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Scared of Social Media? You May Already Be a Pro!

November 5, 2008

Best Internet Marketing Posts of 2008 


I'll admit it. I used to be scared of social media. I didn't know what it was, nor did I want to. I'm rarely an early adopter of anything; in fact, some might call me a Luddite. (Yeah, I still use my 1994 HTML editor!) Let's just say that I resist change with every fiber of my being.

So when I first started hearing of social media, and more specifically, social media marketing, I hoped it would just go away. I mean, the phrase "social media" didn't even exist when I was first learning SEO in the '90s. In fact, a search last week on Google's 2001 index (which was available only during October) showed that in 2001 Google had about 1,460 listings for the phrase "social media" and the resulting pages weren't about social media as we think of it today. The more specific phrase "social media marketing" showed zero results in the 2001 Google index – meaning it hadn't even been coined as a phrase.

A search in today's Google index shows about 19,100,000 results for the phrase "social media" and approximately 1,630,000 Google results for "social media marketing." It's safe to conclude that social media and its use as an online marketing strategy are here to stay, and are growing by leaps and bounds. If you're marketing websites, scary as it may sound, you need to learn about social media.

Don't be afraid!

Here's the thing – there's actually nothing to be afraid of! In fact, you may already be using it without realizing it. What makes it confusing is that everyone has their own definition of it. I was confused a few years ago when a friend asked if I wanted to speak on a panel about social media. In true crotchety old-woman style, I told him that I knew 'nuthin 'bout that newfangled social media thingamabob.

My friend looked at me as if I was crazy and said, "Jill, you are the queen of social media marketing!" Of course, I argued that he didn't know what he was talking about, and blah blah blah. But he did know what he was talking about, even though it took me a few months to come around. (Yeah, I'm slow!)

I don't remember what triggered it, but one day I woke up and realized that social media is nothing more than online communities where people interact with one another. Like a chat room. Or a forum. Or an email discussion list. Holy cow! I had been participating in stuff like that since the early '90s! In fact, just about the only marketing I did for years was based on participating in online communities. From my old parenting chatroom and forums in the '90s to my later SEO newsletter discussions, forums and blogs, and every other online thing I do. I've been a social media geek since day one, but never knew it!

Just be yourself!

The reason it took so long for it to sink in was that I never set out to use social media (or the online communities in which I participate) for the goal of gaining clients or branding myself as an expert. But that's exactly what happened; not as some sort of calculated plan, but simply because I was being myself and letting my passion for SEO show through.

My first clients came from chat rooms and email discussion lists. Today, many of them come from this newsletter or our forum – all of which would be considered social media. I visit those places and participate in them because I enjoy them and like to hang out with like-minded individuals. Plus, I never tire of answering SEO questions. Certainly, I could never have consistently cranked out these newsletters since 2000 if I didn't get some personal satisfaction out of it.

Social media marketing works, but only if you have an authentic voice. You can't fake authenticity. You can try, but real people and real voices are what succeed in the social media world. The key is to go into it without any expectations of what you may get out of it. Have fun and you'll be surprised at what may come from it. People like to do business with those they know, and social media is one way of getting others to know you.

Even Web 2.0 is not as scary as it sounds!

There's no need to be afraid of newer social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter either. Other than their funky Web 2.0 names and cool appearance, they are no different from old-fashioned chatrooms and forums. It's true that they are not for everyone and may or may not be a good vehicle in which to market your company. But it can't hurt to give them a test run. The worst that will happen is you'll become addicted! Or maybe you really won't like it at all. If you find it's not for you, then stop using it. Alternatively, have someone else in your company who's more familiar with online communities test it out on your behalf. While you may need to provide them with some guidelines, don't be afraid to allow them to let their personality shine through.

The main thing I want you to take away from this article is that social media marketing is just a new twist on an old tactic. It’s not scary, and it’s not very different from many of the other forms of online marketing you're probably already using.



P.S. Here's where you can follow me on Twitter.

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Company.

If you learned from this article, be sure to sign up for the High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter so you can be the first to receive similar articles in the future!
Post Comment

 Ann Donnelly said:
Once of the best things about social media -- and I, like you, have been a little slow on the uptake -- is that you can just jump in and try out the various forms out there. Most are free and are very user friendly. It's definitely grown on me -- now the problem is not getting too carried away and distracted from the work at hand!

