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If you have an online presence, no matter how large or small, you naturally want lots and lots of visitors to your site. Marketing via the social web or social media is not the way to do it. Although many people will tell you otherwise. Ignore them, they’re Twankers. What the social web does offer, is the ability to have genuine dialogue between individuals and groups of people. Therefore the ability to encourage the sharing of your content is essential. So we thought we’d offer some tips on how you can achieve this and measure its impact.

ASSUMPTION: Your site, blog, fan page etc. contains content that your target audience will find interesting. If it’s crap or even bland, the word won’t spread. Secondly, you need to ensure you are achieving levels of visibility in the areas where your target audience spend their time online. Don’t expect them to come to you, this is very egotistical and since the inception of the social web, it is not a realistic expectation. You have to be present where they are…this is where your advocates can be really valuable; again, assuming you have some.

Pro-active Dialogue Away from Your Site

  • Understand the values and motivation of your target audience. What turns them on and what gets them excited.
  • Know where they spend their time online. What sites, blogs, social websites etc.
  • Look at the conversations, analyse the dialogue and pick out the influencers.
  • Join the conversation. Don’t broadcast messages, post spammy links or talk about discounts. It’s guaranteed to turn people right off. And guess what, you’ll tarnish your own personal or business brand. Potentially both.
  • Offer on topic and on brand information which has a value and people will share. Point them to places where they can find out more details.
  • How do you find the conversations? Easy. Use some free web tools such as Social Mention, HowSociable, Addictomatic, oh and that thing called Google. Enter the brand names, topics of conversation/keywords your interested in and see what pops up. Then extract the ones of interest either by a widget or an RSS feed and create your own “Dashboard” in Pageflakes or iGoogle.
  • Once you have these you’ll see the individuals commenting and you’ll quickly see the most influential. Click through to these and subscribe to their own individual RSS feeds from Twitter, their blog, Friendfeed etc.
  • A lot of activity will be happening on Twitter. Set up specific searches for brands, topics of conversation/keywords; save them and subscribe to the RSS feeds of these searches. Hash tags used to be the way to do this, but searches are now just as easy. Of course you can use something like Tweetdeck to manage this, but this isolates Twitter from the monitoring of other social media conversations.

Enabling the Sharing of Content

  • To be visible, it makes sense to have your own presence in the various social web channels where you should be interacting. The most typical will be to have your own site linked to Twitter; linked to your blog; potentially a Facebook fan page (if you’re a consumer brand). If you have a need to engage people with imagery, then flickr and YouTube may also be a benefit…but only if you really have something interesting to show and say. Then behind the scenes, you should also consider a Friendfeed account so that you can link everything together and automate updates. i.e. If you update your blog, Twitter automatically tweets where to find the update and your Fan Page has the blog post added to it as well.
  • The Facebook Fan Page, should you feel it is right to have one (it’s not for everyone) offers it’s own analytics which is very useful. Likewise blogging platforms such as WordPress
  • Making all your content easy to share will help spread the word. The most effective is having others spread this on your behalf. If they can easily share your content with their friends (ideally a single click) they will do so. Create an account in AddThis.com and create your share this button. This will result in a piece of code (html/script) that you can then add to any piece of content you create. The sharing can be as simple as email (the subject you can modify), adding as favourite and all the most prevalent sites across the social web. Addthis.com also provides analytics, and will show you when and where your content has been shared.
  • Incorporate a button from tweetmeme.com then add this button in the same way as the addthis.com share button. Configured correctly you can control what text is contained in the re-tweet content. Similarly, TweetMeMe.com offer analytics to show who and when your content was tweeted.
  • Also, register with Klout, it will show you some very interesting facts about you and others on Twitter. It offers measurement around influence, reach and advocacy. Very useful indeed.
  • Offer RSS for content updates, and incorporate feedburner to measure the subscribers.
  • Finally, ensure your site/blog is tagged up for Google analytics.

Then you need to be active. Update content regularly; go find people to talk to and have some fun. But don’t sell to people!

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