This session started off as Social Media Marketing, but Jenn changed the name to Social Media Conversation. Don't get in a panic about this "new thing" -- all that social media is, is new technology facilitating the same thing we've been doing all along -- talking to one another.

What makes it different?

Changes instantly. Unlike traditional media, changes happen immediately, not archived.

It's interactive. People can talk back to you and connect with you.

Popularity is transparent. In traditional media, you don't really know who read your article. You get more information about your readers from analytics and logs online.

Mixed media. Embedded video, audio, images, etc.

Everyone has a voice. Offline: people may complain to their friends, but that's about as far as it can go. Online: you may find your bad customer service story printed out on a blog that has two million readers.

How are people using social media?

Research report on what people trust most: #1: recommendations from consumers. #4: consumer opinions posted online. These are social media.

Customer reviews are social media. For instance, reader reviews are social media. Anything that allows real customers to review/feedback, that isn't controlled by the vendor's marketing department, is social media.

Breakdown of Social Media Users

According to Forrester Research:

13% are creators: writing/posting original content

19% are critics: those leaving reviews, comments. 40% of critics are also creators.

15% are collectors: those who have RSS feeds, read what creators and critics write and maybe tag it to or stumbleupon or whatever. Collectors skew 60/40 male. Tend to have higher income.

19% are joiners: FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. Generally the youngest group.

33% are spectators: read, but don't subscribe. They observe, watch and read. Don't write these people off -- they may be the one who reads what you wrote, or reads your comment and then runs out and buys. Tend to be women, tend to be lower income.

52% don't participate.

Creators, critics, collectors are all equally likely to engage in word of mouth.

When Does Social Media Work?

When you align your product/service and the demographic of the social media site/activity. You need to know your audience and where they hang out. For instance, YouTube is great, but it may not work for you if your audience isn't using YouTube.

Warning: don't fake it. Example: Sony PSP and Charlie and Jeremy and the PSP blog. The blog was supposedly a guy named Charlie trying to get his friend Jeremy's parents to buy Jeremy a PSP for Christmas. But it was built by Sony's marketing agency and was totally phony. Didn't go over well at all. Blog got pulled, Zipatoni (the agency) got huge negative press, Sony ended up looking bad.

Another time SM won't work: when you target the wrong audience. You need to find out where your customers are and go there, not try to force your way in where your audience is not. Jenn gave an example of a high-end baby stroller: don't market on Digg. There's lots of traffic, but most of it is younger single guys without kids. Rather, target sites that cater to affluent moms.


Often underutilized resource: Flickr. Relatively few people are effectively marketing using Flickr. Pictures make your message stand out. You need to get into Flickr, explore, learn how it works. Post pictures. Anything visual you can do is great. Flickr is default search engine for Technorati for images. Yahoo pulls a ton of images off Flickr for their image search.

What people sometimes overlook: Flickr isn't just a place to store your photos, it's also an engaged community, with active discussions. People who upload photos to Flickr are really interested in the subjects of their photos. Establish yourself as an expert by giving good information and participating in the conversation. Great way to meet your audience.

Flickr also offers links that deliver traffic. Jennifer's bento blog had all search engines blocked as an experiment in building traffic without the SEs. She would post pictures to Flickr with links to the blog -- for instance, "for directions on how to make this item, visit the blog".

Reasons to love Flickr

Email pics straight from your camera phone

Join or create topics (especially for events)

Publish from Flicker to most blogs

Take advantage of privacy options (allows you to post personal pictures for family only versus public photos)

Flickr has RSS feeds

Pro accounts are only $25 a year (unlimited uploads - use it for all your blog photos to avoid running up bandwidth on your blog hosting account)

Subscribe to comments on your pics (so you can easily respond)


Twitter is networking made simple. It's like walking through a high school cafeteria, listening to all the conversations, and getting to decide which one(s) you want to join in on. It's acceptable to join in on "overheard" conversations. It can be a great way to meet/talk to people you want to approach.

Start by following your friends. Then, you can follow your friend's friends (or at least the ones that seem to be interesting). Once you start to see conversations taking place, you can see who others are talking to, and start to follow them. Others may see you talking to others and start to follow you, as well. You can grow your network relatively quickly this way.

Twitter is also a news source. Example of the wildfires in San Diego awhile back. PBS station in the area was running a Twitter feed of the latest news. Via SMS, you could get updates on your phone and even people away from the area / on the road, trying to get back to the area, could find out what was going on back at their homes at the time.

Jennifer wrote a five-part article series on Search Engine Guide about how to use Twitter, and why you'd want to. Excellent resource for those who want to know more.

The power of the re-tweet: you sent out a tweet, those who like what you sent can re-tweet to their connections and so forth. Twitter can scoop the traditional news channels for breaking news thanks to the power of re-tweeting.

Jennifer gives example of meeting someone at a conference via Twitter. They were following each other but had never met in person. Twitter is "acceptable eavesdropping."


