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Once upon a time the worldwide web was a place of static content that was in the control of the author/publisher. The audience was a passive recipient. Revolutionary as the Web was it still shared one important characteristic with "old media,” and sites were still a one-way road. This phase of the Web is referred to as Web 1.0.
“Web 2.0” is characterized by web content and services which are collaborative and shared among groups of writers, and which reflect the individual interests and preferences of the user. These include blog sites such as Wordpress and Typepad, “micro blogs” such as Twitter, social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Ning, social book-marking sites such as Delicious and Google Bookmarks, video and photo sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr, and collaborative websites such as Wikipedia and Open Directory. Today it is relatively easy to build a page that is a “mash-up” of freely shared content from all of the above sources, and can include embedded video, tweets, blog posts, stock reports, user comments, popular search terms and the like.
This latest wave of online activity, which is also called social media, has striking characteristics. For example, social networks of like-minded people tend to form organically. They read and comment on each other’s blogs, follow Tweets, collaborate on Wikis, share bookmarks, and re-purpose each other’s content for their own sites. Content is king. People are looking for excellent online content on every imaginable subject of interest, and in every available form. Old media giants, corporations, universities, libraries, indeed even governments no longer control the dialog. At best, they can try to insert themselves into a dialog that has already gotten underway without them.
Businesses, nonprofits, and advocacy groups need to become a trusted and authoritative source of information to their online markets, constituencies, interest groups and fans. In this way you build trust, and others will reciprocate in turn by following your blog, viewing your videos, and following your “tweets.” By inserting yourself into others’ conversations, you can win attention for your own website, issues, or products. You must go in search of like-minded individuals and organizations, as represented by their blogs, Facebook pages, Flicker pools, and Twitter feeds. Read or watch what they’re discussing and add your own contribution, which should reflect your genuine understanding and appreciation of what they are doing. The social networking world is highly alert to crass marketing come-ons of every stripe, so the contributions must be on-topic, relevant, and a genuine attempt to engage in a two-way conversation with their network by sharing useful information.
While solid evidence of a “payoff” for all of this is scarce, in one recent study it was found that a small group of companies with the highest social media activity increased their revenue in the last 12 months, while least-active companies in the same industries saw a 6 percent drop.
Where should you begin?
Familiarize yourself with what others are doing, and leave comments. Go to Google’s Blogsearch and search for recent blog entries on your topic. You should be able to find some good articles, and they will usually have a comment box at the bottom, as well as a place for “Your URL”. Bingo! You are doing social media marketing.
You can also set up Blogsearch to send you daily or weekly emails with the latest search results from your chosen keywords, so you can stay up to the minute on what’s being said today about your subject out there in the blogosphere.
Author: Sam Florio