is this not ridiculous? 20 Facebook logos on this page. It’s like someone wearing a Twilight hat, shirt, shoes, necklace, and bracelet. Like I said, some branding issues here, but also a tacky lack of class. I suspect someone’s mandate at the Huffington Post is to get them more presence on Facebook, no matter what. And I suspect someone else at the Huffington Post hates the garbage look they were stuck with.

People can still share on Facebook without these buttons, and they will, if the content’s strong enough. Is the thinking still that it’s worth it to shove Facebook down their throats to maximize the chances, regardless of the consequences? I believe that businesses choosing to forego the Facebook presence will suffer much the same consequences as a regular human being doing the same. They will get by just fine, with less, but more meaningful connections.

We are now comfortable essentially sharing our member base, relying on the whims of a multibilion dollar site to form the backbone of our members area. But what happens when the overwhelming masses can’t be bothered to maintain multiple accounts, and genuinely won’t join sites if they can’t do it with the speed and ease that Facebook offers? Even if many users would still join, if the bottom line result will be more members, business and website owners will often be seduced.

 

Let’s say you want to promote a video of yours. Sure, you can host it yourself, but for most people, the combination of free hosting bandwidth with the fact that there are so many people makes YouTube an obvious choice for the destination of your upload. Those with a commitment to either SEO or control of their advertising might still go it alone, but they are going against the grain, and it cannot be denied that there is loss in not taking advantage or the collected, social, sharing mass. But if your content is excellent, you might not need YouTube. Look at The Escapist’s massively and consistently popular Zero Punctuation, watched on the site, shared around the web. They had the guts to not rely on YouTube, to focus on their own site, have their banners and in-video advertising.

You don’t need reach around to Facebook if you are willing to invest in quality. Making Facebook a big part of your content plan means you will become both empowered and disempowered, in a manner not unlike selling your soul to the devil. Ride the perks, suffer the consequences. Go where the people are, and feed them your traffic. Sell them while you sell you. Perpetuate their dominance with your compliance. Give impressions to their banners. But maybe you could have made it without the deal with the devil?

Funnily enough, one of the few general areas of the web not affected by Zuckerization is the adult word. Facebook, like most mainstream large corporations, won’t touch porn with a ten foot pole (unlike Google, which links to porn more than any site in the history of the Internet). This means that despite adult’s consistently remarkable and innovative sharing techniques that have typically left the mainstream web in the dust, adult sites don’t and won’t ever have the fastest-growing and most well-known sharing method on the web. Why? Because Facebook doesn’t want to be associated with porn. Bit ironic, since everyone else wants to be associated with the most dubious personal data collecting and selling entity ever known.

Many businesses have benefitted greatly from Facebook use, and I’m not going to flat out claim it’s always a bad idea to create a Facebook page or even to implement Facebook Connect. I just think that the decision isn’t obvious, that there are pros and cons to weigh, questions worth asking. Should you be investing your time and money elsewhere, into your own site, good enough to be shared on Facebook anyway? How many references to Facebook on your website would be a good idea, if any? Is the message of your brand dampened or damaged by having to promoting it alongside Facebook’s? Does Facebook’s behaviour matter to you, as far as data-related ethics are concerned?

Tweets, Check-Ins & Memes Oh My! How Osama Bin Laden’s Death Unfolded in Social Media Land

September 11, 2001. My friend Kristen calls me in the morning in a panic. “Go turn on the news! Two planes just crashed in to the Twin Towers!” I was still in bed, trying to pry my eyes open. “What? You’re kidding me.” I didn’t believe her.Sure enough, when I turned on the television, every news station confirmed that Kristen couldn’t have been more serious.

May 2, 2011. Monday morning. I arrive at the office, turn on my computer, and my co-worker Jason sends me this via Messenger:

 

“What!? Osama is dead???”

I share these two personal anecdotes with you not to reveal how out of the loop I felt when not hearing about these breaking news stories sooner, but rather how I heard about them. In both cases it was through someone I knew.

But in 2001, news of the World Trade Center attacks was being disseminated mainly through television and newspapers. Ten years later, the Internetz, and I do specify Internetz as “the amalgamation of all net-based media” was unfolding the demise of America’s Public Enemy No. 1 way before the mainstream media even had any concrete details to report.

Not, only that. I didn’t find out Osama was dead through Twitter or Facebook, like so many of my fellow social medialites did. I found out through a freaking meme! (And a pretty fantastic one at that.)

Where were you when you heard about these events?

In this post, I will break down how the death of Osama bin Laden unfolded on social media sites. From a Tweeter in Abbottabad leaking news about the Bin Laden raid unknowingly, to people using Foursquare to Check-In to places in a post-Osamalyptic world, here’s a look at the progression of tweets, check-ins, memes and how the overall Internet frenzy took off at the onset of Osama’s death.

How People Found Out About Osama Bin Laden’s Death:

 

Twitter strikes again! With over 6k of votes, people used Twitter more than Facebook to share information on the Osama raid.

How Osama’s Demise Unfolded on Twitter

With over 12.4 million tweets per hour, the news of Osama bin Laden’s death set a new record for Twitter: “The highest sustained rate of Tweets ever”. The popular microblogging site announced that from 10:45pm – 2:20am ET, there was an average of 3,000 tweets per second. Here is a timeline of Osama-related tweets before President Obama announced his death.

May 1. 15:58 PM ET. Sohaib Athar a.k.a. @ReallyVirtual unknowingly live-tweets the raid targeting Osama bin Laden
Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant living in Abbottabad , inadvertently tweeted details of the US-led operation to bring down terrorist Osama bin Laden as it happened. He quickly became Pakistan’s first Twitter user to surpass 100,000 followers. [CNET]

 

9:47 PM ET. Dan Pfeiffer Communications director for the White House, tweets an announcement about President Obama’s national address scheduled at 10:30 pm.

10:24 PM ET. Dwayne Johnson “The Rock” tweets “Just got word that will shock the world”

Yup. Wrestler/Fast Five movie star “The Rock” knew before any major network that Osama bin Laden was toast. Thanks to his cousin who is a Navy SEAL.

10:25 PM ET. Keith Urbahn (not the country singer) first to tweet Osama is Dead

Keith Urbahn, the 27-year-old Chief of Staff for Donald Rumsfeld was the first to claim Osama was dead. He wrote later, “My source was a connected network TV news producer”. This was said in defense to the role and power of mainstream media, diffusing claims that Twitter is the end all of news. CBS news producer Jill Scott then confirmed the rumor shortly afterward in a tweet that said, “House Intelligence committee aide confirms that Osama Bin Laden is dead. U.S. has the body.”

