If you’re an online marketer or publisher, chances are you’re well aware of the power of social media optimization (SMO). If you’re new to the world of Internet marketing, you’ll be interested to know that this breakthrough method is a truly inexpensive (practically free) way to create buzz about your products, increase traffic to your site, build trust about your company, and boost your sales.
Today, I’m going to show you a simple way to get started in social media marketing – and an easy three-step process you can use to measure how well it’s working.
In a nutshell, social media is an interactive platform where people can correspond – via chat rooms, forums, bulletin boards, networks (as in MySpace, Facebook, Classmates, LinkedIn, Bebo), user-generated content sharing (as in Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit), wikis (interactive online encyclopedias), and blogs – with like minded individuals who share similar interests, whatever those interests may be.
Cutting-edge businesses and marketing-centric companies have jumped on the social media bandwagon to leverage the increased popularity of this phenomenon. Companies large and small got their marketers to create MySpace, FaceBook, or LinkedIn profiles in order to have their fingers on the pulse of the market, correspond with consumers, and create buzz about their products.
Here at ETR, we’ve been on the Web for some time now, dabbling in all sorts of social media activities with content syndication, viral marketing, and online PR efforts.
Recently, we started leveraging the presence of our individual team members on LinkedIn. If you’re not familiar with this site, it’s a network community for business professionals. Users can set up profiles highlighting their corporate experience and areas of expertise.
Edwin Huertas, one of ETR’s search engine marketing specialists, answers select questions on LinkedIn that are related to his area of expertise. He also uploads blog posts about a variety of search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), pay-per-click (PPC), and social media practices. This helps create buzz about ETR (through Edwin’s profile and position at ETR). Plus, he sometimes supplements his posts with links back to relevant articles on our website – which helps drive traffic to the ETR site.
This is a practice you can emulate easily. Simply register as a member of one of the social media groups. Then begin to participate in the discussions. For instance, if a LinkedIn member posts a specific question about SEO, Edwin will try to find an article on our ETR site that addresses that issue. He then answers the question in his own words, but recommends that the member also read the ETR article, which has more valuable information. By answering questions posed by your fellow members (making sure you add relevant links back to content on your website), your posts will begin to generate “free” traffic.
Another site that works well for us is StumbleUpon.com. This site directs Internet surfers to Web pages based on the surfer’s pre-selected categories every time they click on the “Stumble” icon on their toolbar.
You can install the StumbleUpon toolbar on your own computer and recommend articles on your own site. This allows you to give any page a “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down” rating. It also allows you to include a brief description and category for your submission. If you rate your article, it will appear in the StumbleUpon rotation – which, again, means ‘free’ traffic to your site.
Getting started is super-easy. But the key to making social media work for you is the same with any marketing medium: You need to have a way to find out if it’s working.
Although many marketers have been going all out with their social media efforts, most haven’t a clue as to how to actually measure the campaign’s success or failure.
Let’s say Early to Rise just published an article on goal setting for 2009. The article is followed by a related product ad in the ETR issue, as well as by a separate e-mail promotion for a related goal setting product, like our Total Success Achievement program. Product sales are generated from the e-mail and from the ad. Meanwhile, the social media aspect takes over.
The article content is syndicated via RSS feeds, as well as top article directories (like EzineArticles, GoArticles, ArticleBase, Buzzle, and others) and user-generated content networks (such as Digg and Reddit). Readers may also discuss the article on goal setting and self-improvement blogs, forums, and bulletin boards.
So how could you measure the social media aspect of such an effort?
It’s easy. By using the same metrics that are used to measure a public relations effort: Outputs, outcomes, and objectives – what I like to call the “3 O’s.”
1. Outputs (measures effectiveness and efficiency)
For our example, I’d look at Google Analytics for spikes in traffic to the Early to Rise homepage in the days following the article’s publication. I’d look specifically at traffic sources, visits, unique visits, and visit percentages. I’d also look at referring sites and search engines to see whether the traffic is coming directly from social media platforms. And I’d look for an increase in new ETR subscriber sign-ups (leads) during that same time period.
2. Outcomes (measures behavioral changes)
For this metric, I’d look at feedback from our customers… e-mails, phone calls, comments posted on our ETR member forum. I’d also do some reputation monitoring by searching the Web for keywords like “ETR,” the article title, and the product name to see if others were talking about it in chat rooms, external forums, and bulletin boards.
3. Objectives (measures business objectives/sales)
The most obvious and directly related metric is direct sales of the product that are tied to the editorial. Orders generated from an e-mail link or ad link are coded for tracking, so attributing sales to those sources is definitive. If the sales come from a product page on our website where the true “source” cannot be tracked, I’d look at the sales during the corresponding dates of the campaign for correlations.
Finally, for each of the above, I would compare the current campaign data versus the year-to-date (YTD) average and year-over-year data to clearly illustrate pre- and post- campaign performance. In other words, I’d check out website traffic, unique visits, specific product sales, etc. – all for the same time periods. That way, I’d have an established benchmark against which to measure our current social media efforts.
Social media is a low cost and effective way to spread the word about your company and products, as well as to conduct market research. By understanding the “3 O’s” and how they work, you can actually quantify your efforts with hard data… a critical component for any direct marketer.
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