Sunday, April 27, 2008

part 2: social networks. simplified.

Social Networks are technology platforms that facilitate meaningful interaction among people. In other words, they make it easy to share with each other, to build upon that which is shared and to discover people, places and things. Social Networks, though a dominant force in the evolution of the internet, are just one part of a much larger movement referred to as Web 2.0. We’ll start there.

Web 2.0 is the “new” web that has changed from a “read-only web” where most users go online to read and review content to a “read and write web” where users go online to generate their own content.

This change in online behavior (Web 2.0) has been facilitated by the development of technology that allows non-tech-savvy internet users to publish content relatively easily (i.e. blogs, wikis, video/picture sharing sites). One of the most influential of these technologies is the social networking platform also referred to as the "architecture of participation."

These platforms (MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Orkut) allow users to create profiles and then connect their profiles to their friends’ profiles so they can keep tabs on each other and share content (videos, music, pictures, messages, events, notes, etc…). They also have powerful search features allowing users to locate lost friends and classmates and reconnect. Users can also see who their friends have listed as friends allowing them to grow their network through mutual connections.

MySpace was really the first very successful social network and most likely your first introduction to this phenomenon. MySpace allows users to easily create and control their own personalized “space” on the web. They can post pictures, pick their own background, stream their favorite music, rebel against convention, preach against rebellion, communicate with friends, find new friends and discover lost friends. In many ways, a MySpace page is as much a vehicle of self-expression as a teen’s bedroom.

Facebook is a more structured, formalized network that is less customizable and as a results, easier to use. Facebook seems to be emerging as the “mature” MySpace.

LinkedIn is really just a glorified address book that can be shared with people you know. The primary benefit is being able to search not only your professional network but anyone connected to people within your network. As an example, I have 124 contacts in my LinkedIn network giving me access to over 2.9 million people (friends of friends of friends).

It’s About People. Not Content.

In the early 90’s, there were websites that made it easy for users to create their own web pages (Tripod, Geocities). The difference between those sites and the social networks of today is that those early sites had no easy way for users to get their friends to the web page or to let them know that it had been updated. It was pretty boring to have a web page that nobody saw! Those sites didn’t survive but their demise demonstrated one very important point: Web 2.0 is not about user-generated content. It’s about user-generated content that is a result of social interaction. In other words, it starts with the people, and then comes the content. Therein lies the lesson for us marketers.

Brands are constantly trying to harness the power of social networking to build community around their products. Though sometimes an emphasis on really strong content (i.e. by P&G) is enough to draw like-minded people to a network, for small businesses without multi-million dollar budgets, it’s not likely to be successful.

The key to marketing via Social Networking is not to create your own branded network but to tap-in to the networks that already exist. People want to spend time where their friends spend time. If every company has their own social network, and consumers accept this and participate, they will never cross paths with friends again since everyone will be dividing their time across 20 different networks.


There are many ways to take advantage of social networks as a business. In fact, there are hundreds of businesses that exist solely for this reason. One big business today is the development of “widgets.” Widgets are applications that can interact with social networks and operate within the network platform. You can create games, contests, etc…, all with a widget that users can add to their profile or use to interact on their friend’s profile. The main benefit of “widgets” is that they allow you to associate your brand with something fun that users enjoy and deliver a brand message at the same time. Widgets are also somewhat viral in that as one person adds the application to their profile, all of their friends are notified and are likely to add it as well. This pattern continues thereby increasing your exposure at little to no additional cost = viral. is keeping a running tally of the "total number of apps (Widgets) installed" on Facebook: 12.8 million as of July, 2007. That refers not to the number of applications, but to the number of users who installed the widgets to run on their Facebook pages or blogs. I’m sure this number has more than doubled since.

Simple Marketing through Social Networks

According to eMarketer's, 38% of all Internet users, or 72 million people, used social networks at least once a month in 2007. Among 18-34 year olds, 25% visit social networks daily and among 9-17 year olds, 55% spent between 5 and 30 hours per week on social networking sites.*

If you are not ready for widgets, there are also more “traditional” ways to market via social networks.

Using Google Adwords as a campaign management tool, you can place ads (text, image or video ads) on many of the popular social networking sites including Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. Facebook recently launched its own campaign management tool making it easy to geographically target specific demographics with your ads.

Through the Google Adwords and Facebook campaign management tools, advertisers can place ads on a CPM (cost per thousands impressions) pricing model or a CPC (cost per click) pricing model. Which one you choose depends on your objective: brand awareness = CPM; lead/sales generation = CPC.

Basic ads on these networks driving traffic to your website is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leveraging the power of social networks. Facebook allows you to create your own “group” that people can join to rally around your industry/product/service. It also allows businesses to create their own “page” that people can “fan” or “opt-in” to receive updates when new content is posted. I’ll explain these tactics in more detail next week.

