The first steps in making your business social online
A quick history of using the web for business:
Build it and they will come: 1996-2000
In the early days of the commercial web there was no such thing as a digital marketing strategy. Beyond traditional marketing, adventurous companies simply established a web presence. In the years that followed businesses everywhere went online and then evolved their websites over time.
Build it, and help them find it: 2001-2007
The next phase was about driving traffic. Google appeared. Website owners quickly worked out that the best ticket in town was capturing a share of the billions of searches performed on Google each month. This phase was (and still is) a very important development in connecting businesses with their customers online. Only a very small percentage of clicks from a Google results page are paid for, however these links generate US$20 billion per annum (and rising). Consider the combined value of all search engine and content optimisation activities worldwide.
Becoming Social: 2007-present
Back in 2006, Rupert Murdoch told Wired magazine: "Technology is shifting the power away from the editors, the publishers, the establishment, the media elite. Now it's the people who are in control".
Since that time, the media market has changed dramatically. Power has also shifted away from brand websites. Consumers are congregating and conversing in places that are owned and controlled by them.
Therefore two opportunities for marketers have emerged:
1. Take your content (and brand) to where conversations happen
2. Join (and influence) the conversation
While there are certainly risks, there is no question that a sound social media strategy (with good execution and ongoing management) can result in improved performance for any marketing and brand building program. A recent study of the world's top brands found a correlation between the use of social media and financial success. So how can a business owner or manager respond?
1. Decentralising your brand
People everywhere are busy talking to each other, writing reviews and recommendations, blogs and tweets, sharing photos and videos, and creating Wikipedia content. Large website operators have responded by creating snippets, API's, widgets and tools that make it easier for their brand to end up in as many places as possible. Powerful brands have been created in record time by being open, generous and shareable.
We are now seeing referrals from Facebook, Twitter and Blogs move up in the list of top referrers to websites (via website analytics).
An example is the website and social media campaign DTDigital has recently initiated for Australia’s Bid to host the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup. At the center of this is an online community where fans can share and create content and demonstrate to the world their passion for football.
The Facebook page for Australia’s Bid has 110,000 fans and is the biggest referrer of traffic to the website. Twitter has been a great referrer, and was very useful in launching and building engagement amongst online influencers since the launch of the campaign.
The fantastic Youtube film created by fellow STW company Lawrence Creative Strategy is also a key driver of traffic and conversation.
The goal is for many businesses, is to make content as shareable as possible. However, this often requires a major rethink of copyright and other corporate policies.
The extent of changing behavior in this area is perhaps best described by Google's chief economist, Hal Varian in an article that appeared in McKinsey Quarterly.
"Back in the early days of the Web, every document had at the bottom, 'Copyright 1997. Do not redistribute.' Now every document has at the bottom, 'Copyright 2008. Click here to send to your friends.'"
Once you have your head around the implications of giving up control of your content (and decided this is right for your business) there are some simple ways that you can increase exposure:
- Name all images on your website so that they are easily found in Google images for relevant searches.
- Ensure you have an appropriate listing in Google Maps and other similar services.
- Use YouTube (or similar) to house video content. This allows videos to be easily shared, discussed and referenced by bloggers.
- Set-up a YouTube channel, and make sure you consider keywords used (to increase exposure to video content via search).
- Post images to Flickr. Set copyright to let people re-use images (that you own!) thereby promoting re-publishing via as many channels as possible.
- Build sharing tools and links into content that you house on your website.
Review website analytics regularly and monitor brand mentions on services such as Twitter, to see which tactics are having a positive impact on promoting your brand. Test, learn and refine over time.
2. Joining the conversation
Beyond the basics of the decentralisation of content, is the ‘tricky' area at the heart of social media: Engaging in the conversation.
Brands can create a more meaningful connection with customers via one or many of the following techniques:
- Starting conversations with customers
- Facilitating conversations between customers
- Joining conversations with customers
- Using social media as a service channel
- Using social media as a research channel
Tactics include using Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Tumblr, Blogger for your business. Building and facilitating forums, and actively engaging in conversations that others are having about your brand.
Considering whether and how to engage in conversations with customers via social media, should be dependent upon a number of factors including:
- The openness and transparency of your corporate culture
- Availability of resources to meet customers expectations in any online engagement
- The potential risk and reward, depending upon unique dynamics of your industry and competitive situation.
Therefore, it's highly recommended that you work with someone with experience, to develop a formal Social Media Strategy and road map. At the very least, you should start small, testing and learning as you go.
It's also critical that any social media activity is understood by, and has the full support of the leaders within your business.
Changes to the way that people engage with brands and content is only going to accelerate. There are many lessons to learn, so the important thing is to work out a social media strategy based on your overall business goals – and get started soon. Above all, keep in mind that social media is about being open, genuine and human. Social media isn’t another ad channel. It’s about making the online conversation work for you.
David Trewern founded DTDigital in 1996, and quickly established himself as a pioneer of digital marketing and website design and development. DTDigital has since grown to become Melbourne's largest full service agency connected digital team. In 2004 ASX listed STW Group took a stake in David's business, and in 2007 DTDigital began officially representing Ogilvy Interactive in Melbourne.
David is a regular contributor to numerous newspapers and publications on issues ranging from website design, to business strategy in the digital age, and is a regular judge of the MADC awards, AGDA awards and International Webby awards.