Posts Tagged ‘social networking sites’
For those who are still confused by my title, Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 are the various stages the internet has evolved, and how it has affected electronic, email, online or digital marketing (the various terms for marketing on the internet also suggests how technology and its concepts have rapidly changed).
Web 1.0 deals with static websites. These were originally set up to be online brochures, a representative of your business on the internet where people could go to find information.
A space was provided on the web which was filled with an attractive (if applicable) website that hardly changed since its conception, except for a few additional alterations and updates, sparsely accomplished due to cost and reliance on webmasters. The concept was simple, and at first confined to those who could afford it or had access to it.
Web 2.0 deals with interaction. Now there are all sorts of websites that allow their visitors to add their own contributions, that are regularly updated with new information, encourage participation, call to action and regular methods of following or subscribing.
This concept of interaction has been spread to social networking and sharing sites, a phenomenon that has expanded hugely to become almost a part of our daily lives, a requirement to be constantly up-to-dated with what’s going on, become a trend setter or act as an innovator to start off the next big thing.
Then there is the ability to update your website through CMS (content management systems), in whatever format it is in (website, blog, blogsite, forum, status update or whatever), by yourself whenever and wherever you like (on any suitable hardware, software or media), and also by others through leaving comments, feedback, contributions and advice.
Web 3.0 is no longer a concept of the future, it is already here. The use of smart and android phones have commanded a change in internet use. It’s not just that websites have to adapt to be effectively seen on people’s mobiles, but the technology behind them as regards data gathering, customer segmentation and promotional targeting.
Data about consumers are gathered from a myriad of sources: mobile use, payment cards, loyalty cards, telephone voting systems for popular television participation shows, the list is endless. Today’s technology allows marketers much easier access to all sorts of information that would have taken ages and with much higher costs than before.
This is mostly permission based (a requisite much more heavily policed in the States), but unfortunately subjected to technically advanced fraudsters and spammers. Even so, marketers have to find new ways of promoting their products to overcome apathy and avoidance of regular advertising, and technology provides constant answers to beat the increasingly rapid changes of today’s society as it adapts to whatever is thrown at it!
Websites are not the same throughout the world. Apparently in Europe they are mainly what we call ‘static’ websites, online business brochures, somewhere the visitor can confirm a business after a networking experience or a referral. They do not interact with their visitors, and many are on the way to becoming obsolete because they do not compete with the whizz-bang websites from the States.
America has taken on the interactive website by storm. There are so many different kinds of CMS (content management systems) that allow the owners to update the contents themselves without having to rely on a webmaster to do it for them, and also allow the visitors to contribute their comments and ideas to the website with immediate publishing effect.
Blogs are a form of CMS website. They are extremely easy to maintain, and positively encourage visitors to interact with them. Their programming is extremely enticing to search engine spiders, who crawl the internet looking for new material to feast on, and blogs are a plentiful supply of fresh content. They are designed to be updated on a regular basis (from several times a day to once a week), and even the visitors who comment on them are considered to be fresh spider meat.
This constant new content is exaggerated by the social sharing sites (Digg, Mixx, Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc) who rely on computer techies who have nothing better to do than to read tonnes of blogs and share them with their pals. The more interaction you get from these sites, the more visitors, comments, spider interaction and ultimately higher indexing by the search engines. And the sharing concept is continued on ordinary social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), with retweeting and feeding galore, all with a ready supply of new content to spread across the internet.
Static websites do absolutely nothing for the businesses they represent, apart from looking pretty with out-of-date material, and only visited when someone types in their URL and bothers to get past the first page. Blogs and other CMS websites are perfectly tuned towards getting passing search engine traffic, continuously being updated with new stuff that is worthwhile reading, interacting with their readers and social media – actually being a presence on the internet that surpasses their expenditure and actually gets in business without having to try really hard.
Now which one would you prefer to represent you business?
