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PostHeaderIcon Notes from First Day of SMX Advanced 2010

Back from SMX Advanced London, where I got a chance to speak on “SEO, Search, and Reputation Management and SMX Advanced 2010 in Seattle, where I got to relax and just take in the knowledge.

So here for all who could not attend, is a summary of three of the sessions I attended on the first day of SMX Advanced 2010.  I only get so much time to blog…working guy you know.  I’ll do my best to post the rest, but no promises.

SEO for Google versus Bing

Janet Miller, Searchmojo

  • From heatmap studies, it appears people “see” Bing and Google SERPs in pretty much the same way.  The “hotspots” are pretty similar.
  • Not surprising: average pages/visit and time on site are higher for Bing than Google – but that has always been true from my perspective
  • Bing does not currently accept video or news sitemaps.
  • On Google you can edit sitelinks in Webmaster tools, in Bing you cannot.
  • Geolocation results show pretty much the same in both sets of results.
  • One major difference:  Google shopping is free for ecommerce sites to submit; Bing only has a paid option for now.
  • Bing lets you to share results (social sharing) on Facebook, Twitter, and email, Google does not.  But the sharing links point back to the images on Bing, not to the original images on your site.  You also have to grant access to Bing on Facebook.
  • Bing allows “document preview” when you rollover the entry.  It will also play videos in preview mode – but only those on youTube.  If you look at the behavior, information from the page shows up.  To optimize the presentation of that information, Bing takes information in this order:
    • H1 tag first – if title tag and h1 tag don’t match, it takes the H1 tag
    • First paragraphs of information
    • To add contact info, add that information to that page.  Bing is really good about recognizing contact information that is on a page.
      • Address
      • Phone
      • Email
      • To disable “document preview” enter the following
        • Add this meta tag to the page: <meta name=“msnbot”, content=“nopreview”>
        • Or add this line to robots.txt: x-robots-tag: nopreview

      Rand Fishkin: Ranking Factor Correlations: Google versus Bing

      As usual, Rand brought his array of statistical knowledge to bear to compare how Bing and Google react to different ranking signals.  Here are the takeaways:

      Overall Summary of Correlations with Ranking, in Order of Importance

      Bing Google
      1. Number of linking root domains
      2. An exact match of .com domain name with desired keyword
      3. Linking domains with an exact match in the TLD name
      4. Any exact match of the domain name with the desired keyword
      5. Number of inbound links
      1. An exact match of .com domain name with desired keyword
      2. Linking domains with an exact match in the TLD name
      3. Number of linking root domains
      4. Any exact match of the domain name with the desired keyword
      5. Number of inbound links

      Domain Names as Ranking Factors

      • Exact match domains remain powerful ranking signals in both engines (anchor text could be a factor, too).
      • Hyphenated versions of domain names are less powerful, though when they show they show more  frequently (more times on a page)  in Bing (G: 271 vs. B: 890).
      • Just having keywords in the domain name has substantial positive correlation with high rankings.
      • If you really want to rank on a keyword, make sure you get exactmatchname.com as the TLD.
      • Other exact match domains may still help, but don’t have as high correlation.
      • Keywords  in subdomains are not nearly as powerful as in root domain name (no surprise).
      • Bing may be rewarding subdomain keywords less than before (though G: 673 vs. B: 1394).
      • On alternate TLD extensions:
        • Bing appears to give substantially more weight to these than Google.
        • Matt Cutts’ claim that Google does not differentiate between .gov, .info and .edu appears accurate.
        • The .org TLD has a surprisingly high correlation with high rankings  but you can attribute this to elements of their authority – more links, more non-commercial links, Less spam.
        • Don’t forget the exact match data  .com is still probably a very good thing (at least own it).
        • Shorter URLs are likely a good best practice (especially on Bing).
        • Long domains may not be ideal, but aren’t awful.

