Each year, more businesses are adopting social media marketing strategies to enhance their traditional, offline marketing efforts.  The overall reach of social networks is impressive, with the combined user base of Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounting for about 1/7 of the world’s entire population.  However, the vast scope of social media has left some business owners concerned about being “lost in the shuffle” and struggling to attain discernable visibility.

One important element to gaining recognition and visibility in the social space and within the SERPs is relevance.  The term “relevance” goes beyond merely generating on-page content and keywords that are in line with a page’s general theme or context.  Researching trends in social media and discovering ways to relate those trends to a brand’s offerings is one of the most effective ways to maximize the value of social media marketing and enhance brand awareness online.

Last week, fellow WebiMax.com Blog contributor and VP of Marketing & Digital Strategy, Todd Bailey, appeared on FOX News to discuss the hot topic of Penn State and how the university can repair its online reputation.  Additionally, he wrote a follow-up blog post and hosted a video News Update further detailing the situation and possible long-term reputation management solutions for PSU.  By relating a trending news topic to one of his areas of expertise, Todd was able to gain considerable visibility for his knowledge of reputation management and its application to a widely known issue.

Creating pertinent content not only positively affects organic search rankings and social engagement, but it is a crucial component of building brand awareness and establishing brand personality.  With the roles of P.R., rich content and social media becoming substantially larger in online marketing initiatives, businesses should expect to see significantly increased value in generating high-quality, original content from trending topics.

What are your thoughts on the role of social trends in Internet marketing?  Let me know!  Email me at brymshaw@webimax.com or follow me on Twitter: @brwebimax.

 

What do you think about when hearing of brands seeking online marketing help?  The Web has been ‘exploding’ for some time now.  Its popularity blindfolds me at times when conjuring images of clients.  I usually think about those with businesses well-footed in the online world.  But that’s not the case for many.  I read an article today about a company having issues stemming from bringing a traditional company online.

It got me thinking about other situations.  Then I started thinking of some brick-and-mortar owners who may not see the need for online marketing at all because the online factor has never really been a topic of discussion for the owners.  We often don’t think about what is not immediately in front of us.

IF storefront owners wanted to engage in some online marketing to connect with more consumers, they could consider:

Mobile SEO
I hear debates amongst many brands regarding the usefulness in creating or optimizing mobile sites.  What should you do?  It depends.  For instance, if a store front offers food and resides within a seasonal-vacation locale, optimizing for smart phone users could make a difference in seasonal revenue production.

Ideally, creating more avenues to find your brand is great; but, not all owners have tons of money to invest, warranting an allocation of resources.  For storefront owners, the question to ask is, “Is my product or service something searched (particularly) via smart phones?”  People will search for places to eat and be entertained via smart phones.  Would they search for a third-party shipping company using their phone?  Perhaps, but it’s probably not as likely as the first scenario.

Social Media
I really like seeing brands use social media; there’s so much potential; however, doing a poor job with handles can introduce the opposite influence.  I’ve had brief discussions with a number of offline brands regarding social media.  A majority of them ‘have heard’ but don’t quite ‘get’ what social media can do for their business.  I understand.  I do online marketing; so, I know social media.  If I was a pizza shop owner, I would know food ingredients.  Offline brands thinking about social media should ask, “Do I have the discipline to address a social media account regularly, constantly striving to make solid connections with followers?”  If not, lay off the task for now.  Otherwise, consider seeking the service of someone who can address the need for you.

Let’s use the pizza shop example.  Hmm…maybe you place an ad by the cash register.  “Follow, order, and keep in touch with us on Twitter! – Get a free pizza.”  Depending on the shop’s setup, you could have people tweeting orders rather than calling.  What’s the difference?  All of their followers see them ordering from you…might that appeal to the stomachs of others?  It just might.

Vlogging
Video blogging has been on my mind recently.  I think it has a lot of potential; it really bridges the personable gap a bit.  Sure, you can’t replicate the experience of engaging someone in person; yet, video blogs tell viewers a lot about the speakers.  Viewers can see body language, facial features, inflection and tone of voice, presenting more of a personality that you can’t always get via textual information.

Many storefront owners are ‘people persons’ by nature or by business necessity.  A lot of SEOs will tell you to put content on a Web site to help with optimization.  That’s true.  Putting content online can also help with people optimization.  If you’re an owner thinking about starting a blog, ask yourself, “Do I feel passionate enough about what I do to share something with viewers (engaging my customers) on an ongoing basis?”  I say don’t worry so much about ‘keywords.’  Concern yourself with expressing your business and brand to the public.  And realize you don’t have to write.  We’re not all writers; yet, most business owners feel somewhat comfortable with speaking publicly.  Vlogging is not like getting up in front of a room of people; you can edit to your liking as much as possible before posting, just a thought…

 

I’m not going to tell you to start a company blog because there are other ways to communicate brand messages and gain online traction.  However, if you do have a company blog, you should concentrate on making it better and providing more value to readers.