YouTube can be great for marketing. Example of Blendtec "Will It Blend?" videos. Nothing fancy, but they'll try to blend almost anything. Incredible word of mouth, real cult thing. People are now approaching Blendtec to blend their products when they're ready to launch. Their first five videos cost them a total of $100. Not each -- in total. Online sales have quadrupled as a result of this (and these are expensive blenders).

Reasons to love YouTube

Free hosting (don't use your bandwidth when you can use theirs)

Cut and paste code to put video anywhere

Choose your account style

Set up your own channel, folks can subscribe

Tag and categorize your video

They offer stats on your visitors

Social Networks

Social networking (such as FaceBook, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc.) may work for you if your target demographic is there. Good for getting to know people, probably better for background insight than for direct marketing. If you're trying to get to know someone, LinkedIn is good to meet them through friends of friends networking.

Social Bookmarking

Things like, Small Business Brief, Mixx, Sk*rt, Hugg, etc.: good way to share bookmarks with other people. Search Engine Guide people use it as a group bookmarking resource. Can also drive traffic from people who search on these sites.

Look for Common Craft for videos that explain all about how to use Social bookmarking sites.


Podcasting is a social media launch point. You come up with an idea, create a podcast and it gets out there.


Forums are often overlooked as social media nowadays, but they're great. There are forums on almost any topic you can think of. Excellent way to get involved in the conversation, share your expertise. People recognize and respect the experts. Here's a place for you to establish your reputation and identity as a knowledgeable person.

Making It Work

Reno 911: created a MySpace page with badge download. Two winners would appear on the show. Almost 34,000 people "friended" the site.

Toyota Scion: Second Life members can drive virtual Scions. They set up an account on that allowed customers to trick out their Scion. Generated a lot of interest and also gave Toyota massive amounts of information about their customers' preferences.

In general, encourage customer reviews. Give your customers a direct link to a review site. Make it explicit because people will forget.

Audience suggestion --

Problem with Social Media

Individually smart peole can act pretty dumb when the mob mentality takes over. It's a good idea to have a grasp of the basics of reputation management and crisis response before you jump into actively marketing via social media.

Jennifer gave the example of what happened with her BentoYum website. First reaction: I'm sunk. Second reaction: Get really mad. Neither of those was the right thing to do. Instead she admitted her mistake, corrected any errors and tried to not take it personally. After people had time to think about it, they came around.

It's always a good idea to take the high road. There's actually a snark community online where they post about people being mean online. You don't want to be singled out as being snarky and mean.

It's as important to respond well to a nice comment as it is to respond well to a bad comment. Example of Whole Foods sending a gift basket to say thank you to a blogger who posted a nice article about them, got them a second great post. Another example: Jenn wrote an article about the Moxie gift shop. She got a handwritten thank you note from them for shopping with them. She wrote a blog post about it, which led to increased newsletter subscribers and sales for them.

It's these kinds of little things that humanize your company and change people's perspective about you.

Don't worry about people saying bad things about you. They may already be saying bad things -- what social media lets you do is actually find out what they're saying, and join in the conversation.

How to know what people are saying? Technorati, Google Alerts.

Single Most Important Thing

Be ready to act.

You may decide you don't want to do it now, but you need to be ready to leverage it in an emergency.

Example: Jenn's experience with The Lactivist and the Pork Board. According to Jenn, this was a "match made in social media heaven": a David vs. Goliath story, work and home breastfeeding mom against a big corporate entity.

You have to be ready to mobilize your base. This is why it's important to build those networks now. She wrote a blog post about the situation, including a call to action asking her readers to spread the word as far and wide as they can. She gave them one-click access to all the social media sites she could think of. She also emailed 11 search marketers and 10 mommy bloggers.

She made a list of all the people who had linked to her, including a link back to each of them, which in turn generated more links because people wanted the link.

Within a day, she had a pro bono lawyer working on her side and the Electronic Frontier Foundation volunteering to help. She started getting emails from the Pork Board wanting to talk to her -- she directed them to her lawyer. The first thing they said to the lawyer was "How do we make this stop?"

They were reasonable -- all we want is an apology and drop the threats. The Pork Board not only did that, but made a donation to the charity The Lactivist site is supporting. Jenn followed up with another post encouraging people to spread the word that they'd done the right thing in the end.

Result for her blog: traffic spike, branding spike, topical blog spike, and a 700% spike in sales (which lasted for a month or two after the end of the controversy), increase in readership and participation in the community.

Most of the traffic that came from the social bookmarking sites didn't stick around as long as the traffic that came from blog links. (Exception: StumbleUpon traffic seems to be pretty good overall.) Those blog links are excellent to have, which is why it's important to build that network.

The Value Triangle

At the bottom: Social News

Middle: topical search

Top: Blogs and articles

Context increases as you move from bottom to top.

Competition for attention decreases as you move from bottom to top.

So blog and article links have relatively little competition from other links, and high context, which is what makes them more valuable.

April 21, 2008

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Search Engine Guide > Diane Aull > Unleashed Session: Social Media Conversations