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Social Media Marketing Tactics & Resources

This column is written by social media expert Lee Odden, who gives us direction on what trends, sites and resources are worth your time and attention. Lee writes one of the more popular Internet marketing blogs - the Online Marketing Blog - which is well worth your time.
He is CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a Minneapolis-based Internet marketing agency that specializes in helping companies increase website traffic, sales and brand visibility through a holistic mix of search marketing, online public relations and social media. -Larry Chase

With the sheer volume of information sources both online and offline on the topic of social media, it can be difficult for marketers to separate the signal from the noise.

Navigating a sea of strangely spelled site names including, FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious and Technorati can be overwhelming. Talk to most social media experts and you'll undoubtedly be confronted with terms like "conversation", "transparency" and "the social graph". What does it all mean?

In the spirit of the social media topic, I thought I'd make this article a bit social and ask some of the top social media marketing and PR experts on the web about their favorite social media strategies, tactics and resources plus include a few of my own.

1. Social media is characterized by a set of common actions such as creating a profile, growing a network of "friends", submitting, voting and commenting on content.

Consumer information consumption and sharing trends should motivate content publishers to make it easy for readers to interact in this way. With over 100 million blogs being tracked by Technorati, there's a tremendous audience looking for ways to stand out. Your providing widgets or tools for blogs to do so can attract links, traffic and facilitate social interaction.

For example, TopRankBlog.com offers a social bookmarks tool for blogs to make it easy for their readers to bookmark, share or submit blog posts to social news and bookmarking sites. This tool is in use by over 60,000 blogs that link back to it.

The RSS buttons tool that makes it easier for blog readers to subscribe using their favorite reader has attracted over 400,000 links to TopRank's Blog.

2. Social media guru Neil Patel of ACS and the Pronet Advertising social media blog offers sage advice for blog owners who do hit the jackpot and have content that goes hot.

"If you happen to get lucky by achieving a front page story on a social news site, hopefully your server stays up. Sites like Reddit and Slashdot can drive a lot of traffic and links, but if your site can't stay up you will not see any of those links. Maxpower explains how you can install and configure WordPress cache, so your site will stay up for social media traffic."

3. Social media consultant Muhammad Saleem writes about and practices social media marketing extensively and has put his lessons learned into "The Social Media Manual: Read Before You Play" . It's an excellent primer for any marketer looking at social media marketing as a channel.

4. Public relations and social media expert Brian Solis of FutureWorks documents his thoughts on the future of communications, whether it's integrated marketing or public relations, with a seminal post: "The Social Media Manifesto - Integrating Social Media into Marketing Communications".

5. When it comes to learning about social networking, the place to visit is Mashable, which was founded by Pete Cashmore.

Rohit Bhargava, who is the author of "Personality Not Included" and Senior VP of Digital Strategy & Marketing at Ogilvy (btw, he coined the phrase "social media optimization") agrees: "If you want to keep up to date on the latest in social media news, Mashable needs to be your first stop. It's one of the few resources I try to read daily."

A great example of the useful content you can find at Mashable is this collection of "15 Free Social Media White Papers and Ebooks" that includes papers from Carnegie Mellon, American Express and social media consultant Chris Brogan.

6. The new book "Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies" by Forrester Analysts Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, discusses how the trend of people connecting with and depending on each other online is clearly accelerating. It includes case studies from the likes of Dell, Yahoo! and HP. Rohit Bhargava says, "Forrester analysts Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff are high on my list of bloggers and influential marketing minds worth reading, no matter what they write".

7. Mike Moran chimes in with several online social media resources, including Micropersuasion, written by Steve Rubel. Mike, who is from IBM, is author of "Search Engine Marketing Inc", "Do it Wrong Quickly" and a sought-after speaker on all things digital marketing.

He says, "Steve Rubel (one of the best-known online public relations experts) writes this wide-ranging blog commenting on public relations and social media based on technological change."

He also recommends Scobleizer, saying: "Text and video blogger Robert Scoble is on the cutting edge of social media and new Internet marketing techniques."

8. Jason Falls, a social media explorer and strategist for Ad Agency Doe Anderson, offers up several must-read blogs: ChrisBrogan.com, ConversationAgent.com and SocialMediaToday.com.

He also suggest these books on social media marketing: "Anatomy of Buzz" by Emanuel Rosen, which offers an incredible look at the power of word-of-mouth marketing; and "Citizen Marketers", by Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell, which details the marketing power shift to the consumer. It is rich with case studies.

9. There are many fast-growing, up-and-coming social media promotion channels and one that stands out is microblogging platform Twitter. Accessible by phone or through the Web, this "many to many" ongoing conversation between connections is often compared to a dinner party that never stops. Peek in to see what your peers are saying or post questions to a difficult, but succinct (140 characters) problem.

Despite the posts about delayed flights and what's for dinner, Twitter's real value is a steady stream of what's on the minds of people you're interested in. In a recent poll at the Online Marketing Blog, readers indicated that the top 3 reasons for using Twitter were a place to share links of interest, networking and reinforcing current network contacts.

As a social networking and communications tool, Twitter keeps you top of mind with your social community and also offers short and productive information sharing.

10. To monitor measure the effect of your social media marketing and promotions, you can use a variety of individual services like Google Alerts, RSS feed subscriptions search results and forum tracking software. Or you could use one of several smart systems that not only pull in all the data from the blogosphere, forums and social media sharing sites, but also that rank content sources.

For example, Radian6 assigns influence scores to each blog it tracks to give marketers a better idea of which blogs are better to advertise on or pitch stories to. Other social media measurement tools include BuzzLogic, Collective Intellect, Trackur and Serph.

11. Our final resources/tips on monitoring social media come from another Forrester analyst, Jeremiah Owyang, who provides consistently insightful and useful observations, best practices and actionable how to's on the Web Strategist Blog. Jeremiah recommends setting up customized Google alerts to track topics of interest, watching leading headlines on Techmeme.com and parsing conversations both on Twitter.com and on your blog reader.

Has social media marketing found a seat at the big table in most organizations? Not directly. Corporations are folding social media marketing tactics into their search marketing, public relations and new media efforts, for sure. However, you won't see a VP of Social Media with his or her own cost center and headcount in the near future.

The lack of standards and measurement mean social media as a marketing channel will need to mature before it becomes a part of mainstream marketing at the same level as PR or interactive. In the meantime, marketers will continue to test the social media waters tactically, refining to see what works and where it fits within an overall marketing program.