      On-Page Keyword Usage

      • Google rankings seem to be much more highly correlated with on-page keyword usage than for Bing.
      • The alt attribute of images shows significant correlation as an on-page ranking factor. (I always thought so and it’s one of the elements most SEO newbies miss.)
      • Putting keywords  in URLs is likely a best practice.
      • Everyone optimizes titles (G: 11,115 vs. B: 11,143).  Differentiating here is hard.
      • (Simplistic) on-page optimization isn’t a huge factor.
      • Raw content length (length of page and number of times the keyword is mentioned on the page) seems to have only a marginal correlation with rankings.

      Link Counts and Link Diversity

      • Links are likely still a major part of the algorithms, with Bing having a slightly higher correlation.
      • Bing may be slightly more naïve in their usage of link data than Google, but better than before.
      • Diversity of link sources remains more important than raw link quantity.
      • Many anchor text links from the same domain likely don’t add much value.
      • Anchor text links from diverse domains, however, appears highly correlated.
      • Bing seems more Google-like than in the past in handling exact match anchor links (this is a surprise!).

      Home Pages

      • Bing’s stereotype holds true: homepages are more favored in top results vs. Google.

      Twitter, Real-Time Search, and Real-Time SEO

      Steve Langville – Mint.com

      Steve had a lot of interesting points, and I thought his approach to real-time was one of the most sophisticated I had heard.

      1. One element of his strategy is what I like to call “Merchandising Real-Time Search.”    Basically someone at Mint has a merchandising calendar of important dates/topics in consumers financial lives (e.g. tax time) and also watches for hot topics that could impact a consumers sense of money (e.g. new credit card legislation).  Mint then has a team that can create new content on that topic that is likely to generate word-of-mouth.  At that point, they push the content out and then energize their communities on Facebook, Twitter, etc. by promoting the content to them.  This generates buzz and visits back to mint.com.
      2. Mint has also created Mint Answers, it’s own Yahoo Answers-like site where people ask and answer questions on financial topics.  The result is a lot of user generated content on Mint.com on critical keywords that yields high ranking in the SERPs.
      3. Mint also developed as Twitter aggregator widget around personal finance and put this as a section on their site.  Twitter’s community managers then retweeted these folks who then signed up for @mint and began retweeting @mint tweets.  According to Steve, the amplification effect was huge.

      Danny Sullivan

      As always, Danny had some really interesting insights to add about real-time search.  I will honestly say that many times I still think Danny, like many search marketers, thinks “transactionally” about search , as compared to consumer marketers who think about having an on-going “conversation” with a customer.  (More on that notion later).  But in this case, Danny really showed why he is known as an industry visionary:

      • Search marketing means being visible wherever someone has overtly expressed a need or desire.  It is more than web; more than keywords.  An example is mobile apps –  search by another name- so I guess he agrees with Steve Jobs on that one.
      • This was uniquely insightful. Whereas normal search is a many-to-many platform where anonymous individuals post  content whose authority grows based on “good” links that are added over time, real-time search is a one-to-one platform where clearly identified people post questions or comments  and get responses.  Authority comes from the level of active engagement, not links.  I had never heard real-time described this way, and it is a succinct but very sophisticated definition of real-time search.
      • You can use conversations to identify folks interested in what you need. Not a new concept, but good to repeat.  So if you have a service that sells vacuum cleaners, search for “anyone know vacuum cleaners” and the folks who have an interest are now identified and you can respond to them.
      • Get a gift by giving a gift. That’s the fundamental currency of social media. Danny answered 42 questions from people who didn’t know him, didn’t follow him.  He got no complaints and 10 thank yous.
      • Recency versus Relevancy. Anyone doing real-time gets this – that authority can come from having high-quality information or having reasonably high quality information in a very short time frame – in other words, sometimes the recency of news makes it more worthy of attention than something older but more thought out.  Danny believes that as Twitter matures (and maybe the entire real-time search business – that wasn’t clear), relevancy is going to get a higher relative weighting, so that relevant results will get more hang time in the SERPs.

