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The Five Pillars of Social Media Marketing




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So, in the late, late nights that I’ve spent making sense of and organizing Social Media Marketing, I’ve been able to find nothing that outlines strategies or fundamentals of Social Media Marketing. Yes, Rohit Bhargava created a post that kicked into gear the “5 Rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO).” After 20 days and much buzz in the blogosphere, it was expanded into 17 rules, with additions from all over the online marketing and business community’s thought leaders. And yet, while it’s an absolute must-read, there’s still no strategy outlining the fundamental strategies or tactics of Social Media Marketing.

That’s what I’ve racked my brain to figure out and this is what I define as the Five Pillars of Social Media Marketing.

The Five Pillars of Social Media Marketing

Any and all forms of Social Media Marketing tactics fall under at least one of these five forms of action. Often the same channel will incorporate two or more of these:

  1. Declaration of Identity
  2. Identity through Association
  3. User-initiated Conversation
  4. Provider-initiated Conversation
  5. In-Person Interaction

Identity-based Interaction is your declaration of your value, who you are, and where you can be found. Your customer happens upon your online identity that you, as a provider, define and declare. This is anything from your About Us pages on your blog or website, to your MySpace profile, to your Naymz profile. Here, there is very little interaction outside of your own declaration, but this becomes critical in defining how you can benefit your marketplace.

There has been a recent outcrop of websites created purely for this function. An expanded business card, if you will. Most also include the opportunity to link to your other forms of presence online, bringing together your presence in one place…well, kind-of. They include:

Association-based Interaction is your customers’ opportunity to associate themselves with you and you with your customers. Most obviously, this is accomplished through things like becoming “Friends” on MySpace, you and your customers’ BlogRoll, or through their social bookmarking. This is your customer wearing your company’s logo proudly – Like Andy wears his Beatles shirts.

The most explicit form of allowing for this ability is through social bookmarking sites. I say this, and not social networking sites, because this is the sole function of these sites. Make it easy for your customers to bookmark your site, blog posts, etc with their favorite tool.

User-initiated Conversation is your users’ opportunity to create their own declarations or questions, and your opportunity to respond. This is your opportunity to be there and cater to them. Here, you serve your customers.

Perhaps the most cut-and-dry examples of this lie in messageboards, forums and “groups” sites such as Google Groups, Yahoo! Groups, community sites, etc. So, how do you find these conversations? Andy Beal’s Online Reputation Monitoring Beginner’s Guide. Here, he walks you through, step-by-step, how to find out what conversations are being initiated by others online.

In order to get directly involved with your customers, the most well-known example of this is “GoogleGuy” on the WebmasterWorld forums, is through your users’ forums, and sites such as:

Provider-initiated Conversation is your chance to find out what your customers think, feel, love and hate about your product. Ask them. Challenge them. Present yourself to them, but do so respectfully. As much as it’s an opportunity for them to tell you what they love and hate about your product, it’s also their choice whether to do so or not. Be kind. Be respectful. Appreciate their time.

Although it’s not a primarily online company, there is one company that has made this their culture. Seeking feedback and input from its customers 24/7/265. And it is: Current.tv. There’s little-to-no format, except for about half of the content is contributed by its users. If you haven’t seen it or don’t have digital cable, find someone who does and watch it. Do that this week, you won’t regret it.

Social networking strategies for connecting with your customers can certainly be complex, tricky and cumbersome, so I’ll be writing up strategies in the very near future to hopefully assist on those fronts. In the meantime, find your customers and interact with them here:

In-Person Interaction is the pinnacle form of interaction with your customers. You’re interacting with them online, why not in person? Does it get better than that? This is where relationships are built and authentic conversation is had with so much more input, feedback, collaboration and communication. I had a seven hour conversation with a good friend last night. It was one of the best conversations I’ve ever had about so many things, and I could have never had that quality of a conversation online. Nothing beats face-to-face.

Get out there. Meet your customers. Let them interact with other customers. Build your community. Go to conferences…better yet, organize your own gatherings.

To help this along, coordinating, managing attendee status, etc, there have been several sites that can help in either finding local events or coordinating your own:

Final Thoughts

One thing about social media marketing: It’s complicated for two reasons: no one has created a structure to work from, and there’s so much overlap in functionality of different sites, that it can be quite confusing as to a site’s single purpose because…well…there usually isn’t a single purpose.

Don’t let this hold you back. Get out there. Spend time with these sites. Sign up, Use them, meet your customers, talk to your customers, and LOVE THEM.

But wait! There’s More! Feel free to use my Social Media Marketing Tactics chart (on BenWills.com) to make sure your next campaign is a success.

>> Liked this post? You might also want to read our Social Media Marketing Beginner’s Guide <<