Traditional companies have been very slow to embrace social media. In fact it seems that some are downright scared to death of it. Sites like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, even Twitter continue to grow in popularity as well as usage and yet the willingness of many companies to jump on board is to say the least – apathetic. One of the most common fears seems to be the lack of control a business has once they step into that social media space.
Jennifer Laycock writes about her recent experience at a High Rankings Seminar in Denver where she listened to opinions on social media from conference attendees. One attendee who was obviously struggling on whether to embrace social media or not asked the question, “What if they say something bad about us?” to which Jennifer replied, “They’re going to say something bad about you anyway. By entering the social media realm, at least you have a chance to respond.”
She also brings up the following thought:
You may be avoiding social media because you, or your CEO is afraid of the bad things you might hear. You may think that if you continue to control the lines of communication by simply speaking at your customers, you can ignore the negative comments…but you need to ask yourself what the cost of ignoring those comments will be.
The fact that consumers use the Internet to either give a company props or negative feedback is not going away. In light of this, companies need to put aside their fears of social media and embrace it, not only to respond when negative comments occur, but to realize the many benefits social media can bring.
Increased Link Popularity
It is no secret that most web sites need a combination of good SEO strategy and external links pointing at them in order to experience great visibility in the organic search results of search engines. What companies may be missing is that many social media type web sites will allow you to set up a link or even multiple links to your site. This in turn can not only help increase your site’s link popularity, but drive traffic as well.
For example if you look at the MySpace profile we have set up for SearchRank, you will see not only a link to the main site but anchor text rich links to the services pages as well. We have done the same thing with our profiles at Squidoo and LinkedIn.
Barry Schwartz recently posted some interesting information on how you can insert hyperlinks within the descriptions of your photos at Flickr. This is not only useful as a clean html link from a quality site but could drive actual traffic to your site as well.
The bottom line is that sites need links and most social media sites provide the opportunity to link back to your site, some once while others, multiple times and all of this with no cost with the exception of your time.
Driving Actual Traffic
Depending on the actual industry you are in, social media sites can drive real traffic your way. For example, bloggers are using sites such as MyBlogLog, BUMPzee and Twitter that include a community aspect to them to draw attention to their posts and as such attract visits. Get something newsworthy listed on the main pages of social bookmarking sites like Digg, Netscape or Reddit and get ready for a hug spike in traffic. Even sites like MySpace are no longer solely being used by entertainment personalities and companies. Some of the major “non-entertainment” companies that are using MySpace to drive traffic include Starbucks, PF Changs, Nike, Jack in the Box, Aquafina, Honda, and even presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama.
Cameron Olthuis put out an excellent post recently on how to build an audience on MySpace. Tips include finding groups that are relevant to your business and start befriending the people who are members of these groups, participate in MySpace forums, find like-minded users, promote your MySpace profile elsewhere such as a link on your own web site, and don’t forget to optimize your profile for search so that is people happen to be looking for your company on MySpace, they can easily find it.
The opportunities go on and on. Remember that lots of people are using these social media sites. That means there is opportunity to attract some of that traffic your way. Therefore seek out creative ways to benefit from the traffic that a MySpace or other social media site can send your way.
If you do nothing else with social media at this point, you should at least be concerned with securing your brand. Most social media sites allow one to set up a profile in which case they have their own unique URL. Here are some examples of our own:
Notice the “SearchRank” after the main URL? Once we set that up, it belongs to us. No one else can have it. Unfortunately many large companies have already missed the boat on securing their brand in this manner.
You would think that you could easily find Outback Steakhouse for example on MySpace by going to the URL – http://www.myspace.com/outback. However, you will find instead a gal named Roxanne whose latest blog entry (at the time of this writing) is “Who Wants to F@#$ Me?” Ouch! Let’s try another one. NASCAR fans, how about http://www.myspace.com/nascar. I’m sure we will find a mini NASCAR site on MySpace right? No, rather you will a mostly barren page of a user who goes by Citric Savage.
If you are a company of any size, your brand is most likely already taken by someone else. That is why it is imperitive for smaller companies and larger ones lucky enough to still have their brands available, to snatch them up as quickly as possible. Even if you do nothing else right now but sit on them, at least you have them in case you plan to use them in the future. I wrote further on this subject back in January in a post entitled, “Securing Your Brand on Social Networking Sites.”
Fear Produces Missed Opportunities
Just as companies quickly discovered in the nineties that the Internet was not going to go away, the same is true of social media now. Creative marketing people will look for ways to embrace it and utilize it to their benefit. Companies that do will go from simply talking “to” their customers to having a conversation “with” their customers which can go a long way in establishing favor and building loyalty to your brand.