Getting Past The Social Media Hype

Courtesy of butler.melvin

This article first appeared in Marketing magazine in February 2008. I thought it would be useful to share it with you here. And yes, I am back to blogging again after a super long hiatus!

By now, every publicist worth his or her salt would have heard of the wonders of new media. Anything imbued with the word 2.0, social media, conversational marketing, blogosphere or peer-to-peer is laden with the Midas touch. Want to access the 80 million blogs around the world?

Just put up something within the next two hours on Blogger, Wordpress or Movable Type. Presto! Your blog ranking will hit Technorati's top 100, and a gazillion citizen journalists will hungrily chew over every sacred word issued from your online altar, propelling you to instant worldwide fame.

Yeah right. If only it is this easy.

After dabbling in various social media platforms for close to three years, I learnt certain principles needed to thrive (or at least survive) in this space.

First, grow your grassroot groups by adopting a bottoms-up approach. A-list bloggers and blogeratis (blog celebrities) have huge readerships. However, are they the right target audiences for your corporate messages? It may be more prudent to cultivate your own niche community of raving fans who are users that endorse your products and services.

Second, do not fire your PR folks. While social media is largely dependent on the efforts of individuals in cultivating bloggers, there is still a huge role for mainstream media. Newspapers, TV, radio and magazines still capture a vast amount of eyeballs and audiences.

Third, be religiously regular in posting content but don't kill yourself. The online race is a marathon - not a 100 metre sprint! If you are starting a blog, publish posts on a regular basis which your readers are comfortable with. If you are putting up podcasts, ensure that you are able to pipe in compelling content that listeners can appreciate and enjoy. Silence isn't golden in cyberspace.

Fourth, establish yourself and your company as a thought leader. Blogging, podcasting or videocasting gives one an incredible opportunity to showcase intellectual prowess in the subject matter while gaining fans. Credibility is important so show your stripes in social media spaces.

Fifth, complement your online marcom strategies with offline ones. I am a firm believer that branding and integrated marketing communications should apply in the social media universe. Of course, it doesn't mean that you have to slap your logo everywhere or embrace the same colour scheme throughout. What it does mean though is that your approach to engaging bloggers should be consistent with your brand values.

Sixth, get your hands dirty, roll up your sleeves, engage in online conversations and blog away. The best way to understand the new digital domain is to become one of them. Mingle freely way before delivering your first "key message". It is back to Relationships 101 all over again.

Finally, be realistic about what you can or cannot achieve in the new media arena. There are certain topics and subjects that just won't cut it online, regardless of the amount of cultivation/friendship/bribery that you have done. Be happy with little successes in the initial stages and build on to bigger and better things in time to come.

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