11:35 p.m. ET. The White House confirms, virtually, that Osama is dead

The White House tweeted that the US conducted an operation that killed Osama Bin Laden. This was shortly after President Obama spoke the words during a live statement.

Media Obama/Osama Mix-ups

In the rush to be the first to report Osama’s death, mainstream media outlets like CNN, Fox and MSNBC were all guilty of confusing the name of the United States president with that of the country’s nemesis.

Thanks to video sharing sites like YouTube these major gaffes were caught and made widely accessible for the whole world to see.

CNN: “Inside Obama’s Compound”

Fox: “President Obama is in fact dead”

Oh Fox, you’ve really done it this time…

MSNBC: Norah O’Donnell tweets “Obama shot and killed”

 

For more lulz, please refer to this news bloopers mash-up of all the news outlets that accidentally reported the death of “Obama” again and again…

 

Facebook page goes viral: Osama Bin Laden is Dead

 

A Facebook Page titled “Osama Bin Laden is DEAD” got over 150,000 Likes within two hours after the Obama administration confirmed he was dead. The page has actually been up  since 2001, the year the page’s admin claims Osama really died.

Celebrating Osama’s Death with Foursquare Check-Ins

By the Monday following Osama’s death Foursquare users started checking in to a world free of the Al Qaeda founder. Foursquare users were checking in to venues like the “Osama bin gonathon”, “Osamapacolypse” and the “OSAMA BIN LADEN IS DEAD VICTORY PARTY”.

 

Google Earth Used to Pinpoint the Whereabouts of Casa Abbottabad

After news broke out of Osama’s death, people started trawling Google Earth to find the location of his Abbottabad mansion.

 

I Meme Mine, I Meme Mine, I Meme Mine

No big event is a wrap until some clever troll finds a way to make a meme out of it.  Meme-makers from all ends of the net were tweaking iconic images of President Barack Obama (the victor) and poking fun at bin Laden, the bad guy that dies.

Here are just a few of my favourites.

Osama Bin Voldermort

 

Detective Trump

 

I’m The Man

 

Hide & Seek Chanmpion

 

Found You!

 


Obama Warrior On His Charlie Unicorm

The Situation Room

This photo had 600k views in the first hour. (13,000 views per minute)

The Super Situation Room

 

The Situation Room Starring: Every Meme Ever

 

The lead-up to bin Laden’s capture and death has been one of the most defining chapters of our decade. And now, the Osama bin Laden era is over.

But something Michael Moore wrote about regarding the bin Laden finale for Huffington Post struck me. He says,”I remember my parents telling me how, on the day it was announced that Hitler was dead, there was no rejoicing in the streets, just private relief and satisfaction.” While Moore is commenting on the disregardful nature of the frat-parties that went on “celebrating [Osama’s] death at the site where the remains of his victims are still occasionally found”, it got me thinking about the wild and uncontrolled nature of the Internet.

Social media pushes our threshold for what we can tolerate seeing, reading, even laughing at. I bet you all those keggers probably rallied up on Facebook first to arrange the meeting spot. If “the medium is the message” then the Internet is certainly a medium by which messages are transmitted that can shape our perceptions of events.

I found out about Osama bin Laden’s death from an Internet meme. Does that explain this post?

Setting Up Your Blog for Social Media & Mobile Devices

With mobile and social media monopolizing more of how users interact, a successful blog needs to be optimized for more than just the various web browsers on their computers. This means some extra details that make for a more interesting experience on mobile devices, and fine tuning to make sure that your content gets published and promoted on social media successfully.

Mobile and Other Devices

Apple iPhone & iPads Homescreen icon (Blavatar)

On Apple’s iOS devices, iPhones, iPod Touch and iPads, you can bookmark a site and add it to the home screen of your device. Normally this takes a snapshot of your site, and makes an icon out of it. This isnt the prettiest way of having your website represented among the sea of beautifully glossy Apple App icons. Luckily you can add your sites icon instead of a snapshot by inserting a simple line of code to your sites header.

Create a png of your site’s icon as a square 64px x 64px image and save as “apple-touch-icon.png”. Place this image in your sites images directory and add the following line of code to your site’s header.

<link rel=”apple-touch-icon” href=”http://www.example.com/images/apple-touch-icon.png” />

This blavatar will also be the main icon for many RSS reader apps and will be used to represent your site.

Mobile Devices (iPhone/Android/Windows Phone 7)

For most cases, your site will be to heavy and javascript feature rich to give smartphone users a usable experience. With WordPress, its easy to adapt your blog or site to mobile devices with the WPTouch plugin from Brave New Code, that will translate your pages and posts to a cut down, fast downloading mobile friendly version. This is a very simple plugin and in most cases more than adequate for most blogs, but if you want more advanced features, check out the Pro paid version.

iPad and Tablets

If you really want to go an extra step and give your users an immersive experience on their tablets that takes advantage of touch interfaces and the accelerometer, you may want to try the Onwsipe plugin. Though still in its development early stages, and can conflict with other javascript heavy themes and plugins, if configured correctly, can give a very fun and interactive way of presenting your content to those on tablets. The plugin at the moment only works for iPad users, but Onswipe is looking in to updating the plugin for Android and other tablet platforms to come.

Brave New Code also offers iPad and broader tablet compatibility with their Pro version of WPTouch. WPTouchPro will give you an iPad friendly version of your site with rich social features and customized tempting features that allow you to customize your look and feel easily.

One thing to take in to account with any of these plugins, is other plugin conflicts. These plugins will not work if you are using multi-language translation plugins such as WPML, and Onswipe will need some testing for plugin and theme compatibility.

Facebook & the Open Graph

Facebook Like/Send

Facebook has become imperative for social syndication of your content, and it’s very important to have a way for the readers of your blog to share and like your content. The problem is that Facebook can publish your user’s activity with the wrong images and descriptions if your site is not set to tell it what it needs to know. First off, you need to know how your content is syndicated on Facebook to see if your good to go or not. Facebook provides an excellent tool, called URL Linter, that gives you feedback on your url and shows you the content it grabs.

