Social media sites and technologies like Twitter and Digg are something that the tech savvy take completely for granted. We just automatically assume that if you are on the Internet, you are using social media. This isn't really the case. There are some very important people that are not yet aware of social media and what it can do - your clients. Social media is definitely a source of new income for you as you have the opportunity to go back and update your old clients to current technologies. The foundation-laying for social media came in 1999 when Rick Levine and others wrote the Cluetrain Manifesto. This manifesto lays out simple rules for online markets and social media. [caption id="attachment_1564" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Cluetrain Manifesto - see Cluetrain.com for more."][/caption]
Interaction and Your ClientsGone are the days where an e-mail newsletter and an occasional site update were enough to assuage the information junkie consumer. Now people want up to the minute interaction, with live help on websites and Twitter updates from the CEO whenever they can get them. While you know the power of interactive marketing, the guys in the boardroom may not yet "get it". It is up to you to make them get it. The best argument that you can make for social media is that it is replacing traditional SEO practices. Gone are the days when a link from a highly pageranked site got you some street cred with Google - although that still doesn't hurt - now it is all about how many Diggs your content gets. The key argument is that traditional SEO work is now not enough - it needs to be supplemented with social media. There is a bit of a fear surrounding social media for companies that like to "stay on message", or in other words not give the public a forum to air complaints about its products or services. Your argument here is that by giving the customers that forum, your business is extending an open hand in friendship to its clients. This hand will rarely get slapped away unless you are dealing with a really irate client base, in which case you probably won't have a business for much longer anyway. There is more to be said for allowing your business to be interacted with online than there is to be said for the time lost. In the end, employees will be communicating with customers so it isn't really time lost. We spend too much time in business on hunting new prospects and not enough farming our current customers. If we aren't careful, another business will be happy to come along and pick up that slack.
How to Start Marketing Social MediaIf your past clients do not yet have a social media strategy, it is time to present them with one. If you don't already have an e-mail newsletter set up to go out to all of your clients, go set that up. We'll wait. Don't forget to add a "join my newsletter" page or link to your site as well. Send out an e-mail newsletter talking about how you would like to update their sites with access to Twitter, Digg, Facebook and other social media technologies and sites. Determine what is within your scope and develop a social media package that you give past clients a discount on. Make sure it is a clear and decisive package that is priced reasonably enough to be accessible. We've developed one here below that you can price out at whatever you think is reasonable. Once you have created it, include it on your website as a new product. Simply having it available will give you an "edge" over other web design companies. Web designers aren't the only tech-savvy people on earth and those who already use Twitter and Digg are more likely to call your company than another if you have these technologies showcased on your site. Not only does it give you a new item to sell, it gives you a bit of variation - you'll probably look forward to your social media projects quite a bit when you start getting them.
Suggested Social Media PackageCore Package - Must-Haves
- Make key content of website "Bookmarkable" on social bookmarking sites like Digg and StumbleUpon. Price per page.
- Remember that E-mail newsletter thing? Make sure they have it too.
- Create Facebook Group and Facebook Page for your business
- Set your business up on Twitter
- Add a Wordpress blog to your site
- Training for your staff on updating Facebook, Twitter, and your blog
- Set up your site to display live Twitter feeds
- Create a social media press release template for the public relations department.
- Create a YouTube page with introductory videos
- Add Live Help component to site
- Find online communities for employees to join and prepare a report with your suggestions.
Social Bookmarking Site-ReadyYour clients will ask what a social bookmarking site is. The best way to explain it to someone who doesn't know is to ask them if they know how to Favorite or Bookmark a site in their browser. Most will say yes. Digg and other social bookmarking sites simply serve as a website that acts as a more organized Favorites list, allowing you to tag an article for reading later, or a useful resource to come back to later. A good argument could be made for going back and making every single page of website content on your client's site "Diggable". However, this would be somewhat time consuming. Best to make a few key pages "Diggable", such as a company's environmental policies, key product pages and press releases. Basically anything that you consider "Diggable" material should be "Diggable" to the public. Don't forget to make the page accessible to more than just Digg. There is a fine balance to walk here - you don't want to saturate the web visitor with choices of too many social media outlets. You can use a script called "Bookmarkify" that allows to choose which social media outlet icons show up below the content and which can be expanded on from a menu item. It allows access to all social bookmarking sites but allows you to show just a few on your page. It is available for PHP and as most of you already know, you simply need to give the page that you are putting it on a ".php" extension in order to insert the script.
