Creating An Online Marketing System – The Proper Role for Social Media

Internet marketing and social media can change the world.  No more powerful tools have existed to connect, organize, and inspire.  Just use it right when developing your own online marketing system.  Be authentic and be smart.

Maybe you’re using the various social networks as your primary method of building an audience for your product or service.  The issue is that a decision made by them, one that you have no control over, can knee cap your business overnight.

If you are building your business completely dependent on another company you are setting yourself up for failure.

Just ask those that have been hit by the Penguin updates or become a sacrificial lamb in Facebook’s attempt to maximize shareholder value.

In a recent post by the folks at CopyBlogger they describe a concept called “digital sharecropping.”  It means building your business on someone else’s property.

And it’s the kiss of death.

But wait, everyone is talking about the importance of social media.  You gotta be on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and, and, and….!!!

But do you really?

Well, yes and no.

Yes in that you need to utilize the tools that are available.

No in that you need to be smart with your time and focus on building your primary home base.  Your site, your email list, and your reputation.

It’s not that social networks are bad.  Quite the contrary, but they are only a part of the equation.

It’s not safe, nor wise, to solely build a business on someone’s platform.

The platforms will come and go.  Remember Facebook has only been around for a handful of years.  Who knows what platforms we’ll be using a handful of years from now.

The effectiveness of Facebook for brands is less than it was last year – shoot even less than a couple of months ago.

Facebook uses an algorithm called EdgeRank to determine who sees what posts. They constantly fiddle with EdgeRank to make it more “effective.”   A change in September was bigger than usual and it has resulted in as little as 15% of a brand’s fan’s actually seeing posts.  In order to reach a larger percentage of the audience (that we fight hard to build) – Facebook allows us to buy “sponsored posts” which will be seen by more of our own supporters and fans.

Bet you didn’t sign up for that one.

We can’t complain about it though, it’s their platform and we’re using it.  They can do what they want.

And that’s the point.

We can’t control if/when/how Facebook makes changes to EdgeRank.  We can’t control any decision that isn’t made on our own turf.

Focus on what you can control

What won’t change is that people will always want to connect.  We’re social creatures.  We want to have a conversation around the people, products, and services that we find interesting.

What we can control is building our own presence.  Our own sites and blogs, our own email lists, and our own reputations.

Sure a website, an email list, and credibility can be attacked, but each are in our control and are fixable.  This why things like web security, ethical email list building, and consistently adding value to the audience we are serving is so important.

Think about how hard we all work to get Facebook likes and now only 15% of those likes actually see the content that we share.

Pair that with email deliverability rates by a reputable provider is in the upper 90% range.  The point is I would much rather engage and build my audience on my own turf.  I know they are going to get my information and I can create a conversation on those terms.

Does this mean we need to abandon social media?  By all means no.  Just be smart about how you use it.  Remember these platforms are simply a way to direct traffic to YOUR site. 

Nothing more, nothing less.  The real tribe building and engagement is via blog posts (and the comments it generates) and your emails.

Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game

We know that roughly 70% of web traffic is generated by search engines.

Love it or hate it that’s what it is right now.  If only 15% of Facebook fans will see my posts, I’m going to spend less time there, and more time on social networks that help my search rankings.

Google+ is, naturally, owned by Google.  Do you think they will provide you some love if you’re actively using their social platform?  We don’t know for 100% certainty but it makes sense.  Postings and discussions on Google+ are indexed which is only going to help rankings.

Google is interested in seeing it grow its social network.   And they reward those that use it.  Smart people like Chris Brogan tell us that jumping into Google + makes good business sense.   You are putting yourself in a position to receive more eyeballs to your website.

If you’re just starting to build an online presence, build a Google + presence before a Facebook presence.  You can still achieve the same community building mojo that you could on Facebook AND you are helping your site’s search rankings.

(Bonus tip: Make sure you attach your Google+ account with your articles so that you are claiming ownership.)

In the coming months you will see more of me on my personal Google+ page as well as a focus on building the Radiant Tribes Google+ page.

But that is right now.  What about the future?

Remember people will always want to connect.  My sense is that the organizations that build their own social networks will be the ones that succeed.  That is an additional layer to add to a site or blog.  It’s something that we will be doing and working with our partners to do in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, build a well-designed securely hosted website, focus on growing an email list, and consistently add value to your audience.  Everything else you do should support these efforts.

What do you think?  What has been your experience relying solely on social media to build your business?

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About IanFitz

Ian Fitzpatrick is the founder of Radiant Tribes and host of the podcast, Radiant Sessions. When not helping organizations create the new economy he enjoys daily walks with his brown dog, Abby.

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