      Chris Silver-Smith

      I have trouble summarizing all of Chris’s talk – and it was a very good talk – because so much of what he talked about was covered in my notes from other speakers.  So here are the unique points from his chat:

      • You have to decide how you resource Twitter and other sites.  Questions to ask for your strategy
        • Consumers First: What are consumers saying about your site/company already? How might they use your Twitter content? Develop representative Personas of consumers who would engage with you on Twitter.
        • Time/Investment: How much time do you have to devote to Twittering? Do you devote someone to spend time dailyreading/responding to Tweets?
        • Goals: What are some advantageous things you could accomplish by interacting with consumers in real-time?
        • Strategy will decide whether you hire a full-time person, part-time person, or use automation.
        • Use OAuth for API integration as it shows the application the visitor used as an appended data point
        • Convert your Google News feeds to RSS to make them easier to subscribe to by members of your community
        • A great tool for small business social media management is www.closely.com which auto-creates a social action page for every offer a company makes on Twitter and Facebook
        • Be brief but really clear in main point on Tweets. Include a call to action as they are retweeted at a much higher rate.

      John Shehata – Advanced Internet

      I loved John’s presentation because it confirmed many of the same conclusions I had reached about real-time search and reported on at SMX Advanced in London.  Key points:

      • The ranking factors for real-time search are very different. They include:
        • User (author) authority (My comment:  not just one site but across every site  on which the author publishes).
        • How fresh that author’s content continues to be.
        • Number of followers.
        • The quality of follows and how they act on the author’s content (is it retweeted often?  Is it stumbled?  Does someone flow it into their RSS feed?  How often?  How quickly?).
        • URL real-time resolution.
        • It is not about how many followers you have but how reputable (authoritative) your followers are.  (This is what I call Authorank and like PageRank it is passed from authoritative follower to those they follow.)
        • You earn reputation, and then you give reputation. If lots of people follow you, and then you follow someone–then even though this [new person] does not have lots of followers, his tweet is deemed valuable because his followers are themselves followed widely.
        • Other possible ranking factors:
          • Recent Activity : Google pays more attention to accounts with more activity?
          • User name: keywords in your user name might also help.
          • Age: since age plays a big role in Google search engine ranking, it’s possible that more established Twitter accounts will outrank the newer ones.
          • External links: links to your @account from (reputable) non-social media sites should boost reputation as far as Google is concerned.
          • Tweet Quantity: the more you tweet, the better chance you’ve got to be seen in Google real-time search results.
          • Ratios of followed vs follow: a close ratio between the two can raise a red flag.
          • Lists: it might also matter in how many lists you appear.

      Tactics to follow:

      • Encourage retweets by tweeting content of 120 characters or less so you can save room for the RT @ Username that is added when someone passes along your message to their followers.
      • Tools to identify hot trends: Google Hot Trends, Google Insights, Google News, Bing xRank, Surchur, Crowdeye, Oneriot.
      • Same advice as Steve Langville – plan for seasonal keyword trends.
      • Don’t update multiple accounts, reTweet instead.
      • Connect your social profiles.
      • Attract reputable, topically-related followers.
      • Write keyword-rich tweets whenever possible, without sounding spammy:
        • Do not create content with multiple buzzing terms.
        • Do not abuse shortening services for spam links.
        • Do not go overboard using Twitter #hashtags – Search Engines will eliminate your tweet from search if you use too many because it “looks bad.”
        • Spammy looking tweet streams will be eliminated from search.
        • Don’t use same IP address for different twitter accounts.