An example of what social networking can do for you -- I started a blog in the early days (A Slimmer's Diary :-), but never found time to keep it up, lost the login details and haven't posted anything in years -- but I have Google AdSense on it and it brings in enough every couple of months to cover web hosting on some of my sites and then some. Google it an you can see my 'Confessions of a Chocaholic' from three years ago!
 Bob Meetin said:
I think more than anything else, the trick with Social Media is finding the niche where you fit in, you're comfortable, but not so distracted that it becomes a wall to either your life in general or business productivity. From a human it's also worth noting that although social media promotes electronic interactivity, it's not a substitute for a social life, it's just another outlet (lecture over).

You really have to take a little time to decipher what works for your personality type. I also have a blog which I use to document primarily tech things that I pick up, could be PHP, JavaScript, GPG, general web development and not to be missed or slighted, search engine optimization tips that I pick up. Few of my entries take less than an hour to write because of the level of knowledge/detail required.

So my blog entries are a little less frequent than I would like. Some of the entries get started but sit there languishing for months while I absorb the details. They are unsprouted (is that a word) seeds. However, I am finding that Twitter is a nice go-between for me because it forces you to focus and say something meaningful (preferably) in 140 characters.

I have accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Bebo, Digg, Plaxo Pulse, others which don't get afforded the same attention. --- YET ---. These are but a few - yes there are so many out there to choose from (kind of like standards) that getting involved in each/every in itself can be a career. The point, i.e., is to pick what works for you and do it. IMHO, what works for me is a platform that allows me to be myself, not some caricature which I am living up to in order to please others.
 Dan Nappi said:
The thing about social media is that we are all newbies at. Heck twitter hasn't really taken off since the last six months. So embrace the new social networks and have at it.
 Mickie Kennedy said:
Thanks Jill. Lots of great stuff here.
 Andrew Peel said:
Very similar story to mine but I am now a big fan of social media as marketing.
 Joel Libava said:
Yes..Nice job. Be authentic, and "get ok" with the transparency of Social Media!
The Farnchise King
Joel Libava
 Charles Montgomery said:
I like your concept of a real voice. It is interesting how the professionals and consultants can and will make these tools so integral to their business. Simply posting on each of the social sites to lead back to your primary site when you update content or add a blog article can be a great way to generate traffic. Add a contact form, a free offer and/or a download, and you can see some leads and newsletter signups come in. I am working on implementing all of this myself right now. I am offering a free Social Business Network Internet Marketing Strategy Report right now - request it in the popup on my homepage - in it I link to this article so you may or may not get some traffic from it in the coming weeks.

Thanks for a great read!
 Clevo Repair said:
This is true. Earlier I used to afraid of using social media but as the time passed and using it frequently I have now become used to these social media tools of marketing and infact this has generated me a lots of leads and traffic.

Nice to hear same from you and important guidelines mentioned here.
 webbedmarketing said:
Not every one is afraid of social media. Yeah you can say people are hesitant. But once they get used to it then it is one of the most powerful Internet Marketing Tool available at the hand of SEM Professionals to market their websites.
 Craig Chant said:
Nice article Jill, especially how it can be hard to grasp the new 'social media' web 2.0 thingamabob, are just new buzz words or channels to what already existed as 'socialising' on the web.

However, it still doesn't detract from what has always IMO been the annoying thing that has put me off many sites and will always continue to do so, the damn advertising, be it pop up / under / overs/ banners, links or any thing else.

the last thing I want when socialising with friends is having someone trying to sell me something.

The problem is that marketers and advertisers jump on these social media sites as a source to punt their wares. and many sites have sprung up with this deliberate sales channel marketing in mind.

The worst thing I ever did was create a myspace account, did it bring me new visitors , no not really, did it spring board me into a new wolrd of socialising with new like minded people, nope, what it has done has caused me a headache with the amount of spam , firends requests from advertisers and a constant barage of people wanting me to buy something from them.

nothing social about that, that's pure and simple capatalism. So no i'm not afraid of it, I just don't like it.

Good job I dont' have anything to sell eh - lol.