Earning Big Bucks with Social Media

Ten minute passing periods aren’t any better than five minute ones. I don’t even have time for clever commentary! If I’m in the right room, then we’re about to listen to speakers Michael Gray, President, Atlas Web Service, Alexander Barbara, CEO, ReidBrown Enterprises, Inc., and Vanessa Fox, Founder, Nine By Blue. Rand Fishkin, CEO, SEOmoz, is moderating this time around which means I don’t have to try to liveblog his trademark 15 slides a second.

Rand says that the focus with social media tends to be on the traffic and not why we’re getting that traffic, so we’re going to talk about that.

Michael Gray is up first and points out the obvious: it’s really hard to monetize social media because people aren’t looking to social media as a place to buy.

The first rule is don’t break the rules. Understand the written and unwritten rules of the community you’re in. Learn the tolerances and the tenor first before you try to market to them.

Create a knowledgeable resource:

  • Create valuable content that is helpful and solves a problem.
  • Offer a FREE solution (directly or through links).

Use social media to promote reviews:

  • Compare similar products.
  • Social media reviews work best with new or leading-edge products.
  • Keep reviews honest. If you’re uncomfortable publishing a negative review, don’t lie. Just don’t publish.
  • Be in-depth but avoid being too long or else it probably won’t be read.

Use social media to build membership:

  • Use blogs, Twitter and email to create a loyal group of followers.
  • Feed them information with occasional sales pitches.
  • Seth Godin and David Allen are good at this.

Twitter: Creates a sense of urgency
Woot: Follow woot to find the deal of the day
Amazonmp3: Follow to find the daily deal of DRM free music

What works:

  • Information resources
  • Reviews
  • Problem solving
  • Deals
  • Time sensitive offers

What doesn’t work:

  • Direct product links
  • Hard sell
  • No value add

Michael, talk SLOWER.

Next up is Alexander Barbara.

He’s going to go through a case study of marketing a new site on Digg. It was not a typical audience for Digg because it was female centric. They built a targeted campaign and every article they submitted had links into the site.

They got 35,000 views over five days.

The first question is “Can you handle it?” Most sites can’t handle 600 hits a second. A good server admin will think you’re being attacked and will shut you down. Sites on MySQL will hang up and run out of memory.

How do you handle a Digg campaign?

  • Static pages
  • Google cache: If you get your site indexed by Google, just 302 to their cached version of the page and let them do your serving for you. Hee!
  • Coral cache: A little slower than Google but you don’t have to wait to be indexed. Visit example.com.nyud.net/page/ (where example.com is your page) and it’ll save it for you. It serves all of your ads, too, so you can still earn money.
  • WP “super cache” plug-in: Before this, WordPress just died when it got Dugg.
  • Leverage other resources to serve files: Flickr, YouTube, Amazon S3 — avoid concurrent bottlenecks.

Digg users hate AdSense. The click-through rate on day five of their campaign was 14 times higher than on day one. He suggests that you take the ads off for the first couple days so that you’re not wasting page views. Put them back on day three when the StumbleUpon traffic starts coming in.

Make sure you have an RSS subscribe link. They got tons of subscribers and lost half of them the next day.

How are you going to monetize it?

  • Direct: targeted offers, adsense, CPM ads
  • Indirect: subscribers, links, branding

Traffic quality varies depending on the social media site. Digg users won’t do what you want them to do. StumbleUpon is more focused. Twitter is quite targeted.

The big picture is that you need to understand your audiences, both the Digg audience and your core audience. You need to choose wisely about how you’re monetizing. Don’t look spammy. Make sure you can handle the traffic. It’s too late to fix it once it hits the front page.

Vanessa Fox is up to tell us how to lose money in social media. Vanessa didn’t get the memo that we all want MORE not less. ;)

How search impacts social media:

When you see an ad, you tend to just do a search to learn about it. [She asked for a hand raise poll and got two people. Hee! Liars.]

If you don’t show up in the search engines for your viral campaign, you might as well not exist. She shows three results: Got Milk, Easy Button and Just Do It. The first two are good but the third one has Nike exactly nowhere on the page.