By entering your url there, Facebook gives you information on what the title, description, and image that it will use for the profile post when a reader clicks the like button. If things dont look right, then you can update your WordPress header.php to add the following code to make sure that all the Facebook OpenGraph tags are available to help Facebook grab the right content to display on the Newsfeed and Profile.

Place the following code anywhere between the <head></head> tags.

<?php
$thumb= get_post_meta($post->ID,'_thumbnail_id',false);
$thumb= wp_get_attachment_image_src($thumb[0], false);
$thumb=$thumb[0];
$default_img= get_bloginfo('stylesheet_directory').'/images/default_icon.jpg';
?>
<?phpif(is_single() || is_page()) { ?>
<meta property="og:type"content="article"/>
<meta property="og:title"content="<?php single_post_title(''); ?>"/>
<meta property="og:description"content="<?php
echo apply_filters('the_excerpt_rss',get_the_excerpt() );
?>" />
<meta property="og:url"content="<?php the_permalink(); ?>"/>
<meta property="og:image"content="<?php if ( $thumb[0] == null ) { echo $default_img; } else { echo $thumb; } ?>”/>
<?php  }else{ ?>
<meta property="og:type"content="article"/>
<meta property="og:title"content="<?php bloginfo('name'); ?>"/>
<meta property="og:url"content="<?php bloginfo('url'); ?>"/>
<meta property="og:description"content="<?php bloginfo('description'); ?>"/>
<meta property="og:image"content="<?php  if ( $thumb[0] == null ) { echo $default_img; } else { echo $thumb; } ?>”/>
<?php  }  ?>

*** note: If using a third party theme that handles a posts default image through custom tags, you may have to modify the above script accordingly to get the correct thumbnail image.

Facebook Insights

Facebook now provides analytics and stats on your reader’s interactions with your content, providing you with some insight on the impressions a liked item gets, and a high level overview of your sites engagement.

Facebook Insights also lets you tie your website with its corresponding Facebook Fan Page. This makes it easier for Facebook to relate the website content shared on the Fan Page, and aggregate the interactions with the links that are shared, liked and commented on.

If you are the admin of your Fan Page and your website, all you need to do is go to the Facebook Insights Dashboard and add your domain. You will be asked to choose which profile, page or Facebook app you would like to associate the domain name with. If it’s your personal site, link it to both yourself and your page if you have one. If you represent a company, link it to the Fan Page, as this will give all Admins of the Fan Page access to the analytics.

Once the linking is done, Facebook will present you with a line of meta data code to add to your website header.

<meta property="fb:admins" content="user_id" />
<meta property="fb:page_id" content="your_page_id" />
<meta property="fb:app_id" content="your_app_id" />

To get your content across all mediums, devices and social networks take a little bit of work, but it all pays off in the end to make sure that the visibility of your site is top notch. Your readers will appreciate the fine and subtle details and will definitely increase the engagement of your site.

If you have any additional tips on how to better improve your site for social media and smartphone devices, We’d love to see your feedback in the comment section.

The Real Twitter Guidelines

I recently moved out of the big city of Montreal to a quaint suburb about a half-hour away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I now spend my morning commuting to work which basically involves a slow crawl scored by the chirpy sounds of talk radio. Lately I’ve been following the 2011 election here in Canada and I’m fascinated by how it’s being covered.

This election has been dubbed the “Social media election” one where social networks are considered one of the biggest fronts. Every morning I listen to a new social media expert comment on the proceedings and can’t help but guffaw at what some of these ‘experts’ say about Twitter.

They’re breaking the rules!!1one

“X candidate is ignoring the ‘4 to 1’ ratio rule” (4 replies for every Tweet)
“X candidate posts at uneven intervals”
“X candidate doesn’t follow anyone back”

These are only a few examples but all were said with the implication that candidates in question were taking huge missteps and were violating the sacred code of Twitter.

These ‘experts’ are not confined to political talk radio. Oh no, they’re scattered all over the web, conference halls and meet-ups and it’s something that’s always been a pet peeve of mine.

 

The Reality

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. While the above ‘rules’ might work for some, they aren’t essential to maintaining a healthy Twitter account. Every brand and industry is different. While there are guidelines for structure that can be quite helpful in making your content more visible, there aren’t any rules that dictate what your content should be so just let your social creativity flow.

Celebrities Tweet differently from major brands and major brands tweet differently from bloggers and bloggers tweet differently from each other. It’s not about the perfect Tweet ratio or most consistent schedule it’s about being relevant and present.

The Real Rules

Although I may have just made it sound like Twitter is some sort of free-for-all I’ll now attempt to rein you in before things get too crazy. There are still some important guidelines that I strongly encourage everyone to follow:

Finish What You Start

If you start a conversation make sure there is a resolution. Don’t leave people hanging. You’d never leave a customer in mid-conversation face-to-face and it’s just as rude to do on Twitter.

Give Credit

If you take the content of a Tweet from another Twitter user then give proper credit. Be it with a RT or a (via). Don’t take other people’s work and pretend it’s your own.

Bring Something to the Table

Give people a reason to follow you. If you’re an industry leader or have a lot of industry information at your disposal then put it to use on Twitter. This will get people wanting to know more about your brand.

 

Keep in mind that the average Twitter user represents the silent majority. They’ll use Twitter more as a glorified RSS feed than a social networking platform. Earlier this year, Yahoo! Research released a study that found .05% of Twitter users were producing over 50% of all Tweets. This says a lot about how much Twitter has changed over the years but comes as no real surprise to marketers. The average Twitter user has become more passive and uses Twitter more as a source of information rather than a tool for social interaction. Bottom line is: Twitter is becoming less social.

To get Twitter users engaged and talking about your brand you need to coax them. This can be done through compelling content, a good personality or through interactive initiatives like contests and give-aways.

Think of the average Twitter user as the shy lonely guy leaning against the wall at the school ball. Be the girl that goes up and asks for the first dance.

5 Great Facebook Contests That Nailed Running A Facebook Contest

Many companies have jumped on the social media bandwagon but have continued to apply old push advertising tactics when the new advertising is all about pulling in your audience. This means going beyond having a Facebook page and inundating it with brand updates and actually getting new fans AND motivating them to interact. What better way to do this than by getting them to compete for a prize.

More and more businesses are opting to use their Facebook page as a place to run contests, realizing their huge potential for going viral and generating brand buzz. To give you some ideas on how to create a successful (maybe even memorable) Facebook contest, here are 5 that hit the nail on the head, in many cases by simply utilizing features built-in to the Facebook platform.