Each one of these social networking sites has its own merits when it comes to business use. They are all individual, have a totally different target audience, and have their own uses within the corporate world.
Facebook: this is an excellent space to promote your brand awareness. In spite of its teenage reputation, it does have the advantage of a being one of the largest sites on the internet, thus giving you a huge potential audience. Springing off the profile page, you can take advantage of the business ‘fan’ pages to provide a visual and interactive medium designed to converse with a local B2C base, using group interaction to give you feedback and more information to further your Facebook functions. Oh yes, you can advertise your business or your product with impunity, and you can feed your blog and Twitter stream to your profile and fanpage to enhance your social networking progress.
LinkedIn: this is a much more serious and professional social networking site, specially designed for business use. Your profile acts like your online CV, providing a trustworthy representation of your working life as you progress through your career. It is not a place to promote your business’s corporate brand, more of somewhere to promote you, a chance to show off your skills and expertise (through the Answers section) and interact with like-minded people in the Groups, where you can start or join in discussions, and paste in links to your blog posts as well. Any corporate activity is purely B2B, with slow activity designed to get leads, keep in touch with colleagues and customers, grow your contact base, and highlight your skills to potential employers or headhunters. You can enhance your profile with appropriate keywords, and there is much less chance of being bothered by spam.
Twitter: this is a hard place to target for business, because it has such a short shelf life. Dealing with real-time networking, Twitter is compiled of quick updates that thrive purely on viral-type networking, sharing ideas and practices that can be linked to elsewhere for more detail, generating a lot of traffic to websites, blogs and other social websites. Its contents restrictions mean you have to be very concise and relevant – long-winded ramblings are not tolerated here, as also are selling and promoting. It is ideal for research purposes, breaking news, trend watching and, most of all, interacting with as many people as you can. The main purpose is to encourage, educate and entertain many followers, promote your own expertise and news by standing out over all the ‘noise’, and above all to have fun!
My verdict? Use them all at the same time, as long as you are aware of each personality, the kind of customer that will be using them, the different audiences that pass through and the varied facilities that are on offer – and increased usage will enhance your online visibility no-end!
Gone are the days when customers came to you. The internet may be compared to a massive shopping-mall, but it is, of course, so huge, there is no way anybody could possibly walk pass your shop (website) unless they knew it was already there.
There are some websites that capitalise on this phenomenon, due to their reputation. They may display a select niche unavailable elsewhere, or provide a service that is second to none. They certainly will have a select following who sing their praises, and word-of-mouth and referrals can be the backbone of a business’s survival.
The alternative, while you are trying to obtain these dizzying heights of recognition, or fine-tune your reputation, would be to increase your visibility. To confirm my first statement, you need to go where your customers are, as well as being very easy to find.
Of course the optimum place would be on the first page on Google (every Search Engine Optimisation provider’s objective), but this is notoriously difficult to achieve. Google positioning is as unpredictable as the British weather. Research into patterns of how visitors use search engines show that many don’t pan below the ‘fold’, the area underneath what is visible, and approximately 80% don’t go further than the first page of their search.
You could spend some money on a pay-per-click campaign (Google Adwords) to achieve your first page position, but bear in mind that only about a third of surfers look at the sponsored ads. And unless you know exactly what you are doing, a huge portion of your marketing budget could be whittled away, especially if you don’t know what your objectives are.
There are alternatives to raising web-visibility. Social networking sites (Facebook is the most visited website online; Twitter is aimed at increased PR and brand awareness; LinkedIn is aimed at professionals and their Answers section could certainly raise your expertise status), blogging (which should act as an interactive hub of your online presence) and YouTube (where adverts are watched far more than on TV, and are searchable for criteria and keywords) should certainly be added into the equation, and form a considerable part of your online-marketing stategy.
So my questions are: what are you doing to bring your online presence to where your customers are? And if so, are you reaching out to the right kind of customer, or are you frequenting the correct social media for your target market? (This sounds like a subject for another post – watch this space…)