      Show Me The Links

      This was a great session with a HUGE number of ideas for getting new links.  And each person talked about a very different philosophy towards link building and their tactics reflected those philosophies.  Let’s see if I can capture them:

      Chris Bennett

      • Philosophy centers on using easily created and highly valued visual or viral content:
        • Creating Infographics – they work very well.  An example – a “where does the money go from the 2008 stimulus bill” infographic generated 29,000 links.
        • Writing guest blog posts whose content is highly viral for others .  Embed a link to your site as the source.  You give the gift of traffic to them, you get links as a gift in return.

      Arnie Kuenn

      • More traditional link building
        • 50% is content development  and promotion.  The big example he used on this was the Google April Fools Day Prank about Google opening an SEO Shop.  Got picked up as “real” story by Newswire 27 days after post, went viral, generated 800 backlinks.
        • 20% is blog post and article placement.
        • 10% is basic link development.
        • 20% is targeted link requests to those few critical high-value sites. There are NO magic bullets here – it takes creativity and just good old-fashioned hard work and persistence.  But the rewards can be substantial.

      Gil Reich

      • Use badges with your URL embedded that benefits the person who puts on site (e.g. “a gold star” validation).
      • Write testimonials for other folks.
      • Write on sites that want good content and can deliver an audience.
      • Answer questions on answer sites where you have the expertise.
      • Make it easy to link to you by providing the information to potential linkers.

      Roger Montti

      Focused on B2B link building tactics:

      • Backlink trolling from competitors- but also look for sites that your competitors aren’t on – you want your own authoritative link network.
      • Don’t ignore TLD .us  There are lots of good possible link sites with decent authority there.
      • Look at associations that provide ways to link to their members.  Search for member lists, restrict your search to .org and add in relevant keyword phrases to filter for your related groups.
      • Look at dead sites with broken links – see who is linking to them.  Once you have identified a dead internet page do a linkdomain: search on Yahoo to identify sites still linking to the dead site.
      • Free links from resources, directories, or “where to buy” sites.
      • Bloggers:  cultivate alliances and relationships with other sites and blogs.  Particular bloggers who like to do interviews.

      Debra Masteler

      • You have all this content that you generate as a normal part of your business.  Use it.
        • Use dapper.net to create RSS feeds of your blog content
        • Joost de Valk has a WordPress plugin at http://yoast.com/wordpress/rss-footer/ which let’s you add an extra line of content to articles in your feed, defaulting to”Post from“ and then a link(s) back to your blog,with your blog’s name as it’s anchor text.
        • Use RSS feeds from news sources to identify media leads to speak with as part of your PR work.
        • Content syndication: podcasts, white papers, living stories, news streams and user generated content (e.g. gues blogging) are still hot.  Infographics, short articles, individual blogs, and Wikipedia are not.
        • Widget Bait: basic widgets that you can build on widgetbox are getting somewhat passé but still have some value.   You need to do more advanced versions – information aggregation widgets seem to work very well right now.  Make people come to you to download them.
        • Microsites: the old link wheels are worthless at this point – the engines have figured those out and treat them similarly to link spam sites.  Those with good content – e.g. blogs or sites with good content – work.  One option is to buy an established site and then rebrand it.
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PostHeaderIcon Own Your Online Brand – knowem.com

More from SMX East…. 

This is a review of a service critical to owning your brand online called knowem.  For $65, knowem.com opens accounts under your chosen brand name(s) on 120 social media sites so that you lock down your brand identity on a majority of key venues on the web.  In today’s social media-intense web, owning your username at as many social media sites as possible is essential for brand and reputation management, as you will see.

A True Story of Online Branding and Social Media

I had an interesting lesson in personal branding awhile back.  In 1996, at the beginning of the Internet I was at Sun Microsystems as the head of the Java ecommerce group (that, btw, produced the first electronic wallet and a Java virtual machine called Java Card that today underlies all cell phones worldwide).  I needed a login for our intranet and since my undergraduate specialty was Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature, I chose a knight-like title (which I will not publish here for security reasons).  For my mnemonic convenience, that login migrated to numerous sites over the years as the Internet grew. 