Social media helps you impact search, too. With viral marketing, you can push down negative results as well as influence anchor text.

Case Study: Coke Zero

[Time for a video. Yay! Imagine some of the “can we sue Coke Zero” commercials. Also there were billboards for the same. Oh wait, nevermind. The wireless doesn’t work. PubCon fail.]

They built up viral Web sites — one that allows you to sue your friends for having stuff like yours and one about “taste confusion”. There was an 800 number to call. Vanessa says that most people would just search instead.

The word-of-mouth marketing was successful, but was the campaign successful? Not if they wanted to show up in the search results. They don’t show up for their taglines at all. What was the problem? The page was just one big image. The other site (with the videos) was all in Flash with no way to link in.

Case Study: Blendtec and Will it Blend

They actually managed to influence searcher behavior. People are now looking for “will it blend” when they didn’t before.

They have a HUGE call to action on their page. That’s something that a lot of marketers leave off with social media.

Before you start your campaign, you need to determine your metrics:

  • What are your goals?
  • How can you measure success?
  • What are your adjustment plans?

Don’t abandon a campaign just because it’s not successful. Social media is about engagement and dropping your loyal followers could be worse than not having them in the first place.

Just a reminder: Traffic alone isn’t enough. You need qualified traffic. Look at your bounce rate to determine if you’re getting good traffic.

Double-check that your call to action is actually good. Measure each stage to find the failure points.


What would you recommend in terms of brand aversion in social media?

Michael: If you’re going someplace where people don’t like you, that’s probably not the spot to be. Find where your people are and go there. You don’t go to a vegetarian conference and try to promote Kobe beef. It’s the best in the world but they’re still not going to buy it.

Vanessa: There are places online other than Digg.

Alexander: If you really want Digg, come up with something that’s sort of related to what you do but isn’t directly promoting your product.

[How about a micro-site then 301 that later?]

Vanessa: It’s kind of bait-and-switchy. It could be risky, both with users and search engines.

How do you come up with witty relevant sites in real estate? That’s why we want to do a micro-site and 301 it.

[I’m actually not going to blog this one because it’s sort of a silly question and they pretty much just tell him so. Rand thinks micro-sites are pretty much getting to saturation.]

Vanessa: if you’re going to do a micro-site, leave it as a micro-site. Have a call to action to your main site. Don’t do the sneaky redirect.

How do you monetize a social news site like Digg?
Michael: CPM is probably the best. Look for the people who are advertising consistently on Digg and get them to advertise on your site.

Alexander: It’s hard to monetize because people aren’t there to buy things. Go with CPM.

How does EasyTweets work?

Alex: You can manage multiple accounts from one profile, schedule tweets, bookmarklets, RSS feeds, etc. Been built virally.

What is the value of Twitter? We’re a publishing company, how are we interesting?

Michael: You can make yourself interesting. You have to be worth something. Be time sensitive, be deal sensitive, be useful to the community. Add value, then add links. News tweets get tons of traffic, too, because people can scan headlines.

Vanessa: Use your bloggers. Have them start on Twitter just to try it out. Experiment with the types of things that kind of work. The more you engage, the better the result will be. Only automate the stuff that you don’t need to be engaging on. Use the rest of the time to actually engage.

Michael: Social media is time intensive.

Alex: The level of interaction on Twitter is almost unmatched but it requires a deeper level of commitment. Go to search.twitter.com and put in your keywords and see if people are talking.

Michael: It’s not really business to business.

Rand: Put a Twitter widget on your blog.

The biggest problem we run into is staffing problems. How do you get your staff to embrace social media?

Vanessa: The execs need to hire someone for that, then. It’s not necessarily someone already in your company who can just take over. It’s not just an intern either. It needs to be someone with skill.

Have you seen any pairings of companies succeeding in social media?

Vanessa: I haven’t seen it but I don’t know if a micro-site would be better or if both sites should do something… If you’re the smaller site, maybe let them do the work and just make sure they’re mentioning you.

Michael: [Business specific advice] You need to win the gatekeeper. LinkedIn is trying stuff with a lot of partnering.

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

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