Buzz is more than a new social app, it's how businesses grow.
Today, you open your Wall Street Journal to read that Google has announced "Buzz", the latest social network killer-app, and you cringe. Yet another internet whatsit you have to get your head around. You want to leverage your investment in your business website by optimizing your reach. That's what the allure of social networking is all about from a business perspective. Instinctively you understand this, but sorting out all the terminology and how it relates to you isn't easy, especially if the source of your information is your IT department or your propeller-headed web developer. This article explores common internet communication technologies from a business perspective. (We'll write a future article with technical direction for your developer.)
What could be easier than email?
Everybody, EVERYBODY, has email, and sending email is free, right? Consistently, businesses lunge at the opportunity to send their message directly to customers and prospects. Here's what you need to know about doing this right. If you have a customer/prospect's email address, it's generally acceptable for you (singular individual) to send a unique email to one (singular) email address for most any legitimate business purpose. To avoid having legitimate mail flagged as spam, resist all-caps and excessive punctuation in the subject of the email, and limit the number of recipients. Sending the same, generic email to multiple recipients constitutes spam unless you have specific permission before hand from each recipient. The best-practice way of establishing this permission is called double-opt-in: users sign up for your email communications on your website, and then you send them a confirmation email with a link back to your site to confirm that they want to be on the list. You should send bulk email, such as a newsletter, to users on your opt-in list through a legitimate Email Service Provider (ESP) such as MailChimp, inContact, or Constant Contact. Properly written emails delivered through an ESP are more likely to pass through spam filters and end up in your recipient's inbox. Additionally ESPs provide helpful tools for creating emails and statistical tracking of recipient behavior.
The short answer is: email is an easy way to communicate one-on-one, but as a mass communication media, it needs to be managed carefully or it can do more harm than good.
Is a blog the answer to mass communication needs?
You've been told you need a blog, but why? Consultants frequently recommend that business websites have a blog. Blogs offer a convenient means of adding fresh content on your website. Fresh content is believed to be an important factor in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Additionally, a blog written in a conversational tone helps establish a more personal relationship with your site visitors. The relaxed nature of a blog post lends itself to generalized advice and can help establish credibility in your field. Visitors that like what they read may elect to subscribe to your blog via an RSS feed, allowing them to be alerted to new posts, which brings them back to your website. RSS feeds are also a convenient means of allowing various other services like Facebook, LinkedIn, and MailChimp to poll for updates in your site content and publish or push the information out to your friends, followers, or subscribers. Think of a blog as a constant trickle of communication between you and your customers and prospects. Twitter refers to itself as a "micro-blog" - like other blogs except each post is limited to no more than 140 characters. Twitter has an extensive Application Programming Interface or API that allows developers to write integrations with the service - posts on your corporate blog can automatically appear on Twitter.
A blog is not "the" answer. No one media has that much power. It is a useful solution and should be a part of your overall communication strategy. Keep in mind that blogs don't happen on their own. You will have to assign resources to write articles. Posting articles with regularity is the best way to maintain interest in your blog.
What about social bookmarking?
It is human nature to want to share things that interest or impress us. Social bookmarking services such as Digg, Delicious, and reddit, to name a few, allow users to share website links with others. This is the basis of viral marketing and can have great value, as such bookmarks carry an implied endorsement. You should strive to have many links in such services. These links are not only a direct conduit back to your website but additionally are valuable for SEO purposes. It is a good idea to help site visitors bookmark key content on your website. Website owners can write custom code to do this or more easily embed code from bookmarklet services like AddThis or ShareThis or AddToAny.
Bookmarks that point to your website are like billboards along the highway - they get seen by a lot of people, but they only reach people interested in the message. Unless you have a Doritos budget, you may never appear on the first page of Delicious, but your bookmarks may still be helping your business.
Could anything get more hype than social networking?
If you're not yet 30, odds are you have at least one account with a social network site such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google's new Buzz. If, like me, you're among the over thirty crowd, you should strongly consider it. People establish an account with a social network specifically because they want to communicate with others. You want to be in this space because people that connect with you want to communicate; they are receptive. Pick wisely and understand the nuances of the way users interact with each network. Businesses create Facebook accounts because of the sheer volume of users. It is by far the most important social networking conduit consideration for this reason and can be configured to update via an RSS feed from your blog. LinkedIn has far fewer users but is considered more business-oriented. Pushing updates to LinkedIn is easy (they publish an API specifically for doing so). Due to the nature of Twitter, communications are short but often razor sharp and fast moving. It's common for a single big news items to get mentioned millions of times in a few days. Buzz was announced today and will be most attractive to those already using Google apps; it's tightly integrated with gmail. Think of Buzz and having some of the best features of Facebook and Twitter rolled into a service designed from the outset to allow you to precisely control who has access to your communications. Buzz is the one to watch over the coming months. There are hundreds of other, smaller social networks, any number of which may have particular interest for specific vertical markets. There are also tools like Ning or BigTent for "rolling your own" social network. (Social networking components can also be built directly in Dialogs.) This may make sense for businesses that wish to have precise control of network look and feel and when controlled communications and security are key concerns.
Social networking is not hype. It is here and can't be ignored. Take advantage of all the talk - get your message in the mix. At the very least, don't ignore the possibility that people are already talking about you.
Can you put it all together for me, please?
The strongest approach for businesses to leverage internet buzz is to build on a solid interactive website framework like Dialogs. In addition to providing design-accurate content management, Dialogs allows you to easily add one or more blogs to your website. Each blog post can automatically trigger updates to LinkedIn and Twitter. All Dialogs Lists can be configured with corresponding RSS feeds to be monitored by outside clients including Facebook. Dialogs can easily collect visitor data and can allow your users to double-opt-in to mailing lists. The Dialogs MailChimp plug-in allows easy transfer of email accounts and related data to MailChimp for robust email campaign management. Additionally, MailChimp can monitor your Dialogs-powered blog and send email notices to your users when you make updates. Embedding code from social bookmarking services like ShareThis is quite simple. As for google Buzz, we'll be watching for enhancements to its API to allow pushing content from Dialogs.
There has never been a better time to invest in your interactive website. Let Dialogs power your website and become the hub for your social networking strategy.