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October 2007

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Social Marketing - What is it?
By James Clark, Room 214

Defining social marketing can be a slippery slope, as with most general terms it can be whatever you make of it. For us it's business marketing that reaches into online conversational media where there is an opportunity for two-way communications. This can be accomplished through creating profiles in social networking sites such as Facebook (www.facebook.com), MySpace (www.myspace.com), and Flickr (www.flicker.com), or setting up conversational tools from within your own site via blogging, podcasting, widgets and RSS feeds. Tasks such as: article marketing, optimized press releases, webinars, teleseminars, autoresponders, tagging and bookmarking, pay-per-click, sponsorships, site advertising and email marketing are essential to the viability and visibility of any social marketing effort.

How to Use It and Why?
Here's the best thing you can do to gauge if a social marketing effort is worthy of your time and resources - because it takes a lot of both.

Research social networking sites to see if there are active and relevant topical groups within your area of interest. This is a simple and eye opening effort to find if your target audience is currently engaged in online conversations together. Are there 1,000s of group members, or 20 members with an active discussion board, or do you just hear the echo of your own voice?

The reasons to use social marketing become overwhelmingly relevant once you find these groups, and see the reality and importance of the conversations. Caution: it will be like going through a wormhole into another dimension - uncovering one conversation leads to many others, many calling for your participation.

The secret is not to think of social marketing as revolutionary, but evolutionary. After all, it is marketing, and understanding conversions, goals and associated metrics is just as important as any other marketing campaign. Is the conversion tied to getting sign ups for your upcoming webinar or product demo, seeding influencers with pre-launch information, getting free trial downloads, positioning yourself or organization as leading experts, becoming buddies with influencers? What's the value of the conversion? Starting with the end in mind helps you baseline your effort and forecast costs. Using appropriate measurement and conversion tools will give the insight needed to put your resources where the ROI is good, while pulling out of areas that are resource intensive or slow to respond.

Integration - The Difference Between Success and Failure
Integration is the most complex and strategic part of any marketing campaign. Don't get derailed by the seemingly infinite variables the social marketing process entails. Start with an offline construct you are familiar with, then piece by piece begin to expand those processes online.

For instance, most companies are familiar with press releases so they can start by optimizing those press releases for search engines, creating an online syndicating press room and distributing them through their site via RSS feeds to drive higher search visibility for their content.

Another example would be to work with your PR agent to get a list of relevant editorial calendar opportunities from main stream media publications, then pre-emptively begin discussions in your social networking accounts. Include blog posting and publishing articles about the ed cal topics to establish your credibility for the subject well ahead of the submission deadlines. Simple, effective and targeted.

3 critical elements to your offline/online marketing integration:
1. Content Planning - don't recreate content efforts. If you need to plan a presentation for an upcoming trade show, take that same content and do a “Top 5 Tips” blog post. After the show, distribute the audio/video as a podcast. This is called thematic-based content creation. Take one topic and break it down into many different parts for consumption.

2. Align Conversions - use offline influence to drive online conversions and vice versa. For instance run a specialized URL in a magazine or radio ad, then track how many conversions those offline efforts drove online. Or use a specialized 800# from the website to track how many sales are coming off from the website. Make sure the entire online/offline marketing campaigns are driving at the same goal. Don't compete with yourself.

3. Analytical Tracking - get your IT team involved in setting up conversion goal-funnel tracking for your online programs. Find out what sites are driving the most traffic, what keywords are converting, where in the world the people are coming from - and be sure to create a way for those visitors to “engage” in your content through signing up for emails, subscribing to your blog or podcast, or downloading a white paper.

James Clark is a founding partner of Room 214, a social media, search and RSS marketing agency located in Boulder, Co. James blogs at: www.capturetheconversation.com. You can download the company's most recent white paper: The Top 5 Reasons Why it's RSS or Die at:
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