There are many strategic, creative ways to harness the power of social networks. If you think your business could benefit from an updated internet marketing strategy leveraging social media, contact me and I’d be happy to help.

*Dynamic Logic "Ad Reaction 2007," Grunwald Associates
Web 2.0 Chart by Social Computing Magazine

Monday, April 14, 2008

Week 1: blogging. simplified.

"I’m sorry, did you say blog?"

I don’t remember the first time I heard the word “blog” but I do remember finding it a very odd choice of terminology. So, let’s start with the name and other common terms associated with blogging.

Blog: Short for Web Log, a blog is a website that is updated often with articles or written thoughts and organized to display the most recent item first. So, a blog is a place to publish and log written works that are organized in reverse chronological order. Most importantly though, a blog is managed by software that allows the average person (with no technical expertise) to manage the layout, design and content very easily.

Post: The individual article/thought that is published. Each new item published is considered a “post.”

Blogging: the act of writing, managing or promoting a blog

Blogger: author or owner of a blog

Blog Archive: All blogs are organized to display the most recent posts first. All older posts are organized through an “archive” somewhere on the blog. The “archive” allows blog readers to view any previous postings by month, week or day.

Blogosphere: used to refer to the thousands upon thousands of blogs in existence and the people who are influenced by them

Why read blogs?

People read blogs because they are conversational and in most cases, opinionated. People follow a blog because the blogger provides an interesting perspective on relevant topics and can speak freely. The most successful blogs are completely independent from any large company that would require them to play politics and be careful about what they publish. Though this “freedom of speech” makes blogs more interesting to read, it also means that you have to be more skeptical about the accuracy of the content.

Overall, blogs are great because they allow people to share their expertise with the world. Before blogs, there were only websites which were difficult to update and had no functionality to make publishing and “archiving” simple.

Why start a blog?

The most obvious reason to create a blog is to share your expertise with the world… and in so doing… promote your business. For decades, a strong public relations strategy was to establish a level of expertise on a specific subject with the local media. This allowed you to get quoted in the media and establish yourself as an expert in the market. In much the same way, a blog bypasses the media and allows you to publish your “quotes” as often as you’d like!

A blog is a great way to keep in touch with current clients! Share new insights or provide educational information to help your clients on a regular basis and stay top-of-mind.

Also, if your content is targeted to your area of business, search engines will start to drive relevant traffic to you and your website thereby increasing your exposure in the marketplace.

“Microblogging:” as if normal blogging wasn’t good enough!

Microblogging is basically a mini-blog that only contains short and sweet posts. Made popular by “Twitter” and the “What are you doing now?” phenomenon that allows people to keep their friends and family updated on where they are, what they are doing and what they are thinking.

The appeal of microblogging is both its immediacy and portability. Because posts are so brief (typically 140 – 200 characters), a microblogger can update her microblog often enough to keep readers informed as events, whether large or small, unfold. Anyone with a cell phone can send and receive updates any time, anywhere. Users can send messages as text, video or audio. I’ve seen this used most often when a blogger who has a lot of readers in a specific industry attends an event and posts thoughts or learnings as they happen via cell phone.

How to start a blog.

There are many websites offering user-friendly blogs for free. is a great place to start. Over time, as you desire more sophisticated features, you may want to upgrade to a paid account with a site like but for entry-level bloggers, you can’t beat

Some tips for getting started:

Pick a specific subject that you want your blog to address: i.e. fashion, finance, marketing, sales… whatever interests you or supports your business objective for blogging.

Commit yourself to posting something new at least once a week. Your readers will come back for updates as long as you are consistent. If taking a 4 week hiatus (which I've been guilty of at times), publish a post letting your readers know when to expect fresh content.

Keep it personal. People will read your blog because of your personality. Don’t be afraid to be informal or inject your opinions.

Use interesting images whenever possible to enhance the subject of a post. You can find free stock photos at

Let search engines know you exist. You can “ping” many of them by entering your blog address at “Ping” means to send the search engine a message letting it know you have posted something new. It will put your site in queue to review and include in search results.

Track your success from the beginning. Google offers a robust and surprisingly free stats package that allows you to see how many visitors you’ve had and from what sources (along with many other details). Set-up a free account at and they will give you some code with instructions for pasting it into your webpage/blog.

Allow visitors to receive your content in their email. Use to add a “subscription” box to your blog. Feedburner will automatically send your posts to all subscribers keeping them engaged with you and your content.

If you have any questions about blogging, please post to comments and I’d be happy to respond!

Next article in this series: Social Networks – Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace

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