Burger King: “Delete 10 Friends, Get A Free Whopper”

Weapon of Choice: “Unfriending”

Would I trade 10 Facebook friends for a free Whopper? You bet I would! Known as the “Whopper Sacrifice”, Burger King created a truly original Facebook app in 2009 where contestants received a coupon for a free hamburger if they deleted 10 people from their Friends list. The “sacrifices” would then show up in the activity feed saying something like “Maloney sacrificed Pat Jenkins for a free Whopper.”

Why It Rocked: Besides the fact that everyone could use a good Facebook cleansing- the contest grew exponentially in no time because with each free Whopper given out, 10 more people were notified about the campaign. Normally, no notification is sent when a user removes a friend on Facebook. It was clever, but short-lived use of the Facebook application platform. Facebook essentially shut down the campaign by asking the BK developer to remove this functionality because it violated users’ privacy rights.

No matter. In one week, the app was used by 82,000 people to delete over 230,000 friendships on Facebook. The sandwich proved to be stronger than many a friendship.

Coca-Cola: “Summer Snapshot Contest”

Weapon of Choice:”Photos”

The Coca-Cola Summer Snapshot contest, which took place between July 20, 2010-September 14, 2010 was another winning way to attract new Coke fans and get them involved with the brand’s Facebook page. Contestants were asked to upload a photo “that depicts how Coca-Cola refreshes your summer fun”. Out of all the submissions, the 100 that received the greatest number of “thumbs up” votes continued on to the judging phase. During the judging phase, a panel of qualified judges reviewed the 100 finalist submissions and chose 10 finalists based on how well the submission fit the contest theme (50%) and creativity (50%).

Why It Rocked: Not only was the initiative successful at giving free product placement for the Coke brand, the contest incorporated photos of their products with “real” fans. Photos are viewed more than anything else on Facebook. The social giant’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has stated that photos are a key catalyst that led to everything the social network is today. “The photo product that we have is maybe five or six times more used than every other product on the web — combined”

Photos have the potential to go viral quickly because when a fan posts a photo, it gets sent out to the news feeds of all of their friends who might also want to get in on the fun. Plus, by allowing others to vote on the photos it gets the whole community involved.

Canlis: “Canlis Menu Contest”

Weapon of Choice: “Food”

Brothers Mark and Brian Canlis personally signed 50 restaurant menus from 1950 to celebrate their family’s restaurant’s 60th birthday. Every day (except Sundays) they hid a menu around the Greater Seattle area from Oct 19, 2010- Dec 1, 2010. Every day they posted a clue on the menu’s whereabouts via their Facebook and Twitter pages. The first person to unravel the clue and find the hidden menu would win a dinner for two at Canlis – at 1950s prices!

Why It Rocked: In 1950, a Filet Mignon from Canlis was $3.85. A salmon steak was $2.75. Canlis’ signature salad was $1.25 and a lobster tail was $4.00. Currently a Filet Mignon is $48.00. Not only was this contest unique and creative, it brought repeat visitors to their Facebook page and ensured long-lasting participation as the contest spread out over nearly two months.

IKEA: “Tag Yourself & Win The Furniture”

Weapon of Choice: “Tagging”

IKEA was opening a new store in Malmo, Sweden and decided to use Facebook to spread the news. They created a Facebook account for the store’s manager, Gordon Gustavsson, and over a two-week period, showroom images were uploaded to his Facebook photo album. Contestants simply had to go to the Facebook page and tag themselves on the furniture they wanted to win. The person to tag their name on a product first, won it.

Why it Rocked Tagging is one of the most popular features on Facebook. This initiative ended up having an amazing ripple effect where users embedded links and images in their own profiles and across news feeds. The demand for more IKEA pictures grew quickly and thousands upon thousands of users were personally promoting IKEA and its new store to others.

Buzztime: “Ultimate Sports Fan Contest”

Weapon of Choice: “Video”

Buzztime, a company which produces interactive entertainment across many different platforms, created a Facebook contest in which fans were asked to create a video that was less than 60 seconds, that showed either:

  • Your best victory dance or
  • Why you are the ultimate sports fan

Buzztime fans then voted for their favorite video by “liking” it. The video with the most “likes” won a 3 day trip to the Bahamas with a friend to meet 25 top sports legends including Troy Aikman, Jerry West, Mike Ditka, Tony Hawk, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Richard Petty.

Why it Rocked: Video is one the most important parts of Internet culture, has great sharing power and goes viral quickly. And, by getting fans to vote you get the whole community involved in the contest.

Permit me to sum it up with this short equation:

Videos of real people doing hilarious dances + Facebook = Interwebs success!

Lessons Learned from Facebook Contests

So overall, there are a few different ways a Facebook contest can be a success. But there are 6 lessons you take from these successful Facebook contests.

  • Make it fun, interesting & unique. People go on Facebook to socialize and interact, so make your contest part of that leisurely fun.
  • Have a prize worth competing for. Facebook users are savvy, and they can smell when a brand is trying to exploit them, so make it worth their time.
  • Keep it simple. You don’t want to confuse people with too many rules.
  • Keep the contest running for at least a month. Give users time to get inspired and then get involved, and you’ll actually see some of that viral buzz effect you’re looking for.
  • Utilize Facebook’s social tools (photo, video, tagging). Facebookers already know to use them and they are a fun way to get people involved.
  • Spread the word! Tweet it, put links to the contest on your Facebook Page… If you follow the previous suggestions, your fans will help promote the contest for you!

Why Rebecca Black “Friday” Got So Popular: A Social Media Content Deconstruction

Over 30 34 million people have now watched Rebecca Black’s “Friday” music video. It has trended more heavily than the earthquake/tsunami in Japan on Twitter, prompting an ex-YouTube crossover into traditional media including an interview on Good Morning America. Having done my share to spread it around (including this blog post, of course), I think it would be informative and useful to understand why it has caught on to the degree it has, how “Friday” has become the latest YouTube sensation.

