Going Web 2.0: actionable advice for marketers

Call it “social networking” or “social search” or “Web 2.0.” Whatever you call it, the bottom line is that it’s all about the influence of online communities on your brands, products or services.

Given the power of this medium, marketers need guidance on moving forward. To succeed in this space, there are certain rules you need to be aware of and follow carefully.

Below is some advice derived from a recent study on social networks sponsored by iProspect and conducted by JupiterResearch.

Identify the community Social-networking sites have communities of users who frequently visit them, read the latest user-generated content and perhaps add some content of their own in the form of comments, tags or rankings. To assess a site’s viability as a marketing channel, marketers should explore each social-networking site individually to gain a sense of the unique traits, temperament, likes, dislikes and culture of its community of users.

Once you have a sense of the community’s profile, determine how closely it matches the profile of the prospects targeted by your other marketing efforts.

Learn the code of conduct Also unique to each site’s community is its attitude toward and tolerance of brand/product participation within their community. Some social networking sites allow the placement of display, search or contextual ads on the site; others don’t. Some allow the posting of links to commercial Web sites within their user-generated content; some don’t. Some closely monitor their site for anything that smacks of self-promotional content; others are less strict. Before deciding on how you will participate, spend enough time on the site to gain and understanding of what is and isn’t tolerated by its community.

Once you understand the code of conduct, it’s safe to proceed.

Embrace the good with the bad Somewhere on the Internet, someone has undoubtedly posted something negative about or your brand, product or service. When this happens on a Web site that allows you to engage in a dialogue with its community, it provides a great opportunity for you to redress the issue and to make a positive impression upon that community without being at all commercial or even self-promotional. Just be sure to identify yourself as a representative of your company (honesty and transparency are key), acknowledge the criticism and respond without being defensive. Also clearly explain the steps that are being taken, or what facts exist, to remedy the object of the negative content.

Finally — it should go without saying — make sure you follow through on any of the actions that you promised.

Or else you’ll pay the consequences. That may include the community reacting even more negatively.

These are some of the important first steps to successful social marketing.

Follow them, and you’ll be off to a good start.

You’ll find this new medium to be powerful indeed.

Robert Murray is president of iProspect,Watertown, MA. Reach him at [email protected].

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