Setting Up a BlogWhile it isn't instant gratification for the consumer, a blog and weekly updates to that blog keep customers coming back to your site. That and they can be marketed on directories that are reserved exclusively for blogs, including Technorati and Blogarama. Having a Technorati authority is quickly becoming just as important as a Google pagerank and you simply cannot have it without a blog. After minimal staff training, company staff should be able to update the blog using Wordpress or a similar blogging platform. Do yourself a giant favor and don't use Joomla - it's a huge headache and not user-friendly enough for your clients to use. Play around with both if you like but really, just save yourself the time and go with Wordpress for client sites. The blog shouldn't be all about company specials and company products. It should cover related industry news and topics that you know are important to your demographic. A company selling investments for seniors may post activities for seniors, a daily crossword or sudoku puzzle, and profiles of healthy and active seniors. If you are offering good, hard information, you can plug your product about once a week. Try to keep it to news and updates about your products or your company rather than straight out promotions unless you are cross-promoting with a company wide campaign.
Social Media Press ReleasesThere's a new press release in town. A social media press release gets your message out to traditional outlets and social media with the simple click of a button. It incorporates RSS feeds, social bookmarking sites, and many other features. I could go on about it for a while but it is best just to direct you to a template for it where it is fully explained.
Creating a YouTube PageIf your client has television commercials or video of any kind, you'll want to set up a YouTube page for them. For a basic page, this takes the form of a simple YouTube account in the name of the company. They can then customize their profile page with their own videos and gain subscribers. Links to the YouTube profile should be included in their site and blog. Much like a Twitter page, you can customize the YouTube profile with background art and your own color scheme. Machinima did a particularly nice job with this. If the company is willing, they can even bust out things like old training videos that you can have converted from VHS to digital. The quality won't be awesome but the vintage value may be something that the customers enjoy. Anything that attracts customers to the company and doesn't go too far off the wall is good. Be careful when you are quoting out that you include pricing for converting VHS tapes to digital. If you don't have sufficient expertise in this area, find a freelancer to partner with on video.
Live HelpLive Help should only really be implemented if the company makes a clear commitment of personnel to it. There are often monthly charges for Live Help services and these can add up if there is no instantly recognizable return on investment for the company. Due to the charges, you may want to gear any suggestions of Live Help services towards the sales section of your client's site rather than customer service. Despite this suggestion, customers looking for service will still use the Live Help portion of the site, so the company should be prepared for that. Live Help is also only really good if your client is actively selling something online. Sometimes a little hand holding is all a customer needs to gain the confidence to purchase from a particular company. Live Help is particularly useful if your customer has customizable packages that they sell such as software packages or subscriptions with different components. If this describes your client, hook them up with any one of the Live Help services out there. Simply do a search on Live Help and pick the one that you and your customer like best. You can also ask your customer to pick out the one that they prefer, which may make more sense since they will be buying the monthly subscription. Once they have selected their service, they can have you implement it on their site for them. Some Live Help services even include free site implementation, so your services may not even be required. Your client will appreciate the suggestion when their conversions increase.
What Else Can I Do?Obviously the package put together above is meant as a start, not as a finish. If you have a company that sells youth-oriented items, such as sports gear, you may want a MySpace profile as well. You'll notice the line about finding other directories and sites that your customer should be on. This may involve adding them to directories or commenting on blogs with a link to their site. It can be argued that this fits more into search engine marketing territory and should be charged out by the hour as ongoing work. Overall, it is easy to see where social media can become a huge profit center for web designers. With it you will move your customers to the next level and prove that you can give them added value that nobody else can. Except other people who have read this article! Are you using social media as a means to boost your business? Please share your experiences with our community!
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