The song and video are terrible in a variety of ways, and it’s easy to dismiss them as having no excuse for going viral. But the secret to content success is to elicit a large amount and large variety of emotions and thoughts in whoever’s experiencing it. Rebecca Black’s Friday does this to a massive extent. There is so much to think about and discuss with this video, operating on so many levels, that it’s not surprising that this perfect storm has gone as big as it has. Here it is:

Amazingly Terrible

Just to get orientated, here’s a quick rundown of all that is bad in this video:

Terrible Lyrics (yes, most of the song)

  • “Gotta have my bowl gotta have cereal”
  • “Kickin’ in the front seat, sittin’ in the back seat, gotta make my mind up, which seat can I take?”
  • “Tomorrow is Saturday, and Sunday comes afterwords”
  • “Yesterday is Thursday. Today it is Friday”
  • “We we we so excited”
  • Everything in the rap portion (the only clear rhyme is between “lane” and “lane”)

The Singing

  • Heavy autotune
  • Heavy nasality
  • Almost entirely monotone vocal line

Misplaced and Badly Performing Supporting Cast

  • Awkward dancing friend in pink to her right in the car
  • 13-year-olds driving…?
  • Conspicuously older man appearing for lyrically useless rap sequence

Some of the hate has been remarkably directed at the video direction and production value, which is strange. First, this video benefitted tremendously from the fact that everything was so terrible despite the production value actually being good. The audio quality is actually solid, too. Singing aside, the music could have worked just fine for other “legitimate” pop stars. This video would have not gotten anywhere as a homemade video. That’s just it – I don’t think there has ever been an intentionally produced video with this much both done right and done wrong. The contrast is remarkable.

Ha… Ha?

This contrast led me and others to wonder the obvious question: is this a joke? Surely there have to be some people involved in the production of this video that are taking it as one, to some extent. Is making it so bad a ploy to get people talking? Wondering that, of course, gets people talking. With Rebecca Black herself, we have to wonder if she knows how terrible her song is, which feeds into the mystery of whether it’s a joke or not. Can a 13-year-old be in on a joke of this magnitude? There is no doubt that her age adds the kind of authenticity that a YouTube star needs.

YouTube Star Naivety

We like the unintended innocence that the ease of a YouTube upload offers. A person is more special when they don’t realize how special they are. It appeals to our reality TV era sensibilities, but in the most raw sense, without the screened-casted-selected-choreographed-edited nature of most reality TV. We are captivated when we are convinced the person is doing something real and unsanitized. It’s the fact that they don’t know they will be big that makes it fun, which is why it’s so hard for a planned viral marketing campaign to work.

Campaigns can try to gain attention through sheer entertainment, but they’ll never re-create the feeling of discovery that accompanied finding Star Wars Kid, for example. If there was any product in the video, it would be outed. Even if we found out later that it was sponsored, we would feel like we had been deceived. The corporate future I see for this kind of thing is companies being quicker off the blocks to sponsor these people as the video grows. Can’t you picture a world where by day 3 of the video’s existence Pepsi has become an official Rebecca Black sponsor as the Friday drink of choice?

Take the awkward dancing girl in the pink in the back of the car. The moves are strange, resulting in animated gifs, modified animated gifs, a Facebook group, and a YouTube video by her where she fields frequently asked questions. Can’t choreograph moves like those.

We like to laugh at people, to be part of millions of people in on the joke at the expensive of the few. Then it becomes a game of “they’re laughing at me, so I had better laugh too.” This emotional protection is made that much easier when the person is able to profit off the world laughing at them, as Antoine Dodson achieved and (I hope…?) Rebecca Black will. Probably the most interesting direct social media marketing aspect of this is the Friday Rap Remix below. If you can endure it to the end, you will hear lyrics echoing YouTube comment criticism of the fact that the way she says “Friday” sounds like “Fried Eggs”, and that the rap interlude involves a man likened to “fat Usher”.

It’s some impressive quick adaptation with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, potentially handy in addressing some of the song’s criticism. Still, this is hardly a case for any real “damage control”, but more of a way to take the edge off while adding fuel to the fire.

Oh, the HATRED

Nothing brings people together like a good hatefest. There are countless Rebecca Blackhate videos. Much of the criticism (typically involving adults calling this 13-year-old a bitch, unclear on both basic decency and the meaning of the word “bitch”) is directed towards some supposed audacity on her part, along the lines of “who cares about this girl and her stupid song? She’s so full of herself!” In this Internet of mundane status updates, there is little as arrogant as some YouTube nobody feeling like their opinion matters to anyone, or should matter.

Just as ironic is the fact that as responders cite “Friday” as some kind of downfall of mankind, she would be nowhere without the response itself. It’s not like she was popular and this is a bad thing (Justin Bieber). She just made a video, and the popularity is little more than the viral response to it, which is perhaps more indicative of such a downfall. We are at the point where virality can go viral. In any case, the responses add to the story, and the hatred becomes a rallying and thus sharing point.

Friday Envy

I hate to say it, but I think there’s a lot of jealousy going on here. As this American Idol world continues to exaggerate the everyday normal person’s desire for fame, this kind of manufactured unjustified popularity infuriates the wannabe. Rebecca Black comes off as a relatively untalented rich girl (whose parents paid for the video to be produced) playing a rich girl role in her video in which she and her friends cruise around their neighbourhood in (presumably) daddy’s convertible while waffling about her self-indulgent carefree life. Part of the draw of the video is this “lifestyles of the rich and famous” vibe, as people wonder how come their parents never paid for them to be a pop star.

State-of-the-Art

Rebecca Black is the embodiment of so much about our day and age and our music, integrated with our worries about the current/next generation. Seemingly somewhat spoiled kid. Despite the song being relatively grammatically correct, that the words “We so excited” were sung. R u happy ’bout that lol? That pop music has reached such a low it’s easy to churn out a piece of catchy garbage and achieve success (the company that created it is called the Ark Music Factory – at least they come by it honestly). That pop music has reached such a low that it’s possible (and likely) the song is not a joke, and can succeed despite being so bad. After all, it’ s ballpark at the same level as Hello Good Morning by Diddy. Autotune.

Unfortunately Catchy

There are just certain chord progressions which always sound good. Complex music can offer a rich aesthetic experience, but there are some relatively simple patterns which, even if we’re a bit bored as the songs evade our higher tastes, inevitably tickle the brain. We’re wired for it, and much as we can rationally hate all that surrounds a poppy catchy progression, we can’t be honest with ourselves and completely deny the catchiness. The chorus chords in “Friday” fit the mold perfectly, conspicuously similar to fellow YouTube-made-star Justin Bieber’s song “Baby”. This does not make it a good song, but it still succeeds in an automatic positive way.

Remix-A-Lot

It took less than a day for the first variations to appear – the kinds of variations that only need a little bit of time. The video was sped up to chipmunk speeds and then slowed down for 15 minutes of trippy ambience.