For whatever reason, one day I decided to look at how many entries I had for my personal identity online.  When I typed in ‘Arthur Coleman’ I had/have a few entries in the top 10, but there was/is an Arthur Coleman photography (who owns arthurcoleman.com), an Arthur Coleman Danto who is a writer (so lots of content + wikipedia entry), a lawyer named Arthur Coleman, as well as a wanted criminal on ‘Crime Stoppers" (many people confuse us….).  But when I typed in ‘arthurofsun’ – there were  3,110 entries all belonging to me, mainly due to my numerous entries on social media sites over the years.

This was a wakeup call (you may notice I have lots of those. It’s a prerogative I guard zealously.).  What I learned was that my online "avatar" was my "true" brand online – not my name.  Since my brand was accidental, had nothing to do with my business, and did not match my site/business name, I was going to have to consciously "rebrand" myself and my web presence(s) for the sake of brand consolidation.  My personal brand had to be chosen carefully because I was only going to change it once.  As with any brand, changing it is painful, it causes confusion in the marketplace, as well as a loss of awareness in the short-term as people have to unlearn the old name and relearn the new.  In the case of online, there is also a substantial temporary loss of Pagerank and thus rank in the SERPs for your favorite keywords as sites are ported from an old URL to a new one.   This is especially true for me because my old site (www.rethought.net) had been in existence since 2001, and that gave it a substantial amount of authority which I was going to lose moving to a younger (new) site.

I also realized – and I was probably one of the earliest to get this – that just as it is essential to own the URL for your brand name, it is equally essential to own any account online with your brand, especially on the social media sites.  Why? 

  • Because those entries will all show up under a search for your username online, so you want to consolidate its power and own the entire first page for reputation management purposes. 
     
  • Imagine some crank putting up an angry rant against your company.  While you may not prevent him from getting on the first page of the SERPs without further work by your team, owning all the slots around your brand name (like I did for my username) makes it more difficult for any third party to rank on page one. 
     
  • Or imagine someone with an account ID that is your brand name making a post about something unsavory.  If the social media site has enough authority, the entry may well rank high on the first page.  Even indirectly it can create a negative brand perception if someone assumes that the blogger is you (or someone in your organization) because the user name is an exact match for your brand name.
     
  • I don’t quite understand the reason yet, but it appears to me that authority accrues to the username itself if it is used frequently and in multiple social media contexts to make posts or add comments.  So the more usernames/sites you control and use, the more authority you can create for your brand term  to leverage for other keywords.

Where is My %&@^!! Signup Service – Introducing knowem

So now we need to sign up for every potential social media service online – right?  Great. What are the steps:

  1. I have to figure out what sites there are, and, at the same time, which I think are really important. 
     
  2. I then go to each site, signup with a username and – if it is by any chance taken – find an alternate brand-related username I will use in those cases on all sites. 
     
  3. I then receive a confirmation email and must respond to activate the account.
     
  4. I insert my picture (or brand graphic).
     
  5. I fill in a variety of personal information.
     
  6. I then need to create links between the various services to simplify login or to allow for single entry into multiple sites.

Sound time consuming?  It is.  When I did it, it took me about two weeks to get all the sites I had identified (which was only a moderate subset of the total, it turns out) signed up and linked together correctly.  I had to do it between other work, the entry was repetitive, I didn’t always remember what I did on each site and often had to go back to verify or fix something I’d done wrong.  It was a boring, low value task that I, in vain,  tried to get my son (13 years old, and also know affectionately as "slave boy") to do.  But it was even too menial for him to touch at $10/hour (What is it with kids nowadays anyway? You’d think they’d want a childhood or something. ).

So when I heard about knowem at SMX East yesterday I jumped online and even before the session was over, had signed up for the premium service to go lock down all the other sites relevant to my online brand I had previously missed. knowem checks the availability of your brand name, user name or vanity URL on 120 popular social media websites.  Their tag line is "thwart social media identity theft", which says a lot about their view of how important a username is to branding online.

