The rise of Social Networks, Blogs and RSS on the web has been driven by individuals feeling empowered to tell their story, communicate feelings, chronicle events or write anything that can think of. This is the age of self-publishing as never seen before and with it comes all the positives and negatives of personal opinion.
According to Metcalfe’s law “the value of a network grows in proportion to the square of the number of users” which essentially means the larger the network the more connections/benefit the users get out of it.
You may love the comments or hate them but with 27% of internet users in the US having been involved, either reading or writing a blog, companies that ignore the messages posted may be doing so at their peril. Blogs are a valuable source of research to understand what consumers are thinking about your brand, latest advertising campaign or products/services.
A web log (blog) is a shared online journal where people can post diary entries about their personal experiences and interests. Blogs have become legitimate standard business practices and progressive marketers are building strategies around their use to influence a target audience. Many of these selfdeveloped forums are generating significant revenue streams for their creators. Teen networks such
as MySpace.com and Facebook.com have become destinations of choice for an increasingly connected youth culture.
Witness the success of twitter.com in creating large audience pull and drawing advertisers’ media dollars through the public interest in ‘A’ list celebrities and fashion icons. Yahoo! is also including blogs to the search criteria within news, further highlighting the increased interest of consumer opinion, unique insights or footage of events. In addition to using blogs for research, as a feature to your site,
they can increase traffic, membership and your SEO ranking.
Video logs (VBlog), are proliferating as bloggers seek to enhance their messages. Mobile blogs (Moblogs, mBlogs) can be posted directly to from your mobile communication device. Podcasting enables anyone to create their own radio or television show for download to others. And it goes on and on.
At the heart of the technical revolution in the explosion of self-expression via the Web, is a family of standards called RSS and a rival specification called Atom. RSS stands for Really Simply Syndication and allows individuals or web sites to opt-in and receive content or recent changes from other web sites, the most common of which are news, blogs, entertainment, and ecommerce. The technology
behind RSS allows users to subscribe to web sites that provide RSS feeds or syndicated content. For the marketer, RSS will enable you to communicate and publish information that goes directly, avoiding SPAM filters, to users who choose to link to you, at a time that is convenient to them. You will be able to receive feedback on what the market would like to hear about from you and be able to widen your reach through portals like www.live.com.
Even if it’s something as simple as putting press releases in an RSS feed, marketers will benefit from early exposure to distributing information via RSS and receive valuable feedback from key constituents on what types of content they would like to have.
Marketing and Social Networks
For marketers, do we need to know the latest on what is hot on the Social Scene and what is not? If you want to be where the audience is growing, social networks are an absolute. Public opinion is influenced there and your brand will get reviewed, praised, skewered or viral marketed to stardom.
Several ways to get started now include:
Develop an information blog on your company, product or service. With approval from company leadership, communicate the latest happenings at the company, experiment with ideas and become a Thought Leader on a topic. Remember that your posts will return as other bloggers link to you and what you say is quoted in various ways. For many private companies, this is not a problem but understand that your postings can be used to support everything from contrary opinions to legal proceedings.
The benefits of blogging include reaching an extended audience and in the links that will be added by other bloggers. This increases the relevancy of your site for search engine indexing. We recommend you can get your own blog for free from WordPress or Blogger.
Personal Opinion Blogs
Many top-level executives are using blogs to gain higher visibility in the marketplace. If your strategy is to build key executives’ credibility so that they can be more effective in influencing the media, being invited to speaking engagements and so forth, the use of blogs is complimentary to that.
Advertising money is pouring into the self-publishing space. The audiences are highly segmented based on the focus of the blog. Cost for ad placement is generally lower than that of mainstream publishing sites due to the relatively new position of accepting media spends. Choosing to move your ad spend to a blog or Social Network should come under the same type of analysis as that of any
other site. You can cash in on all the advertising $ being poured into blogs through programs such as Blogvertise
Build Linked Blog Communities
The American political machines have been at the forefront of developing communities of linked blogs.
This allows the savvy politician to create an increasingly connected constituency to state their support and drive campaign donations. Enabling your employees to develop their own site is a good way to foster a progressive culture. Ownership even within the confines of company policy still creates positive connections.
Join Social Networks
Getting involved in Social Networks has several advantages. First, it helps you understand the space and allows you to meet people who have like interests. Secondly, it enables you to influence the participants when you post your views and positions. Friendster, YahooGroups.com or Linkedln are just some of thousands of examples of Social Networks that you can get involved with.
Enhance Messages with Vlogs
Using video and enhanced multimedia can work like TV to communicate your message. There is no medium like video for communicating emotion to the masses. Vlogs will help drive your awareness and recall to a higher level than text and flat imagery.
With YouTube results getting ranked so highly now through Google, generating video can bring you great exposure. You don’t need to make fancy videos to get these benefits either. Often times the simplest ones are the most popular. I just started using Traffic Gyser to distribute my videos to over 200 video sites. I make very simple videos and with that system I’ve already seen a considerable boost in traffic and rankings. Video is definitely the next big traffic generating strategy in my opinion.
Anyone with content can set up a Podcast. Just load up audio files and let people subscribe to them through an RSS feed. Podcasts are great for regularly updated content. Many radio stations are already using or experimenting with Podcast, as are many news led web sites like News.com. Scott Paton’s course on Podcasting is by far the best one for people interested in this area.
Set up RSS Feeds
RSS feeds provide an easy way for companies to syndicate your content and ultimately drive more traffic to your site and increase your brand awareness. You can even set up an RSS feed for the products on your site.
The people over at ShareThis.com setup these 2 cool widgets. The first allows you to setup a bookmark option on your site so people can quickly bookmark it. The second is an RSS button and allows people to get RSS feed from your site. Both are free and take seconds to create. Check them out here.
Legal Issues on Publishing
Every country in the world addresses the legal issues involving public opinion. Ignorance is not a defense and when making comments publicly available, be aware that potential liability issues include among others:
- Intellectual Property (Copyright/Trademark)
- Trade Secret
- Publication of Private Facts
However, in the spirit of free speech across much of the world… Blog on!
Managing the Message
Is it possible to orchestrate a program aimed at influencing behavior with Social Networking and Blogging? Absolutely. Can we predict what the results will be? Probably not. Word of mouth is the most powerful factor in this medium. Bloggers are notorious for digging into the story until the truth comes out. They don’t suffer lies and mistruths well and will band together to create a firestorm of
unfavorable PR for those who misuse the space.
For a Website wanting to build awareness. Traffic and exposure, the opportunity to use these avenues of marketing is very promising. Remember that the individual rules and the power is in the hands of those who believe in your message.