Then, with many levels of quality and styles, the song kept getting covered. Today, more and more versions keep cropping up as people try to feel like part of a trend, scrounge for leech views by posting parasitic videos about trending content, amateur musicians get to perform a learnable song, and more advancedmusicians get to showcase their creativity.

Some of these remixes and covers are parodies, some are not. Some, even while not parodies, are done in a joking manner, while some seem relatively serious. Viral content tends to get a big boost when other people can participate, and while remixing and reshaping popular isn’t limited to musical memes, music naturally offers expanded possibilities.

Viral Evolution

That the video and song are that terrible means that at every rough milestone of YouTube views (50k, 100k, 1 million, 5 million, 10 million, 25 million) the same cycle of thoughts gets refreshed and worth thinking about all over again. Is this video really at X views?! When people share the enjoyment of viral content with someone else, they can rekindle that enjoyment in together following how much the video has grown in popularity. In a case like this where there is a perception that the views are unwarranted, this element is exacerbated.

The Complete Picture

As I said, good content makes you think and feel a variety of things throughout the experience of the content, so here’s a summary of what’s compelling, of what made this video go viral:

  • Terrible in an impressive variety of ways, paced throughout the video – Shock
  • That it managed to grow despite it being terrible (or because?) – Mystery
  • High production value, so potentially a joke, but unclear – Intrigue
  • Frustratingly catchy in some ways – “Good”
  • Meme-worthy additional characters in the video – Strange
  • Rich girl jealousy – Envy
  • Discovering that people can just pay for their kids to play pop star – Interesting
  • Highly remixable – Interactive
  • Contemporary issues about music, youth, pop, standards in general – Current
  • Anger reactions – Catharsis
  • It’s popular because it’s popular – Trendy

With these kinds of thoughts and emotions, there is a lot to talk about. The problems with the song are so abundant with hater fuel that people can’t resist voicing their opinion. That’s the core of what makes Rebecca Black’s virality unique here. This song is not supposed to be popular, but because it happened within a paradigm of crap music being popular, an entirely new dimension was added which gave a complicating legitimacy to the video.

I credit the early boom to the “is it a joke?” aspect and the contrast between production value and everything else, but the later explosion is partially caused by a misunderstanding of the viewcount as genuine aesthetic appreciation for the song. But then the song gets everywhere and a certain fraction of people actually do like it, so she ends up with more fans through the hate than she ever would have with pure love.

Much as she in many ways carries on a torch of crappy current pop, there will be only one Rebecca Black experience, which will be confirmed when we inevitably hear another music “factory” release of another high quality garbage kid’s song in case this is a trend to capitalize on. (it’ s not) Still, there are some concluding lessons for a marketer to learn from the success of “Friday”:

  • The power of hate should not be underestimated
  • Mystery and bafflement breed discussion
  • There is intrigue in fitting within the spirit of the times – especially the bad parts
  • Catchiness will never die

Social Media Debacles: 8 Ways to Screw Up Socially

I stumbled across a fantastic collection of social media debacles in a slideshare presentation connected to an Advertising Age article by Michael Yeomans. I find the simultaneous danger and opportunity in social media interesting and exciting, and seeing a variety of examples of how it can go wrong not only offers direct “what not to do” advice, but insights into the nature of community behaviour and the future of marketing and customer relationships. Check out that slideshow for bite-sized summaries of each debacle, and of course feel free to search for more information about particular ones that catch your interest.

In the list, I noticed patterns, and wondered if there was a way to classify and organize the types of debacles in a meaningful way. In insane cube infographic below is what popped out. Click to enlarge!

 

 

I see 8 types of screw ups, each found at one of the 8 corners of the cube. They stem from 3 defining descriptive variables, each with 2 possible states. Each of the 8 possible ways to screw up is a combination of the 2 states for each of the 3 parameters: proactive or reactive, stemming from online or offline activities,with malicious or bening intent. 2 to the power of 3. 2 cubed. Hence the cube.

Here they are in a table:

TYPE Reactive Proactive Online Offline Good Bad
1. Unethical Business Practices No Yes No Yes No Yes
2. Deceitful Campaigns No Yes Yes No No Yes
3. One-Time Disaster Yes No No Yes Yes No
4. Lack of Presence Yes No Yes No Yes No
5. Poor Performance Yes No No Yes No Yes
6. Poor Response Yes No Yes No No Yes
7. Advertising Backlash No Yes No Yes Yes No
8. Unintended Social Behaviour No Yes Yes No Yes No

Each type lists example debacles, and for the most part, each debacle fits best into one main type. Some debacles can fit into more than one category. For example, the Bic Pen picking the U-Lock is an unintended disaster, but the lack of immediate response despite negative buzz was a second problem for which they carry the blame. Still, for the most part, each debacle fits into one main type.

The variables and their states are:

Participation Level: Reactive vs Proactive

Did the company create the problem directly, or did it happen to them passively? Is the brand being discussed on social media platforms without the company even knowing? Typically, the reactive side of social media problems is synonymous with damage control. Something has gone wrong and the company is trying to deal with the fallout, whether it be an unplanned unfortunate occurance, or negligent, offensive, or absent service. This is shown on the left side of the cube for each of its 4 screw up corners. The social media aspect can either be the inflated visibility of an unfortunate event, or the damaging way in which an event or a company’s general customer relationships are handled, potentially on a social media platform.

The proactive side shows the result of an explicit marketing campaign, and the problems that can come when social media is involved. If you do something wrong, people will find out and tell each other, whether you meant well or not. Marketing campaigns used to be essentially one-way, and the right side of the cube shows modern campaign activities that now elicit community response. Forgive the jargon, but the broadcast has become a conversation. This means you have to be that much more careful in what you do or say, because people will talk about what you talk about in your face.

Space: Online vs Offline

Some social media mistakes are online beginning-to-end, often involving botched action either on a social media platform a company has built on its own, or on its presence (or lack of presence) on an existing platform like Twitter or Facebook. These are represented in the bottom side of the cube. The top side shows cases where the problem started offline, catalyzed and exaggerated by the social web. YouTube can spread news of a company mistake to millions, and communication platforms like Twitter and blogs allow not only a place for public complaints to happen, but mechanisms by which these complaints can be shared and explode organically. The bottom line is, no matter where you screw up, expect people to talk about it where they talk about everything else: on the web.