It’s easy to say, “Start a blog.”  I know because I’ve suggested such things before; but, there are as many reasons not to blog as there are to blog.  You don’t have to be like anyone else is an immediate suggestion if you do blog.  Don’t chase the style of influencers or popular brands; chances are you won’t find the same ‘magic’ during your trials.  However, you could make the blogging process your own.

Consider the following ‘normal blogging’ alternatives:

Text is boring
I love reading; but, not everyone agrees.  Actually, I bet a lot of people rather view a slide show or watch a video than read lines of text.  Think of your days as a student.  Not many people retain information from a textual once over anyway.  Your blog doesn’t have to be textual at all.  Some people enjoy speaking, opting to share information in that format.  Are you more of a talker than writer?  Begin podcasting your ideas.

Outsource
I’ve ghost written before for other individuals.  I love writing.  Like reading above, there are those who would disagree with my choice of passion.  It’s understood.  If in-house workers are not natural writers, then don’t try to mold them into it; they’re likely to resent the need.  I’d love to see someone attempt to make me into a ‘number cruncher.’  Alternatively, think about outsourcing your writing needs to…a writer, someone who enjoys doing it.  I would suggest limiting the number of them.  I think the more people involved, the less likely all parties can accurately channel the personality of your brand.  Perhaps your owner can closely work with one ghostwriter, who can accurately capture the owner’s insight.

Don’t Do It
I know.  I’m an online marketer telling you to dismiss an online marketing objective.  You don’t have to blog at all, especially if your brand is going to do a poor job of doing it.  This is something I wish more brands would realize: doing something poorly can grossly counteract online initiatives, creating poor impressions.  For instance, I can’t count how many handles do an awful job of social media participation.  Some brands would benefit from retiring their Twitter and Facebook accounts because the accounts are so poorly managed and curated.  I hope your blog isn’t poorly managed; but, it’s not an out-of-this-world notion.

Optimization Doesn’t Equal Conversions
If you rank well on major engines for words associated to your services and products, you’re business is in a good place.  But how many people ‘fit’ on the first page?  Not many.  I think an excellent ongoing branding campaign (for some brands) is just as good as great rankings.  Good rankings ensure more people notice your brand.  Branding does the same, yet ‘optimizes’ your brand toward its target market.  Isn’t that who you want to sell to?  I’m not saying dismiss all notions of SEO; I’m saying notice the widespread tools of online marketing.  You don’t have to be number-one on Google to be successful online; you have to be number-one with your customers to be successful.

Sometimes the best way to enhance the user experience of a website’s service is to integrate it with another site’s content. At least, this seems to be the case with the new collaboration between Kayak, a hotel search website, and TripAdvisor, a site that allows users to submit their own reviews of hotels and other accommodations they have stayed in while travelling.

As reported today on TechCrunch, Kayak has partnered with TripAdvisor to include the over 60 million user-generated reviews on the latter’s website in its hotel search engine. Users of the Kayak Hotel Search can select (or de-select) the option of including TripAdvisor reviews in their results. This allows them to determine what available hotels are in their price range, and which present the right amount of value for their money.

Kayak’s decision to carry out this integration is a solid one. The site had already started to include expert recommendations from Frommer’s and Budget Travel in its hotel search engine as of October 2011. However, it found that the majority of its users typically headed over to TripAdvisor immediately after using Kayak’s engine to read reviews before coming back to book. Thus, it only made sense to start integrating the two, to save customers a great deal of time and effort in planning out their trips.

And, really, what a wise decision it was. Kayak’s partnership with TripAdvisor is an example to other businesses on how they can leverage each other’s services to boost their own. It is in fact a great way to boost their search engine optimization initiatives. There is a fine line to walk when it comes to borrowing content from another site. Done properly, however, it can produce a win-win situation for all parties. Putting together two popular products or services can allow both to gain greater visibility, increased website traffic, and more customer conversions.

Who would’ve thought that borrowing or sharing content would possess this kind of SEO value? Done the right way, it can produce real dividends to businesses. Although only time can tell, the partnership between Kayak and TripAdvisor is likely to be a successful one. Keep an eye on them and other businesses that are doing the same, to get a better idea on the benefits of content integration.