At knowem, you enter a URL and the service returns a list of which sites have your brand name available. 

As I looked at the list, it indicated availability for some sites where I knew I had already created accounts.  It also indicated my username (onlinematters) wasn’t available on some sites where, in fact, it was.   So something about their account retrieval algorithm still isn’t perfect.  But I imagined they would figure this out once they attempted to create the accounts — which, in fact, they did.

I also noted some limits:

  1. Even this extensive list didn’t cover all the sites I had found and where I had created accounts.  Notable misses are: LinkedIn, Flickr, Facebook, and Wikipedia (huge misses, obviously), ping.fm,, Plaxo pulse, bebo, Hi5, Mashable, Friendster, getsatisfaction, Goodreads, Hubpages, HubSpot, imeem, Jabber, Joost, Ning, Orkut, Pandora, present.ly, Reunion,com, ShareThis, ShoutEm, Smugmug, ShoutBack, Spurl, Streetmavens, Tagworld, Tickle, Typepad, UrbanSpoon, Utterli, Vimeo, Yammer, Yelp, Zimbio.
     
  2. Email accounts (e.g. brand@live,com) and Skype were not included. Skype especially is important.
     
  3. No coverage of Twitter-related accounts/add-ons.  An example is Tweetmeme, which has strong impact on rankings (see my previous post "Social Media Channels – You CAN Own the First Page").

Still, I was happy that they had identified a goodly number of sites I hadn’t identified or tested for impact for my online brand, so I decided to sign up for the service.  This costs $65. A screen pops up and asks you for all the basic information the service needs to establish an account for you.

 

knowem signup page

 

Once you complete your purchase, knowem promises to begin signing you up for services using the information you provided within 48 hours.  In my case is was more like 12. 

Still, even with a service like knowem, there is no free lunch.  Once knowem starts its process, you will receive numerous (can be as high as 120) emails to confirm your signup – which knowem cannot do for you.  At the same time, knowem does not upload your visual avatar and cannot fill in all the fields every account requires where this has to be done after confirmation.  So you still have substantial work.  But with knowem:

  1. Your coverage/control of your online brand in the current universe of social media sites is extensive.
     
  2. You don’t have to go site by site to sign up, which is incredibly repetitive.
     
  3. Often the confirmation email takes you directly to the right page to fill in your information – just this element is a substantial time saver over having to remember the site name and type in the URL.

Epilogue

As an aside, at the time I had no idea just how awful this process would be.  Let me tell you that doing a rebrand online is 10x worse than doing it in traditional venues.  I am still having problems with Twitter for example, where my new account (onlinematters) isn’t showing up in people search, even though it has more followers than any account save my previously established account – so people aren’t linking to it.  (PLEASE DO, if you have the time.)

This is one reason I am so happy with knowem, despite its limitations.  There are enough problems that emerge in even the smoothest brand transition that I will sign up for any service that can, at a reasonable cost, provide organization to a portion of my process and save me time.

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PostHeaderIcon Social Media Strategy and Search Engine Optimization – You CAN Own the First Page

I have been talking in my last few entries about the power of social media channel architectures for search engine optimization and brand building .  It’s always hard to understand these approaches or their true efficacy for SEO in the abstract.  Is this just a nice idea or does it really work?  In a land where data talks and you-know-what walks, do you have data to support the ROI on creating a social media channel architecture?  Can your really move the needle on the SERPs and, if so, how much?

There are many more well-known than me in SEO - Adam Audette of Zappos for one, and Jordon Kasteler of Search and Social for another – who I didn’t realize were mining the same path and have reported results of their efforts.   But I can now also provide substantiation of my techniques, which are especially strong for “easy to rank” and “moderately difficult to rank” keywords and which I am about to test on painfully competitive keywords.

