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SMX Panel Recap: Social Media Marketing Essentials

Today marks day one of the third SMX event, SMX: Social Media. Our first session began with Moderator Danny Sullivan addressing the crowd here at The Metropolitan Pavilion here in New York City on the explosive area of social media and marketing.

As Danny immediately indicated, there is a clear connection between the growing social media sites and the world of search marketing. I’m certainly looking forward to learning more about these connections, and that is the primary reason I’m here at SMX.

Danny went on to indicate that this particular SMX show is a bit smaller and more intimate than the previous events. While that may seem like a bad thing for some — I can tell you that nearly everyone in the search industry that you have seen, read, listened to or wanted to chat up — is here.

Rand Fishkin and Neil Patel helped to start out for the first conference session, Social Media Marketing Essentials. This session was slated first as it was intended to serve as a social media orientation for those in attendance.

The panel began with Rand welcoming the crowd and providing some background on the importance of social media. Strong examples included online marketing goals, positive brand image and business development and networking opportunities.

The first thing Rand covered in depth that will translate here on Search Engine Journal were some statistical background to the importance and growth of social media sites. Here are some that really hit me as being important to the search marketing community:

1.) From April 2006 through April 2007 (BUS WEEK STUDY), there was a 668% growth in the use of social media web sites. While this amount of growth is insanely large, it was alarming that very few users create content. Specifically, 0.16% oof YouTube users created content on YouTube. Flickr performed a tad better with 0.2% of their users contributing content — while Wikipedia led the way with 4.59% of users contributing.

2.) The next stat I wanted to share involves bloggers and their reader base. Rand provided one stat that shows bloggers receiving 41.3% of their uniques from folks making more than $75k annually. This one statistic alone speaks volumes to me on the importance of blogs and their readers in the future of search marketing.

3.) While Americans are all over blogging, we’re slacking well behind Asian countries. For example, in Japan more than 75% of people read blogs on a regular basis. Here in the United States, just 27% do. If there are upcoming opportunities available, it may help to look to the Asian culture for aid.

How are Blogs Discovered?

Rand continued by covering how users locate the blogs they read. The stats came from an eMarketer study and showed that links on other blogs provided 67.3% of new readers blogs. Other strong influence areas included recommendations, provding 22.9% of new readers, and of course search engines which account for 19.6% of new readers. It is also worth noting here that niche search engines in the blogosphere, or, engines that only provide results to blogs account for 5.6% of new readers to blogs.

Blog Quality Trumps!

Rand provided a series of stats that indicated the importance of blog and writing quality. For example, 43.9% of those surveyed said that the quality of the blog was the most important reason for them reading. When it came down to what conveyed blog quality, it again was the quality of writing on the blog that set the tone. The same held true once again when users were asked what established the credibility of the blogs that they read.

In other words… Make sure the quality of your writing is a priority. Of course, strong writing cannot account for all blogging success. Other things like a maintaining a topical focus and post frequency also play a major role in both establishing and maintaining your reader base.

How has Social Media Become so Important?

Rand provided statistics from a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth study that showed the comparison of universities and INC 500 companies using blogging, social networking, videos, etc. Some amazing stats here for me included that 27% of the INC 500 are using social networking sites, trailing universities by just 2% in their usage. While major networks like MySpace and FaceBook often appear to be juvenile — it’s clear here that their value is significant.

Social Media Participation

The importance of participating is of course paramount in social media’s success. One of the strongest examples in recent news include Yahoo’s Passionistas study from September of this year. These ‘passionistas’ are more likely to create user generated content. brands that stimulate these conversations will be rewarded with increased credibility, traffic and brand awareness.

To hammer home the point, Rand continued by providing visual stats on how services like Technorati receive a major increase in usage when current events are happening because of the nature of blogs and their integration of news, politics, etc.

Social Video Consumption

Here Rand discussed online video consumption and how news (37%) and comedy (31%) are the most popular types of videos being watched. With videos, 75% of users receive links to videos from friends, family, email and others they associate with.

How does SMM help with SEM?

I’ll try to condense things here as much as possible. Rand started off with the nature of SEM and how those in the industry always try to game the systems available to them. AltaVista for example was one of the first engines to be gamed with users spamming away with META tag stuffing. Next, Rand highlighted PageRank and it’s use with Google optimization. As more in the SEM industry began to game that system (think paid links, dated optimization tactics, etc.)

So now, the engines are tasked with uncovering methods for detecting trust, quality and intent in links and on web sites for their listings. This is why social media marketing is so important. As Rand indicated, “links are votes” but only if they’re provided in a true recommendation or in an editorial fashion.

Next, Rand covered how some link building tactics are at risk, with the most obvious being Google’s attempt to crack down on paid links and the networks of that industry.

So how can you build quality links using social media?
1.) Get links on major media web sites
2.) Work hard using both broad and niche authority sites
3.) Get on powerful sources for top stores like the technorati top 100
4.) Social networking with others in your field

When you are trying to build links, keep in mind who is building the links that pass the most power. Common examples would include:

1.) Bloggers
2.) Directory Builders
3.) Hobbyists
4.) Researchers

This crowd has been dubbed as the “linkerati” by Rand, and they are the people who will create the vast majority of links to your site.

To reach these users, you must interact with social networking sites, email, IM, forums, blogging circles and events such as this SMX show.

Of course, to make the most of these sources, you need to build some viral content. What types of content are likely to become viral? Those that feature solid designs, ad free content, non commercial content, clever graphics and clear concise writing are all solid turn ons. One tip that Rand shared including how some of his friends will turn off ads when something becomes popular on Digg, Reddit,Sphinn, etc. as it makes people more likely to link to them.

Things to avoid here would include obtrusive ads, poor site architecture, bad site search, forced registration, unprofessional design, pagination of articles, and long URLs that aren’t easily transmitted via IM, email, etc.

Where do we conduct social media marketing?

1.) Social News Aggregaton Portals (Digg, reddit, propeller, sphinn, meneame…)
2.) Social Networking Communities (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn…)
3.) User Generated Content sites (YouTube, Wikipedia, flickr, Yahoo Answers…)
4.) Popular Blogs (Techcrunch, BoingBoing, Gizmodo, Engadget…)
5.) Social Bookmarking Sites (StumbleUpon, Delicious, Magnolia, Yahoo! MyWeb…)

6.) Niche / topical participatory sites — specific and topical focus
Example of niche participatory sites include Slashdot, Fark, Truemors, nowpublic, Upcoming.org

7.) Longtail of blogs, forums and groups that create nihce communities online

8.) Mainstream Media Portals are large well known brands where now, they are enabling user participation. Examples include Google News, San Francisco Chronicle, CNN or even the New York Times — who just last week showed user comments on home page.

What does Rand want you to take away from SMX Social?
* Techniques for ‘Successing’ in Social Media Marketing to Communities and Influencers
* Ideas for Viral Content that can help earn links, branding and traffic
* Learn which social communities may be valuable and relevant for your business or needs
* Realize that it is still quite new, so you can gain a massive competitive advantage over your peers

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