Jan 262009

The recent rumors that Twitter could complete a capitol raise of $250mm have set the “blogosphere” afire. Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research did some number crunching and came up with a value of $73.52 per active user for Twitter. This follows news that the social media darling turned down a half billion dollar acquisition by Facebook. And – it’s old news but – the Gartner Group says social networks shouldn’t be ignored by retailers. Surprised? Maybe you should take another look at social marketing in your business model…

Many of my “less connected” friends tell me, “All this social networking is crazy. I’ll stick to the tried and true – social marketing is junk.” This isn’t a new conversation. I have heard it in regard to all sorts of networking – from showing up at business events to the most recent phenomena – “following” people on Twitter. I’ve said it before but – here’s my take on it:

The Internet is a disruptive communications medium that works in all directions at once. If you do not send, receive, answer and search the communication stream proactively you are not participating in the conversation. You are not providing value to or gaining value from your community.

So what do I mean? Take the average “business blog.” The numbers of new business blogs started every year are beyond counting, but still the majority provide nothing more than a public relations feed. They don’t contribute to the conversation in their industry, communicate effectively with their customers, or go beyond giving new product “highlights” to prospects. They are part of the larger “brochureware” that clutters every keyword search on Google. When executives of these companies tell me they get little value from their Internet presence, I can only agree. You will not get value if you do not give value to people who use your site. All the search engine optimization in the world won’t change this simple one-to-one relationship.

Let me give you some simple facts from my own experience. I use news postings on LinkedIn Groups to promote the articles we post on this blog. We’ve been writing on this site for a little more than two months. About 50% of our referrals come from LinkedIn. So what? The LinkedIn Groups we belong to and post on are specific to our industry. This isn’t a random sampling of search terms – it is a list of people who have an interest in our field, have read a title that is of interest to them and chosen to read the content. Beyond that, our page views – requests for specific pages – outnumber our front page “hits” four to one. That means readers are requesting specific pages AND staying to read more than one article.

For about a month now, I’ve been using Twitter to make contact with people interested in SaaS and cloud-computing by actively searching for people chatting about our subject areas. At this time, Twitter provides a little over a third of our total traffic. And from our statistics, I can say that is a growth of more than a third overall. Twitter is enabling us to reach new friends that have not found our content through LinkedIn. In fact, thanks to using TweetDeck to improve my productivity, last week was produced our highest traffic so far. The remaining referrals we get come from cross posts – conversations – on other blogs in the general community. Search referrals provide almost no traffic. In other words – if we were writing a pure PR blog and waiting for search engines to deliver readers, we’d still be talking to ourselves.

Let’s take this another step. What if we had a SaaS product and built aspects of social marketing right into the feature set? Not passively – not hanging on because it is “so Web 2.0.” I mean using the concepts of social media to build a community that we as a product owner would proactively participate in to build relationships. On its face, this idea isn’t a lot different than the car dealer who participates in local schools, giving to team sports and supporting the community while being with his own kids. But the Internet gives a lot more ways to interact in our community while still not “blasting” our message in negative ways. If we were getting similar results to my little personal experiment, we would be getting virtually all our prospects from social media.

However, just like participating in local schools is a little hard to value for the car dealer, the value of crowds on the Internet is not just a numbers game. Does the Twitter user who has several thousand “followers” get the same value out of them as I do my much smaller group? It is hard to say, but if the followers are not gaining value from the association, probably not. In the end, the value of the crowd is not in pure numbers. It exists only if a community of value between members emerges at some point. Making that happen is actual work – it doesn’t come out of the blue and there are no magic formulas. But, if you add social marketing to all the traditional marketing tools, it can become a very powerful engine for targeted marketing that is of value to your business and your customers.

Useful? Copy, Paste and Tweet It!

Social Marketing: The Value of Crowds http://bit.ly/4jgpQc

  3 Responses to “Social Marketing: The Value of Crowds”

  1. Michael I enjoyed your post. I am new to this social networking world and you have captured some very important lessons here. I am very familiar with social marketing and you have linked the two nicely in this post. I appreciate it. Also, it is refreshing to see that you have not been doing this long as most people seem so far ahead of me… it is a little intimidating. You have inspired me to keep learning.

  2. Message services and social network are tools that works far better for me in building my career with regards to finding new career opportunities. With the way that Monster and Career Builder works one can spend more labor hours working on resumes for jobs than on building human relationships. Career resumes sites are nothing more than digital paper sites and the chances of landing a job opportunity is only about 5%. Monster is a terrible means to meet hiring managers or recruiters.

  3. Good article. Adding value is something I’ve been trying to get others to understand for a while now. And yes, TweetDeck is a great tool for monitoring Twitter. I’ve come across more than a few work opportunities in only a couple weeks using it.

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