Today’s first post following lunch was a great one for those involved in the social marketing space. The panel covered micro communities and was led by Liana Evans, the Director of Internet Marketing for KeyRelevance and Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz.
(Please note that additional live blogging coverage on this panel is available on Search Engine Land, Search Engine Roundtable, and aimClear.)
Micro Communities in Social Media with Rand Fishkin
Rand led this panel with a quick overview of vertical portals, better known here in the search industry as micro communities. These micro communities focus on niche topics while still retaining the social and community aspects that we all love about the new web 2.0 space.
As Rand discusses, the importance of micro communities in marketing is the underlying abilities to market your brand. While social tools are great — we are here for a reason — and that is to push our content and brand on others who are receptive to them. One great thing that Rand shared with us is that a lot of the times, these micro communities are very accessible. Earning a reputation on these communities therefore present immediate brand building opportunities.
Discovering Micro Communities
While major search engines are of course tools that you could use — let’s be honest for a second. Major engines aren’t going to serve as your gateway for these communities unless you begin to get creative. Finding niche communities takes a little more effort. Keys that Rand shares here include searching for multiple keywords and phrases at once, and browsing them carefully. In other words, if you like “cars” — you can’t just search for it and expect to find small niche communities. Get specific with your queries and you will find them. If they’re not out there already, then maybe there’s a larger opportunity for creating it.
Engines are not the only way to find these communities. Social media and web 2.0 lists are available and you can surely locate lists with hundreds of links to niche communities. Scan these lists thoroughly to ensure that you are finding quality matches for your sector. Finally, you should take all opportunities to networking with people in your industry at conferences, trade shows and offline gatherings.
Does the Community Fit Your Business?
Rand’s first recommendation is to review the membership numbers before you get too deep. Next, you need to find out if there is a true topical focus and relevance to your business. This is where you must be careful to make sure you don’t rush towards a marketing channel without first understanding the user base. Your efforts can be easily killed when you get over aggressive and push your content out to the wrong crowds.
Leverage-able features are the final component that Rand shared in his presentation for marketers looking to harness micro communities as a tool for their business. At this point in his presentation, Rand then moved in to review some of the more successful micro communities out there, including WebMD’s Community, Trulia, Yelp, PeerTrainer, deviantART, SportsShooter, threadless, cork’d, and nearly a dozen more…
While these communities do not deal with search marketing opportunities, I do want to highlight their importance of these networks as a source for connecting with bloggers and establishing your brand. Once in there, you can easily obtain coverage and links from blog posts and others who are looking to market along the same lines.
Marketing to Your Audience with Liana Evans
Liana started off her panel today by discussing the evolution of search engine marketing. As she indicated, there really were days when you could walk into the game and rank well almost immediately. Since the game has changed, so too must the plans of the internet marketer — and that is what Li was here to tell us about.
The first point that struck me in Liana’s presentation is that while we may be about search marketing opportunities, there is a need for us to make sure our content gets in front of targeted users. While SEO efforts can help there, micro communities and social media usage is an incredibly relevant tool to meet our goals.
Liana begins here by making a statement that few others have said… That is, social media is not new — and social media is not just Facebook and Digg. Communities, forums, BBS’ and discussion boards have been around for more than a decade. So, social media is not new — but our attention and strategy to use it as a mainstream marketing tool is.
Li continued her presentation with a very strong slide that applied to a case study that she had experience with. That showed the following steps to developing a strategy for using bloggers as a marketing channel:
- Identify influential bloggers in your space
- Plan your initial point of contact with bloggers
- Contact bloggers with a unique and transparent position
- Monitor results and adjust plans as necessary
The case study we reviewed here together taught us a great lesson in marketing in the modern era. Li’s organization was able to locate reputable bloggers in a particular industry, and contact them offline and via email. That presented an opportunity to supply them with a product trial without asking them for an actual blog post or review. By fully disclosing their position, it was a completely transparent offer.
These bloggers then tried the product and were able to provide solid feedback. For her client, Li was able to gain valuable information. Being bloggers though, there were links and media coverage in a small niche area where the product was now being referred to often. One blogger was even featured on MSN which of course produced amazing results for her client.
In the end, I think the story is something that we all need to consider for our roles as search or internet marketers. That is, it takes a lot of effort and drive to be able to really tap these micro communities for your marketing gain.