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StrategyJan 29, 2013

Part 3: Building a Comprehensive Online Marketing & Digital Strategy – Going Viral

Kyle Wahlquist

Part 3: Going Viral – Social Media’s Six Key Platforms

Social Media is often one of the most overused buzzwords in marketing.  The confusing variety of ever-evolving analytics tools currently in the marketplace make social media one of the most difficult marketing ROI’s to track. Some believe that Social Media Optimization is therefore an imprecise science, and, while useful as an afterthought or hobby, not really worth a focused investment of time or money.  Others believe that SMO is so difficult to get right that no one can apply any sort of formula for success—luck and timing must suffice instead. However, with time, thought, and the proper framework, any company can make good use of its SEO dollars. This article will help you get started!

There are a lot of reasons why Social Media is an extremely useful tool. It provides  direct interaction with the consumer voice and an inexpensive way to get a message out in the market.  Social Media Examiner states that “Even with a minimal time investment, the vast majority of marketers (85%) indicated their social media efforts increased exposure for their business.”  Though it has many useful properties, social media has one towering advantage that sets it apart from all other marketing channels.  More than any other platform—SEM, SEO, traditional broadcast and print advertising—social media gives you the chance to go viral.

When I worked for Woot.com, the company had grown from launching with less than a few dozen users to a two-million user site, one million of which were daily visitors!  SEO was minimal due to the limited amount of content Woot provided and how often it changed.  SEM was almost non-existent.  Through the first few years of Woot, they spent a TOTAL of $500 dollars on Google Adwords (and no, I did not forget a few zeros). However, Woot.com came into viral popularity through well-integrated content strategy and social media marketing.  They had great copy that engaged the reader, and  they were also the first site to start promoting their daily deals on Twitter, allowing others to share their content with their networks.  Social wins helped Woot.com become a viral success that quickly generated hundreds of thousands of dollars a day in revenue on a single item. It was eventually bought by Amazon for an unbelievable sum.

What, exactly, is viral marketing? Wikipedia, has a great description of viral marketing:“marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks and other technologies to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of viruses or computer viruses.“ In other words, it is using preexisting networks of people linked by technology to amplify your message by sending out content that is optimized for mass circulation.

So how do you optimize content for mass circulation?  Before answering this question it is important to know that every network is a little different, so these tactics should be looked at by the tool or the network we are going to utilize to spread our message.  First, let’s look into some of the networks you can utilize and tactics you can employ to spread your message.

The Tools: Basics and Terminology

Facebook

Everyone knows Facebook.  It is the world’s largest social network with currently around 1 Billion accounts, and has many features in which you can use to follow content providers and share their content.  It is generally a closer knit network than some of the others, as it is generally used by people to connect with others whom they have actually met, or have a close personal bond of some sort.  The average user on Facebook has approximately 234 “friends.”  Facebook also has tools that you can implement on your site to route customers to your Facebook page and keep engaged with your audience there.  Here are some of the features of Facebook you need to know, and be able to differentiate between.

Like – This term can mean a couple different tools on Facebook.  The original purpose of the “like” html link was to allow a user to indicate when they appreciated a comment or a post that someone had written.  Now there is also the Like button, which is located on a brand’s Facebook page, and can also be added to your website.  This button allows users to like your entire Facebook page.  Once they do this, they are part of your audience.  They will receive all updates that you provide on your Facebook page until the time they “Unlike” your page.  Displaying these types of social buttons across your site are important because they are locking in your audience to immediate brand awareness, whenever you update your Facebook status.

However, another form of the Like button can still be added to your site’s content so that individuals can show their favor for your product or post.  This should not be confused with the above-mentioned Like button for the brand Facebook page.  They are two different things, and if anyone from Facebook is reading this, I think you should probably stop the confusion by renaming one of your many “like” buttons to something else.

Share – The share button is just how it sounds.  You can post something on Facebook and users who have liked you can share your content.  Also, users who have a Facebook friend who likes your content can also share your content.  With the average users network to be around 234 other users, this is where we really start to see the ability of viral marketing, as your friend’s friend’s start sharing your content (I’m no math major, but 234 friends sharing with 234 people who each can share with 234 other people is right around 55,000 total viewers, and that’s just in your immediate network). The share ability can also be added to your site’s product pages, blog posts, or any other content that you host.

