In order to be truly successful in social media marketing it’s essential to be an evangelist and whole-heartedly participate in communities, forums, and blogging to the benefit of the greater good. This session was about commonalities between Web 2.0 and 3.0 sites regarding respectful and appropriate engagement as a marketer.

Rob Key, CEO, Converseon
Community is becoming the heart of the web experience. Rob described the evolution as the “Tribal” Community. “Mass media shared experiences and language are the glue that hold together a society” and Social media can be considered a form of cultural anthropology in the way the cultures and subcultures evolve with unique norms, languages, and congregation points. There are even case studies where second life “armies” “raid,” “exile,” and “out” marketing efforts.

As marketing and brand-building increasingly penetrate social media communities, backlash is likely to grow in many venues. When thinking about marketing, “Ask not what the community can do for you, but what can you do for the community.” The rules of social marketing engagement mirror physical life and speak to basic human social norms.

Rules of Social Marketing Engagement
1 Participate and learn
2 Make friends with community elders
3 Understand and respect community traditions
4 Lead with altruism; come bearing gifts
5 Discover a community need
6 Learn the linguistics
7 Value and cultivate the relationships
8 Leverage appropriately…over time

Rob is a big player in second life and shared the fascinating “Second Chance Trees Project which is highlighted here:

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Planting a second life tree results in planting the same species of tree in the physical world to a great deal of acclaim. Map external conversation landscape.

Adam Sherk, Search/PR Strategist, Define Search Strategies specializes in helping large companies including the New York Times build social SEO practices in-house. Corporate SMM (Social Media Marketing) takes multi-department coordination to help the “huge ship turn slowly.” Marketing and PR wants eyeballs. The SEO team wants links and traffic. The IT department is concerned with server scalability.

There are several common mistakes large publishers who are largely motivated by ad revenue or other sales-based KPIs make including having no strategy, lack of support/resources, poor coordination, inappropriate content, lack of understanding of the communities, hiding your affiliation, and being overly promotional.

Selling upper management on the social concept and specific efforts is extremely important for social media campaigns in large companies. The top executives need to give their blessings to the strategy and it’s critical to achieve buy-in from key departments who will need to work together. Adam works to instill a “give to gain” philosophy and strives to find the right people to manage the efforts. “Give them what they need to be effective.” As projects develop, plan for ongoing testing, oversight, and the appropriate analytics to measure results.

Critical Planning Issues
How will you sustain your efforts over the long-term? What happens if your brand ambassador leaves the company? Do they own the profiles you just paid them to develop? What about employees who have their own personal profiles? How will you deal with negative responses and reactions? Have a corporate social media policy in place.

Sarah Hofstetter, Vice President, Emerging Media & Client Strategy, 360i

Marketers can “influence the influential through blogs, social networking, social bookmarking, social search, virtual worlds, forums and chat.” The tools include widgets, video, promo/contest and unique information.

Sarah used major brand case studies including HGTV, NBC (Heroes), and Comedy Central to make overall points which the case studies have in common. Sara (and all the speakers) totally stressed the importance of transparency in contacting bloggers by revealing who you are and what you are promoting. When contacting influential bloggers, it’s important to really understand who the bloggers are and appeal to them along with informed information regarding the actual content of the blog to which you’re pitching.

Create a digital assets calendar and pitch it to bloggers. Many bloggers pick up every asset pitched. As a warning KNOW YOUR BLOGGERS! Bloggers are often willing to actually POST bad pitches which can be extremely detrimental to your brand. Givaways can be a useful tactic: offer bloggers things to give away to mutual fans.

Common Themes
Each of the speakers touched upon universal themes. As with all online marketing endeavors, the idea is to create awareness, stimulate inbound linking, grow site traffic through increased awareness and buzz. Build true relationships and use analytics to measure your results. Be respectful and aware of who you are contacting and where you are promoting content. Use people that truly represent your brand to sell and promote. Research carefully and contact the right bloggers to write about you. Create worthy content for them to use for linking. Customize the message and reveal to those you pitch exactly who you are promoting and why.

Keep an updated database of all influential players. An integrated database that everyone in your agency can access and update is essential. Don’t just hope that whatever you have is “blogworthy”. Do not send mass email press releases or pretend to be “Joe consumer”.