Intention: Good vs Bad

Sometimes companies just have bad luck. Heck, the Pampers dry diaper rash problem turned out to not actually be real. Yes, there are cases where a person can invite bad luck through poor planning, being busy doing other things, or just not thinking something through, and I tend to generally not think “Oh, an oil spill – what bad luck for the poor oil company”, but as far as social debacles go, sometimes business as usual can turn into not only an out of nowhere disaster, but a child of that disaster through the web’s social response to it.

That said, sometimes people are just miserable, unacceptably ignorant, or deceitful. Marketers don’t always have the best reputation, and sometimes that reputation is well-deserved. Thankfully, social media tends to expose truth, with unprecedented exposure and forced honesty (Wikileaks, anyone?). Fool someone once, and now you have thousands of people who are ready to not get fooled again.

Sometimes an entire campaign is morally dubious, but sometimes it can come down to an angry/confused/ignorant/racist company-representing individual. You can always apologize and assure people that a rogue employee doesn’t represent you, but still, the effects of their transgressions persist. In a world where companies speak a lot more often than they used to (in, for example, maintaining a Twitter presence), the odds of a screw up go up, and once it happens, everybody knows.

As far as how these are represented on the cube, well… they’re the front and back. Which is which depends on just how you’re perceiving the Necker cube illusion at a given perceptual instant. Let’s say the bottom-left unskewed square is bad intentions, and top-right is not necessarily good intentions, but not really bad either.

Reading the Cube

If you’re looking for an example of a proactive but well-intentioned social media debacle that started offline, check the top right cube corner. Any combination of the three parameters will point to a corner and its associated screw ups based on the Advertising Age collection.

Whether you’re planning a marketing strategy or not, hoping to work it online or offline, and whether you mean well or not, just know that there’s always a way for social media to bite you in the ass.

Social Media for Enterprise Publishers

Social media is an integral component of online publishing for a number of reasons. First, it allows you to syndicate content and attract new readers. Secondly, it allows you to accumulate trusted social links that shore up your backlink profile and SEO.

So how can publishers fully leverage the potential of social media. Well, it starts with setting measurable user acquisition goals, and it continues with the media integration of APIs.

User Acquisition: Registration & Conversion

Every online publisher has the goal of attracting and growing an audience. But their are three main routes they can take with their content:

But just because a user comes, reads, and even returns, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve converted them. After all, you don’t know anything about them.

Whether you’re publishing to sell advertising or build leads and community, the more user data you have, the more efficient you can be. On the one hand, more user data means you can better target advertising (which means an easier sell for you).

On the other hand, more user data means a better understanding of your audience, who they are, and what kind of content resonates with them. This allows you to refine your editorial mandate, and better serve your community of readers.

So publishers should encourage users to become registered subscribers so that they can collect more data on them. Of course, that begs the question: how do you get users to register for something they might already get for free, never mind offer up all kinds of personal information?

Well, that’s where the social media APIs come in. By integrating social media APIs, publishers can offer users one-click registration and subsequently access the data that they’ve already volunteered to their social network.

Social APIs: Syndication, Registration, and User Data

Most popular social networks offer APIs that publishers can integrate. Through these APIs, users can share content and become a registered user with a single click. This, in turn, offers the user (and publisher) three advantages.

First, it creates a more compelling user-experience by allowing users to interactwith content on their own termsSecondly, it allows users to easily share content with their personal network, meaning that publishers can syndicate their content across that network, and attract new readers.

Third, it eliminates the barriers to registration. Whether your content is protected behind a registration wall or completely open, it is difficult to get users to complete the registration process. However, if they can register/login with the pre-existing credentials of their favorite social network, those barriers dissolve.

Finally, social media APIs sometimes allow publishers to access data that users would otherwise not volunteer. For starters, there’s the email address. Without social media APIs, you will either have to create another registration barrier by asking users to confirm their email address, or forgo that valuable contact information. Through social APIs, however, you can actually grow your contact list.

Another set of data you might access through social APIs are items such as name and DOB. Users often use usernames/handles and fake birthdays to register for sites. But on social networks, they are more honest because it allows their friends to find them.

The most valuable set of user data, however, is probably their social graph. This represents users’ actual interests and information on their personal network. With this information, publishers can better understand their audience, its interests, and how it can be leveraged to attract new readers — i.e. who they are sharing content with.

It is through the social graph that publishers can (1) better target both advertising and (2) refine their editorial. On the one hand, the more you understand your audience, the more you know of what kind of advertisers to reach out to, and the better you can target their ads — offering them a better value proposition.

On the other hand, with an overview of your users’ demographics, the kind of content they interact with, and who they’re sharing it with, you can refine your editorial. This means developing more of the kind of content that’s popular with users and that they share, resulting in more loyal readers and more user referrals.

Socially Intelligent Publishing

Henry Proctor of Proctor & Gamble once said “I know I waste half of my advertising dollars…I just wish I knew which half.” But social media now allows us to customize a user-experience and collect user data that lets us be more efficient with our marketing dollars.

In this respect, social media can help publishers in two ways. First, it can be used to show advertisers just who your audience is, and control what kind of readers see an ad. More importantly, though, it can be used to better understand your audience, and better server them through better content.

The best decisions are informed decisions. And when it comes to publishing, the more you know about your audience, the more successful both your editorial and advertising offer can be.

LinkedIn Frustrations

Our PPC expert Laura Garrido has experienced a slew of frustrations using the LinkedIn DirectAds service for her clients. In order to illustrate some of DirectAds’ glitches, we attempted to set up a business profile on LinkedIn for the purpose of creating display ads. Here are some of the strengths and weaknesses we encountered during the setup process.

Frustrating Highlights:

  • DirectAds forces you create a personal profile rather than a business profile.
  • DirectAds allows you to super target your ads but is not as flexible if you want broad reach.
  • DirectAds does not allow you to create a start date for your ad campaign.

Here is how the story goes..

Step 1: Join LinkedIn. Advertise. Join LinkedIn.

We begin by going to LinkedIn.com. and in order to join, we are asked to fill out a personal profile with first and last name. But we don’t want to create a personal profile. We want a business account.

At the footer of the page, we find a category for Advertising.

We are brought to the advertising page with a clear call to action for DirectAds.

We Start Now

Oh hello! You need to Sign In or Join Linked In.

I guess we’re going to have to create a personal profile. Not the biggest deal, but so far we’ve taken extraneous steps thinking we were going to be given an option to create a business profile by clicking on Advertising. No such luck.

