Audience growth depends on getting social

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As traditional publishing organizations move toward the Internet as the next phase of growth, success has become dependent on more than just a nice Web site with content resembling a magazine's print components. It is imperative for companies to start investing resources in enhancing their social footprints across the Web to make the desired impact. 

By social footprint, I am referring to their presence on social sites that their audience is visiting and engaged with on a regular basis. Most companies have already begun creating social features within their own Web community, and growth on other sites is the next step for content extensions. 

At VIBE Media Group, we continuously seek opportunities to maximize our content distribution and effectiveness. VIBE.com has cultivated strategic partnerships to further enhance the experience for its site's users and its partner's viewers. Most recently, we have worked with music sites such as Spiral Frog, Musicane and Imeem to create unique co-branded presences on their sites that will offer their visitors the best in urban music selected by VIBE's music editors.

In addition, we continue to leverage our relationships with social networking heavyweights MySpace and Facebook to create widgets and applications to keep our spaces intriguing. For most organizations, the development of these features is not their specialty, so I recommend partnering with one of the experts.  For example, we reached out to Gigya, a leader in widget development, to create a photo gallery widget that displays the current galleries on VIBE.com. Gigya helped us turn this flash application into an interactive widget that alows users to embed it onto their own page and share with friends.   

We have created the opportunity for people to have an identity and interact with the VIBE brand, not only at VIBE.com, but also at all of their favorite sites.   Simplifying access to VIBE content ultimately generates more visibility and recognition as the leader in urban music and culture.

On top of creating strategic relationships, there must be a commitment in resources to create, distribute, and manage the content that is destined for external Web sites. A strong brand has significant power outside of its own Web property and must tap into those resources to maximize its presence to its target market externally. An easy first step is to set up a Twitter account, post regularly, promote it on your platforms, monitor your feedback — and watch your followers grow.

Ross Robbins is the director of digital media for Vibe magazine. Reach him via Pam Workman at pam@jlmpr.com.

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