Shown below are two results of my social media channel strategy.  Both of these are from posts on this blog, which is based on an SEO optimized version of WordPress.  The first was a post that was done on September 26 about .htaccess files.  The search was done on October 5 while I was at SMX East.  I was writing a primer on htaccess grammars.  I wanted to rank on that word so new SEOs (and maybe experienced ones) would find me.  Traffic isn’t the issue with this post – reputation management and brand building are.  It is part of my strategy of trying to become a top SEO in the industry (for those who don’t know me, I am a fierce competitor and don’t know how to set small goals).  So it was ok that it was a low-traffic word. 

In this case, I was able to rank in 9 of the top 10 positions after one week - basically my entry owns the first page.  This happens because I don’t depend on my blog to rank.  Bill Joy of Sun, who I had the pleasure to work with while I was on the Java team, used to say “95% if the smart people in your industry don’t work for you, so need to find a way to leverage their intelligence for your success.”  That is Joy’s Law, and it is one of the conceptual underpinnings used to market Java in its early days.  Well, similarly in SEO, my social media strategy leverages the intelligence and resources of bigger organizations to maximize my content’s impact for search engine optimization purposes. 

Figure 1
Rankings Using Social Media Channel Architecture for the Keyword “htaccess grammar”

While my blog ranks first and second in the SERPs, as well as nine and ten, the other entries (3,4, 6, 8) are from what I call the social media amplifier – as my entries flow through Friendfeed, youare, Twitter, and identi.ca.

Very low volume, very low competition keyword.  OK.  Here are the results for a search on “social media channels”, which is higher volume (73 searches, but still low).  Note that the blog holds positions 1, 2, and 5, but the higher positions are due to the SEO power and flow through from Tweetmeme. The post was published on September 8 and, sad to say, I don’t have the search date, although I believe it was around September 15. (You will note I failed to capture the top of the search page – but I hope you will trust my reporting for this one time). 

Figure 2
Rankings Using Social Media Channel Architecture for the Keyword “social media channel”

Search results for social media channels

Also if you search today for “social media channel architectures” (the keyword I optimized for) you will find the entry in Positions 1,2,3, 4, and 5 due to leverage of Tweetmeme and Friendfeed. 

Realize this is before the creation of any special content specifically for social media sites – such as an article on hubpages or knowl, or a presentation on slideshare.  What would happen to that content through the amplifier still needs to be tested.

My next experiment will be to try this approach on really tough keywords.  We’ll see then just how much effort it takes to rank there. 

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PostHeaderIcon Social Media Channel Architectures – Part 3

5AM in Paris, and here I am back writing.  Talk about dedication.  But at least there is a French Roast and petite dejeuner at the end of this. 

Installment three of our series on social media channel architecture. To catch us up: in Part 1 we discussed the strategy and theory of social media channel architecture. In Part 2, we conceived a new product called Greensoap which has three unique advantages: it sends fewer harmful chemicals into the water supply, it doesn’t get mushy when stored, and it is 50% cheaper than other leading brands.  This product appeals to three unique market segments we have identified on an attitudinal and behavioral basis: The Green Consumer, The Vacation Traveler, and The Thrifty Shopper. We mapped these consumer segments to their preferred media (video, graphics, audio, text), their most used technology platforms, and the likely sites/online social networks they participate in.

My blog posts tend to be long as a rule, and I don’t want to make them any longer than necessary to make my point. So for the purposes of this and the next few installments, I am only going to focus on the example of The Green Consumer and provide general outlines of how to create an online social media campaign to engage them.

The first step is – duh – to research sites and other programs that companies have done to engage these consumers. If there is any truth about Internet marketing it is that there is always someone out there who has done something similar to what you would like to do and the easiest way to generate new marketing programs is to explore what has been done and use that as a jumping-off point for your conceptualization/brainstorming.

