Many companies and marketing communications professionals are thinking about social media. But starting a blog seems daunting. If you're among them, I'm certain you've considered who's going to write consistently, who will moderate comments, how closely you will need to watch to see if anyone comes, and you probably also worry that nobody will come at all.
Blogging doesn't need to happen on blogs alone.
In fact, increasingly, social media is showing us that it's very possible to do something that budget cuts and lack of feedback loops have taken away from marketing's arsenal. Something that is so valuable because it provides context and can yield scale. That something is integration.
Take a look at any number of social media tools and you will see that the moment when they really took off was the very same moment when they integrated with other tools. Integration has been as valuable a feature (and benefit to users) as comments, threads, @replies, questions and answers.
When LinkedIn introduced questions and answers, it gave people the ability to interact more easily with each other without needing to be connected directly. That expanded the pool of potential networking opportunities exponentially.
Within the span of a couple of months, the membership grew by more than 300%. Then LinkedIn went ahead and introduced another integration - that of applications. Now you can syndicate your blog posts, post your slides from SlideShare and share your reading list from Amazon all in one place.
Today this network has more than 41MM members. Can you blog on LinkedIn? Absolutely. We'll learn how in a moment.
On Twitter it was users who started the @ replies as well as the # hashtags. The result was that now people could begin to track conversations even if they were not present at the very moment that a message was sent their way. This social network grew exponentially once people started meeting and chatting with each other.
Even in the short time that I've been on Twitter (since October 2007) it's amazing how much this tool has matured. Less fail whales, more people. Another tipping point was the integration of talk and then use of the tool by main stream media. For the first time we saw how a person could become more syndicated or followed than a media network.
Do you use Delicious at all? After reading this post you might consider giving it a try. From the site,
Delicious is a social bookmarking service that allows users to tag, save, manage and share web pages from a centralized source. With emphasis on the power of the community, Delicious greatly improves how people discover, remember and share on the Internet.
The keywords here are sharing, tags, and centralized page. Because Delicious allows you to store information, catalogue it, and comment on it, it will come in handy if you're planning to be a librarian for a certain topic. Does this give you ideas yet? We'll use a different word a little later.
We're not done, yet. Although SlideShare just crossed the 1M user mark last December, it may still come in handy. We said earlier that you can now showcase your presentations on your LinkedIn profile when you use the application to do that. How about integration with your own Web site?
Did you know that you can comment on, bookmark and share presentations from the site? Would that be important in an integrated marketing communications strategy? You bet.
I'm going to stop here, we can pick up other tools and talk about their growth and your opportunities in a separate post (or more than one).
Participation is content
I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Participation is content because it is what will activate your content in the context of the conversation. Remember when you worried about nobody coming to your blog? It's the same with content in other places - you've got to interact to activate it.
Before you go ahead and start using these tools, ask yourself two questions:
- Where are your customers and why are they there? (i.e., personal vs. professional) – as a first step, I recommend analyzing that.
- Where are influencers or professionals who could be talking with our customers (i.e., analysts, trade bloggers, media, consultants in the space, etc.). Peer-to-peer recommendations and online conversations are affecting how people make decisions and buy. I recommend analyzing this, too.
To increase the effectiveness of your activities, you need to integrate three basic components – research / intelligence, content development, and measurement. Remember that relationships are key in social media, so you will need to expand your thinking to direct and indirect links.
Blogging without a blog
What does blogging without a blog look like on some of these tools? Keep in the back of your mind that all of this information is available to search - every single one of your digital words can be searched and retrieved, so handle with care.
This is not meant to be a full list, if this type of post interest you, I have much more where this is coming from. To get your feet wet, you might try a few activities.
Ideas for LinkedIn -
- ask great questions
- be generous in answering questions
- fine tune your profile, look at keywords, descriptions, recommendations
- give recommendations
- join or start a group
- update your status message, at a minimum
If you're a consultant or are seeking new career opportunities these small steps might be the most important ones you can take.
Ideas for Twitter -
- join or start and moderate a valuable # hashtag chat (#CmtyChat, #socialmedia)
- update the network on something valuable, for example tax tips during tax season (@HRBlock)
- use it as an extension of your customer service team (@Comcastcares and now @cz Verizon)
- give visibility to your company by letting some key people share information about their work (Zappos)
- run contests and fun activities (@natgeochannel)
If you think that you cannot have a content marketing strategy with outcomes on Twitter, think again. There's a whole lot you can learn even if you just share other people's content.
Ideas for Delicious -
- differentiate your content by using consistent tags
- post links and descriptions to your content
- comment on articles by adding a tag (maximum of 255 words)
- save industry news in a specific category to one page
With some research and a little bit of work and care, you might just be headed towards becoming a thought leader in a specific category or topic that people then choose to syndicate in other places.
Ideas for SlideShare -
- create short and very visual decks to go with your press releases or articles
- use small slide decks as an invitation to participate to an event
- search for an find other, like-minded companies or individuals and comment on their slides
- synchronize audio to visuals for a follow up deck after an event
These are low tech ideas to extend and anticipate events so that the people who cannot attend may still get a taste of the content. They are also useful reminders for those who participated. You can still provide deeper content for conversion.
You can see probably better how all of these tools are easily integrated into one strategy. Whether you support marketing or public relations, these are ways to create content in social media or as I wrote up top to blog, without blogging. In the back of your mind, I'm sure you also held dear your SEO strategy and that these are all micro interactions that will allow you to develop relationships over time.
One last thing, but not least. If you think that comments are not marketing, think again. Read this post by Shannon Paul on comment marketing for beginners.
Next time we will go a little bit deeper into one or two of these tools. Does this make sense? What questions do you have? Have you tried some of these suggestions? What worked, what could you do better?