Twitter

Another popular social network is Twitter.  With a large population of over 200 million active monthly users, Twitter is a great network for content dissemination.  Twitter, however, requires the users to be more specific in their message by limiting their character field to 140 characters.  While there are many similarities with viral functionality between Facebook and Twitter, Twitter is generally used as a more public network, where individuals will have more of their content public facing.  Also, users are less concerned with only connecting with individuals they know, and more about building a larger network in order to receive and share information with.

Follow – this button is like the Facebook page Like button in that it will subscribe you to the user’s Twitter account, after which all of their content will flow in your Twitter feed.

Retweeting – this is much like the sharing functionality on Facebook.  According to Mashable, a user following your brand will on average have around 200 followers with whom they can share your content.  This study also shows that the amount of followers a user has directly correlates to the amount of times they tweet.  A good tip for getting your own user base up is to Tweet early and often.

Both of these features can also be embedded on your site’s product or content pages to increase market awareness for your brand overall or a specific product or message that resonates with the network.

LinkedIn

This is the leading professionals network in which users generally close themselves off from others who they have not worked with or networked with before.  It is also generally industry specific in that most of the groups and topics on LinkedIn gear around specific industries.  With over 200 million active users though, this is a great area to promote services, solutions and more B2B solutions. LinkedIn as a platform is evolving rapidly, and now it allows you to share updates, articles, comments, etc. to your professional connections via it’s “Share” function. That same function also allows you to simultaneously share those updates through Twitter—provided you already have a Twitter account and your content is shorter than 140 characters.

Google+

While only having 135 million active monthly users, Google+ has less traction than some of its competitors, but it is a very viable social marketing platform due to some of its benefits.  In a previous post we discussed the importance of good SEO.  Google is the big algorithm to master, and of course they have full access to all of their tools in which they can help you add value to your content.

Google+ is highly ranked within Google’s algorithm-in some cases  a post on Google+ will rank more highly than the original content posted elsewhere.  For instance, I searched for some keywords in one of my previous articles (posted on Credera’s blog), and all that came up was a bunch of competitor results covering the topic.  I then went on to Google+, shared the link to my post, and then retried my search on Google.  My Google+ post covering my blog article now appeared as number two in the search rankings, and anyone who has me in one of their Google+ circles would have a similar result.

This means that the more you can increase your network of people subscribing to you on Google+, the more likely these users will be to discover your content when searching keywords in Google’s MAIN SITE. Of course if they share your content, then their audiences will also see your post rise to the top of Google search ranks.  This can be a very powerful tool to use in both your SMO and SEO campaigns—essentially you are getting both SEO and SMO at the same time!

Google+ also has all of the same sharing and liking (known as +1) capabilities as their competitors, but they do this all with focusing on content security and allowing the user to focus who they want to share specific content with.

YouTube 

Here is a fun fact if you didn’t already know; YouTube is the second largest social network in the world behind Facebook.  According to TechCrunch, they have 800 million active users who show up every month and watch 4 billion hours of video!

YouTube is again a product of Google and heavily favored in their search index, which means that not only posting videos of product info, reviews, content, etc., will help you get in front of the many users on this network, but like Google+ it will help you get in front of your SEO audience.

Email

I am putting email marketing in here, because it is the oldest and simplest form of social marketing.  Hotmail was the first noticed use of viral marketing by their implementation of a tagline in their email footers in the late 1990’s, which encouraged others to use their service.  It was only through the power of users sending these messages to others in their contacts list (or primitive social network) that allowed Hotmail to grow to the size of 12 million users in 18 months.

Composing great email campaigns is a lot of work, and could be it’s own article, but for the sake of this article, I will simply say to make sure you include links to many desired options for the user, including links to your social networks.

Now that we’ve looked at the key social platforms currently in the marketplace, we will examine the three key ways to use those platforms in our next article on Social Media Optimization.

If you liked this article, follow Credera on one of our social channels – @Credera@CrederaMSFT@CrederaOpenLinkedInFacebookYouTube.

Read all five parts of Kyle’s blog series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, and Part 5. For additional information about our services, visit Credera.com.