So here we are getting our professional profile started! However, LinkedIn asks whether you are employed, a business owner, looking for work, work independently, or a student. Employed, I guess? These questions are tailored for individuals, not for business accounts. It would seem much more practical to create two different sign-up pages- one for individuals and one for businesses.

Once we filled out the required fields, we are asked to confirm our email address and sign in again. With the account finally created, it’s time to get down to business. Let’s create an ad campaign.

The Real Step 1- Create Your Ad Campaign

So far so good. LinkedIn allows you to create up to 15 different ad variations, (which you can duplicate) under one campaign with different images for each. This is great for testing different ads to see which work.

Step 2: Target Your Audience

In this step, you can create ad campaigns that target LinkedIn members only- or you can target audiences based on the selected categories offered: company size, job function, industry, seniority, gender, age and geography.

We started with Job Function. Out of the 18 job functions you can target, your selection restricts you to 10. This is pretty much the issue we faced with all the other categories.

In the selection for Industry there are 17 industries to choose from, and within these, specific niches you can target. However, out of all these options, you can only pick 10. Same deal with geographies you’re targetting.

Essentially, LinkedIn allows you to super target your ads but is not as flexible if you want to get really broad reach. Sure, you could always vary your selections by creating different ad campaigns. But that can become a pretty grueling process, not only to set them up, but to track them amidst other ad campaigns you might have running in AdWords, Facebook etc.

Once we completed this step, LinkedIn shows that our total target audience will be 26, 722 members, a pretty tiny audience considering we’re doing display advertising. Let’s see what our campaign budget is going to look like…

Step 3- Set Up Your Campaign Budget


LinkedIn offers both CPC and CPM ads. Our recommended CPC bid range is $2.48-$2.88; Minimum bid: $2.00. You can select a daily budget. We make ours $25.00, (LinkedIn’s minimum is $10). Next, we have to choose whether we want our campaigns to run continuously or until a specific date. We chose our end date, but why isn’t LinkedIn asking us when we want the campaign to start? What if we only want it running in a month from now?

Step 4- Billing Information

The last step in the process is billing information

We fill out the information and see in the fine print at the footer that $5.00 will be charged to our card and credited to our DirectAds account upon submission.

Fair enough.

When the whole process is done, we go to My Ad Campaigns.

Aha! The campaign is “ON”:
So, we have to manually go and turn them all of.

Laura addressed her frustrations on Twitter and did get a response from LinkedIn:


Hopefully these changes will be coming soon.

***UPDATE***

LinkedIn read our post and replied to us on Twitter!

Social Media Optimization 101

With the online pandemonium that is the world of Web 2.0, today’s companies are all on the hunt for one scarce commodity: human attention.

Among the panoply of ads, websites, blogs, microblogs, wikis, forums and funny cat videos, brands can easily go unnoticed if they aren’t optimized for the virtual abyss. Social media can be a vehicle for navigating and creating buzz surrounding your brand, achieving high visibility and driving direct traffic to your site.

Social media optimization is using a set of methods to generate publicity through various social media outlets. The focus is on driving traffic from sources other than search engines to achieve improved search ranking.

In this post, I will cover the basic types of social media, touch a bit upon social authority and the overall benefits of using social media for business.

What is Social Media?

In a turtle-in-a-half-shell, social media is the ultimate manifestation of user-generated content. It is the use of online social networking tools to share and discuss information among fellow homo sapiens. Unlike traditional media where power rested in the hands of a few content creators and media distributors, social networking tools give everybody an opportunity to become active participants in a multi-directional conversation.

Whether you’re a big established company, or just a little guy trying to build an online presence, social media means new opportunities to create and communicate with people that care.

Types of Social Media

Social media comes in many ways, shapes and platforms and each have its particular nuances that need to be respected in order to suit the community you’re targeting. Here is a brief overview of each main social channel.

Social news sites:

Websites where users submit and vote and/or comment on news stories or other links. The more votes, the higher the chances of getting on the site’s homepage. (e.g. Digg, Reddit, Sphinn) (Read our tips for success on Digg Part 1 and Part 2)

Social Networks

Facilitate discussion and brand awareness through groups, profiles, and participation (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace). These sites are great for engaging communities where they already exist.

Blogs

Blogs enhance communication and culture in a corporation and are typically used to inform members and other interested parties of the organization’s activities. They also offer visitors the ability to engage your organization by leaving comments. More importantly, they offer a way to produce continuously updated content.

Widgets

With widgets, you can provide shortcuts for visitors thatencourage them to subscribe to RSS or bookmark the page on their favourite social media sites. You can also include a HTML link along with targeted anchor text in your widget embed code, helping you attract more links from related sites.

Social Bookmarking

These sites offer a method for users to organize, store, manage and search for bookmarks of resources online (e.g. Diigo, Delicious, Stumble Upon). Consequently, the offer brands an additional source of social media links.

Media Sharing Sites

These sites let you create , upload and share videos or photos with others (e.g. YouTube, Flickr). Not only do these channels offer a way to spread your brand across other communities, but they can help you optimize for blended search — meaning that you can capture more real-estate in the SERPs.

Social Authority

As I mentioned earlier, social media is a vehicle for navigating and creating buzz surrounding your brand. But the wild, untamed nature of social media also means that you won’t be able to completely control your message. Rather, you initiate the conversation in the hopes that you can become a relevant influence in that conversation.

One of the key components in mastering the art of social marketing is building “social authority”. By staying on top of trends in your field and producing high-quality, relevant content, you increase the chances of establishing yourself as an “expert”, with capabilities of becoming an “influencer” in your domain. (ReadNotes on Producing High-Quality content: How and Why. )

Social Media Optimization Benefits:

There are many benefits to using social media as part of your business strategy:

  • Visitors can learn what you’re all about and learn from others like them
  • You can learn directly from your customers, and make products better
  • You can get free customer reviews, which are much more valuable than costly advertising (consumer recommendations are the most trusted form of advertising around the world)
  • Real people can play a role in providing feedback and promoting your product (higher chances of developing brand loyalty)
  • Offers various ways to track performance and manage your brand’s reputation

New technology has presented new ways for companies to interact with their customers and make them feel like a unique community. Whether it’s by adding social bookmarks, trackbacks and widgets to a site’s page, you can make your online communities more socially-friendly, at a low-cost, while increasing your traffic, sales and credibility.