With the explosion of social media in so many different forms, many marketers, retailers and website owners are scratching their heads wondering "when do I consider Social Media?". Many advocates and evangelists would tell you to jump in, right now, both feet with out looking. "Come on in the water's great!"

I'm a huge advocate of social media, but I'm here to tell you, test the waters before you jump right in. That water could be a lot colder than you think and cause a shock to your system! So enough with the metaphors, you're probably wondering "OK when is it good for me to try Social Media?"

Because there are so many different types of social media, there's really not one answer that covers everyone. Social media really depends on knowing your audience and knowing if your website is ready for the possibility of huge traffic coming from it. Have you run any PPC campaigns with horrid results? Is your website poorly optimized? How's the usability aspect of your website, do your visitors leave right away because they can't find what they need? All of these aspects can affect when and just what kind of social media to become involved with.

What's the purpose of your online marketing strategy? Is it to convert visitors, is it to gain links to your site or is it to create brand awareness? There's probably a few more reasons to the purpose of an online marketing campaign, but usually it's one of those three.

If you are looking to spread the word in a really quick way and your website could handle the possibility of an onslaught of traffic in a short amount of time, then it's likely now is the time you'd want to look at utilizing social news. Social news can create a lot of traffic in a short period of time. If you're a content site that generates news, photos, videos, etc. and you don't rely on transactions and you have a great story to share, look at utilizing Digg, NewsVine, Reddit, or Netscape.

If you are looking at an alternate form of reaching a highly targeted audience to buy your products, then it's time to looking into social communities. Social communities can take on several forms, one example would be social networks like MySpace, Facebook and several hundred other types defined by language or interest. Another example would be forums that specialize in the types of products you sell, however you must take caution and follow their terms of service before approaching them.

Finally if you are looking to generate buzz in a slower, more controlled way look at approaching bloggers individually within your market space. Follow WOMMA's ethics guidelines and this can guide you in a successful campaign to promote your new products, brands or services. The key is to know your audience and to contact receptive bloggers and encourage transparency. Don't expect them to blog, but be thankful if & when they do!

Social media is it's own science. There's no hard or fast rules, but it does require you to have an in-depth knowledge of your audience and what your web site can handle. Don't be afraid to dabble, just stick your foot in to test the waters first!
June 29, 2007

Liana "Li" Evans is the director of internet marketing at KeyRelevance Search Engine Marketing. She oversees all social media, online PR and word-of-mouth marketing efforts for a variety of clients within the company’s portfolio. Li also collaborates with the team on all SEO (Natural Search) optimization for clients. Since 1999 Liana has been active in the search marketing arena, becoming well versed in all avenues of search marketing but with particular focus on natural search, image search, and social media. She also has substantial experience in areas of the retail industry regulated by the FTC. Prior to Li’s tenure at KeyRelevance Search Engine Marketing, she helped to design, plan, and implement an Internet Retailer 500 company’s efforts into natural search optimization, successfully revamping outdated navigation and site architecture. Li is an accomplished programmer and database programmer/designer familiar with the demands of large-scale, dynamic retail sites.

Liana holds a B.A. in Information Systems with a minor in Public Relations from Susquehanna University, and an Associates Degree in Mass Communications/Public Relations from Pennsylvania College of Technology. She currently lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Limerick, PA and runs the search marketing blog Search Marketing Gurus.

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