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Social Media

Social media (SM), also known as Web 2.0, is defined as the social interaction and communication of individuals using accessible publishing tools via online community sites. Also called Consumer-Generated Media or User-Generated Content, SM empowers content consumers to become content producers, increase their professional exposure, and communicate with more than one individual at a time.

There are several forms of SM: community, voting, bookmarking, and video/image-sharing. Community-based SM, which includes sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, relies on members posting periodic updates, commenting on each other's pictures and profiles, and joining in discussions. Voting-based SM, which includes sites like Digg and Propeller, depends on members posting links to outside articles, videos, and photos. Site users are expected to vote for or against these submissions. If a link contains many positive votes, it will be pushed to the top of a popularity list; conversely, links with many negative votes will be pushed to the bottom. Bookmarking sites like Delicious and Magnolia encourage community members to link outside articles, pictures, and files to their own SM profile pages or blogs. Finally, SM users can view, link to, and share files on video/image-sharing sites like YouTube and Flickr.

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

SMM relies on the premise that a marketing message, when properly packaged and delivered via SM, can be viewed by hundreds, and possibly even millions, of members. This occurs when SM members view, link, e-mail, or republish the posted marketing content. When any of these actions are undertaken, the content becomes viral, spreading exponentially throughout the social community.

SMM is desirable because it reaches a wide audience quickly, contains a directed message that is specific to member location and interests, and is inexpensive to use. With increasing numbers of individuals joining SM networks, many businesses have learned to adapt to this new trend or risk losing customers (1). Businesses that have adapted to SM and used SMM have seen numerous benefits, including increased web site traffic and one-way back links (resulting in higher placement on search engine results pages), improved customer relationships and feedback, and greater brand recognition.

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Social Media Optimization (SMO)

SMO is the process of implementing links into SM outlets such as blogs, bookmarking sites, and voting sites in order to generate consumer interest and web site traffic in addition to that generated by search engine use. It also includes the posting of profiles and RSS feeds on SM community sites. Considered as being the equivalent of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for better search engine results page (SERP) placement, SMO relies on the tailoring of SM messages so that readers can easily find, bookmark, and republish them. This leads to higher rankings on SM search engines like Technorati and Twoogle, increased traffic and one-way backlinks, and product recommendations and sales. SMO also feeds into a higher SERP ranking, since it results in improved SEO.

Unlike SEO, which relies on keywords and impersonal bots scanning web content for target phrases, SMO takes advantage of user and community profiles, targeting specific consumer interests. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that social blogs, forums, podcasts, and profiles be visited and read, and the content designed for easy bookmarking and linking. SMO also relies on frequently updated content that is in tune with recent news, is meaningful, and provides a valuable resource to its readers.

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Online Reputation Management

In the past, consumers relied on "word of mouth" for information when buying products. Now, consumers are increasingly doing online product and company research before finalizing a purchase. Online review sites like Ciao and Yelp allow existing customers (and potential customers) to analyze product brands and make critical comparisons based on such parameters as price, quality, and service. These sites also allow for unhappy customers to vent their frustrations, and to republish these negative reviews through various SM outlets.

Negative reviews of products and services damage the reputation of a company and weaken its brand name, resulting in lost sales. Therefore, it is important that a business maintain an online presence and monitor its reputation by posting timely product information, addressing grievances, and taking corrective action against negative and/or slanderous comments and reviews. When corrective action cannot be taken, the negative listings can be pushed down in the SERP via web site optimization, so that reputation damaging links are not as visible.

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Blog Marketing

Previously, in order to gauge what consumers were saying about a certain product or service, businesses would send out surveys or assemble focus groups. The disadvantages of such approaches were that they were time-consuming, costly, and often resulted in skewed or even false data. These days, with consumers contributing to and controlling online blogs, marketers can easily gather information on popular sentiment about an existing or proposed product or service. Blog marketing strategies can include the gathering of market intelligence, involving bloggers in business discussions, and advertising on blog and niche sites. A business may also start its own blog, adding a human element to the corporation in addition to connecting with its customers.

Blogs can also be analyzed for marketing purposes. Using Google News Alerts, Technorati, and PubSub, businesses can have blog and web tools monitor any mention of their products, company, and competitors. Using more advanced tools like BlogPulse, the weight (i.e., connectivity level) of posted comments can also be analyzed. This information can be used to react proactively to negative blogger sentiment, create new products and marketing strategies, and deal with product or service concerns.

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Online Press Releases

Search engines such as Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft Live Search are rapidly growing in popularity as the place for news and information. Businesses that submit online press releases through these sites stand to benefit from increased market exposure, sales leads, and brand awareness. The submission of keyword-optimized press releases through sites like PRWeb and Shift Communications can also result in one-way backlinks to news and blog sites.

Additionally, online press releases may be submitted through SM sites. By releasing traditional and SM press releases, companies can see their bottom lines improve substantially.

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