The first question I have is what green-specific social media networks are already in existence that I could leverage and where I might find a very focused target customer based for my products. Realize that these networks are probably small relative to a general-purpose social media network, but they will provide a good place to test engagement with the audience and an excellent seed location for any programs we may conceive. So I search on "green social media networks" and get the following results:
 
Google search results for "green social media channels" 

What I find most interesting is how much activity there already is in this space – let’s just do a quick breakdown:

Green Social Media Networks:  CarbonCopy.com, Climateculture.com, Greenlinkz.com, Greenedia.com, Gaia.com

Blogs: earth2tech, lohas.com/blog

Campaigns: ClimateCulture: America’s Greenest Campus, Carbonrally: Seventeen Campaign

Downside issues: GreenMyApple from Greenpeace 

Time to get out and about.  We will continue the implications of our research tomorrow.

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PostHeaderIcon Social Media Channel Architectures – Part 2

We left off last time having defined a conceptual approach to channel architecture with an example of a new type of soap – “Greensoap” which has three unique advantages: it sends fewer harmful chemicals into the water supply, it doesn’t get mushy when stored, and it is 50% cheaper than other leading brands.  How do we leverage a social media channel architecture for this product launch?

Following the model (and in fact basic marketing 101), we first need to know what audiences we are targeting.  In this case there are three which can be defined based on attitudes and behaviors:

  • Green Consumers.  Green consumers most important attitude is that they believe the environment must be protected, that current economics doesn’t measure the “true cost” of products, and that if the true cost were available we would see that dumping chemicals into the environment (and later having to remediate) is more expensive than just selling a green product in the first place.   They are split evenly between men and women, predominantly 18 – 35, and average income of $45,000/year.  Their behaviors: they tend to shop at smaller stores with a focus on environmental sensitivity, they are relatively price insensitive up to a 20% price increase over non-green products, and they tend to be vocal in online communities around green issues.
  • Vacation Travelers.  These folks tend to bring soap rather than use what is in the hotel room because their stays are longer and they travel with their families of 2.2 kids (whereas business travelers stay short periods, want to travel as light as possible, and so use in-room soap provided by the hotel).  This audience is mainly women 30 – 50 and is concerned with minimizing the burdens of “household  care” – meaning keeping a clean house, clean kids, and organized environment.  75% have a job, are incredibly time constrained and stressed.  They tend to shop at one store, usually a major grocery chain outlet between work and home.  If a product makes their life one iota easier, they will consider it.  They are highly swayed by friends and family validation that a product meets its promises.  Once they try a product, they are incredibly loyal up to a price premium of 25% over their current brand.
  • The Thrifty Shopper.   This buyer always worries about money and saving it is their first priority.  Split equally between men and women, the demographic is flat across all age groups, with a slight peak within 60+ years groups due to their fixed incomes (+ life experience during Depression and WWII).  This buyer shops in big box stores and low-cost chain grocery stores like Safeway and Savemart.  No product loyalty whatsoever – they’ll switch brands for as little as a 5 cent savings. 

The next step in the model is to figure out what kinds of media these audiences use and where they are likely to be on the web.  Figure 1 shows the mapping of audience to media, platform, and social media sites.  The sites listed are intended to be category “examples” – meaning that they are only one potential site that could be used.  For example, in column 2, cafemom indicates women-focused social media networks. 

 Figure 1
Mapping Prospective Audiences to Social Media Channel Categories

Mapping Example Audiences to Social Media Channels

The third step is to define our messages to each audience (if we haven’t already done so).  For purposes of this example, we’re going to keep this to one message per consumer segment:

  • Green Consumers: Greensoap leaves you AND the world a cleaner place.
  • Vacation Travelers: Greensoap keeps your family clean and your life simple.
  • The Thrifty Shopper: Greensoap keeps you clean and green at 50% of the cost of other soap.

In the next post we’ll put together the campaigns and then show how we apply them to the various media channels.  Stay tuned.

 

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