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Jul 03, 2008
How To

How to Find Your Social Media Fit: 6 Tips to Optimize Your Strategy

SUMMARY: Users of Web 2.0 channels, especially social media sites, are tempting targets for subscription marketers. But you need to select channels that best fit your brand and develop a strategy keyed to those online communities.

We asked a subscription marketer who has tackled that challenge to share some insights on social media marketing. Strategies include:
o Setting goals and expectations
o Finding sites to target
o Creating a monetization metric

Internet marketers for subscription-based firms need to go where their prospects are. That means finding the Web 2.0 and social media sites that fit best with your products. You can't sail without the right boat.

“For every brand, there are all sorts of areas that come under the term social media that they can take learnings from, or take that kind of thinking and apply it to their own business,” says Ashley Friedlein, CEO, “But that doesn’t mean you must have a Facebook page, because there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”

Friedlein and his team have been exploring which social media channels offer the best fit for pushing subscriptions to their UK-based ecommerce and digital marketing education and training site. A big effort was an eight-week test that targeted channels, such as YouTube, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Twitter and industry blogs.

Friedlein measured direct traffic, SEO impact, and revenues generated by the channels. From this data, he and his team saw big benefits from SEO and search-generated traffic, but less of an impact on direct sales.

We asked Friedlein to share advice for executing a Web 2.0 campaign, especially some of the nuances of social media marketing. Here are six tips:

-> Tip #1. Target SEO benefits in addition to direct traffic boost

Don’t target social media sites only for a potential boost in direct traffic and sales. Participating in social media sites offers the benefit of establishing highly relevant links to your site that can boost your position in search engine results for key terms.

In their own test, Friedlein and his team found the biggest boost came from incremental increases in search-generated traffic – after they increased the number of links between their site and popular online communities.

During the six weeks of live traffic during the test, they recorded:
o 18,000 direct visits from social media sites
o 72,000 additional search-generated visits (typical traffic was 7,000 visits a day from Google before the test)

-> Tip #2. Use keywords to find relevant sites

You must understand where your customers and prospects are spending time online before choosing which Web 2.0 channels to target. Friedlein calls this process identifying your “network.”

“We visualize what we look like in the context of the Internet, with various hubs and spokes leading to where we sit.”

In some cases, target sites are obvious – a top industry blog or popular social bookmarking sites, such as StumbleUpon. But finding the less obvious but still relevant corners of the Web 2.0 world requires a search for social media activity around some of your most important products and services. For instance:

- Searching around key terms related to best-selling products to find social media sites discussing similar topics.

- Searching for sites that ranked highly for general terms related to their products and services, such as “digital marketing strategy”

- Examining traffic figures and historical trends for worthwhile sites that they could share content with or create dialog.

-> Tip #3. Choose sites for traffic volume or influence

Friedlein’s team discovered during their test that some sites offered relatively high levels of traffic but low influence and reputation within their industry. Other sites had lower levels of traffic but were highly influential.

Rather than choosing one type over the other, they targeted sites for traffic volume as well as influence – relevance within their industry and as a referring link for SEO benefit.

Higher traffic but lower influence sites included:
o Wikipedia
o Yahoo Answers
o YouTube

Higher influence but lower traffic sites included:
o BBC Internet Blog
o LinkedIn Answers
o Bazaarvoice (vendor) blog

-> Tip #4. Identify appropriate ways to participate

Providing relevant, useful content is a given no matter which social media site you choose. But each Web 2.0 channel can require a different approach, depending on the community.

You can use those variations to your advantage by adopting a range of tactics with different levels of difficulty. For example, Friedlein and his team made the most of their resources by adopting the following tactics based on their difficulty.

Participation tactics with a lower degree of difficulty:
o Commenting on blogs
o Answering questions in forums and Q&A sites
o Posting press releases or content links to social-news sites

Participation tactics with a higher degree of difficulty:
o Writing articles for blogs/online communities
o Social media PR outreach (submitting products for review, landing interviews with bloggers, etc.)
o Creating channels on video sites, Twitter

->Tip #5. Develop an organized engagement strategy

Many companies jump in to social media marketing with “no rigor and no direction,” Friedlein says. Problems include haphazard participation in online communities or creating a Web 2.0 channel and then letting it languish with little valuable content.

Marketers must plan, instead, to manage a social media campaign with the same organization and accountability they use for other marketing outreach.

To assist with their efforts, Friedlein’s team created a simple spreadsheet that helped them plan, prioritize and track Web 2.0 engagement. The spreadsheet’s columns recorded:
o Target site
o Site description
o Tactic to achieve link
o Comments
o Total score (analysis of site’s value based on editorial relevance, search rankings, traffic figures, etc.)

Social media sites were prioritized for the team’s contact efforts. The spreadsheet allowed them to filter sites according to engagement tactics. For example, they could sort the list by sites that only required them to comment on a blog.

-> Tip #6. Create a monetization metric to track impact

The ongoing question about social media: What’s the return on investment? To find the ROI, Friedlein and his team developed a two-step methodology for measuring it.

First, they broke out the two primary ways they make money -- advertising and ecommerce (subscriptions, training, reports, etc.).

For advertising revenues, they estimated:
o Average ₤20 ($39.80) per thousand page views, two ads per page, three page views per visit
o Average advertising value per visit = 20 pence (39.8 cents)

For ecommerce revenues, they estimated:
o 0.25% conversion rate
o Average order value = ₤200 ($398)
o Average ecommerce value per visit = 50 pence (99.5 cents)

Next, they combined those two revenue streams, estimating the average total value per visit at 62 pence ($1.23).

Using that estimate as their monetization metric, the team calculated the value of visitor traffic generated by their campaign:
o 18,000 social media referred visits times 62 p = ₤11,160 ($22,208)
o 72,000 additional search referred visits times 62 p = ₤44,640 ($88,934)

After they dug deeper into their campaign numbers, the team discovered two important caveats:

-> Caveat #1. An average estimate isn’t the most precise predictor of buying behavior from social media-generated traffic.

The team had assumed an average 50 p (99.5 cents) of ecommerce revenue from each social media-generated visit. But during the test period, they generated only ₤2,400 ($4,776) in sales from those visitors – not the ₤9,000 ($17,910) expected.

Friedlein attributes the gap to some social media engagement tactics (e.g., YouTube, Yahoo Answers) that drove less-qualified traffic to the site than other marketing outreach.

-> Caveat #2. There’s no way to directly attribute SEO improvements and incremental traffic to social media efforts.

So many variables can affect a site’s search engine rankings that it’s impossible to say for sure that additional links boosted the incremental traffic. But Friedlein is confident the technique benefited his site’s rankings and traffic.

“Broadly speaking, if you optimize for search, make your brand and services appear in relevant places, and get people to talk about them and link to them, that’s not a bad thing.”

Useful links related to this article's Social Media Campaign

Past Sherpa articles:
MarketingSherpa Kit: Monetizing Web 2.0:

How to Add Web 2.0 Features to Your Publishing Site: 5 Best Practices:

Measuring Web 2.0: How to Promote the Features That Get the Best ROI:

See Also:

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