28
33
Social Media Strategies to Help you Master Your Online Engagement
28
33

social_media_2We spend a lot of time on Firepole Marketing telling you how important it is to find your absolutely perfect ideal customer, and build a relationship with them.

It’s a pretty smart way to get your business going.

Finding them can be challenging – but it’s almost always worthwhile.

Social networking is one of the ways we do it, and almost everyone has at least one of the “biggies”: a Facebook account, a Twitter account, A LinkedIn profile – you know the ones – the sites you think of when you think “social media.”

They’re so big and so prevalent that maintaining a presence on them is almost a hygiene issue, that is to say, something you have to do just to be “as good as all the other options.” Having a Facebook page won’t make you special – but not having one might cause a raised eyebrow. You know what I mean.

That’s the problem with the biggest social networking sites: participating is just the price of admission, and they’re so widespread that they hardly matter in terms of differentiation or finding the people you really want to be working with.

Happily, there are other options.

If you’ve ever been sick of the major players in the social media industry, this post is for you. Let’s look at our alternatives and some new ways to use the bigger social networking sites.

Small and Niche Social Media sites

Have you ever heard of Academia.edu?

What about DailyStrength.org?

Wiser.org? Elftown.com? Ravelry.com?

I hadn’t either.

Until I consulted this this Wikipedia article which lists over a hundred different social networking sites that you can join and meet people on.

Cool.

If you’re prepared to lose at least an hour of your life, I highly recommend you go check out the list, and some of the sites they mention.

Facebook, Twitter and the rest may be great because everyone uses them – there is strength and power in numbers, no doubt about it.

But Academia.edu is all about researchers and academics helping each other out. DailyStrength is a networking site for people who need emotional support while going through medical issues. Elftown is about sci-fi and fantasy, Ravelry is all about knitting and crochet and Wiser is a sustainability-themed social networking space. And those are just a few of them!

Just imagine what that means if your niche is represented!

Tiny, niche networking sites – if you can find one related to your interest – are an amazing social media strategy because they take tons of work out of community building because they provide the venue for you to meet and make connections. People basically pre-qualify themselves for your business just by joining.

And if your niche isn’t represented? Well, for you, there is Ning: a tool that allows you to create your own social networking space.

What would your ideal social networking environment look like? Are you happy with what’s already available – or do you want something more?

Websites and Blogs Where Communities Live

I think many of us dream of one day owning the website where a vibrant commenting and support community forms, and seems to take on a life of its own. Take for example big news sites where new content is posted daily, a huge array of topics is covered, and the comments regularly reach the triple digits and beyond. I’m thinking of sites like the Huffington Post, and anything in the Gawker Network.

These are sites where the commenting community is as important (if not more so!) than the actual content of the blog.

This is huge for networking on a one-on-one basis. On these sites, commenters know each other by name, and have full, real-time conversations about the blog’s subject matter. If you can find a couple of posts about anything related to what you do, and spend time getting to know people in the comments, you can nurture very strong relationships with a variety of people. These comments never go away; they are kept for posterity, and are frequently read as avidly as any other content.

There are plenty more of these out there on the net as well – do you have any recommendations for your fellow Firepole Marketing Reader?

There’s Something About Forums

Forums do not have the best reputation online. Some people look down on them. Some people dismiss them as a time-sink for people with nothing better to do.

Me? I think they are an amazing place to find information, meet people and get questions answered on the quick-fast.

Forums are fun.

And they’re everywhere! Tons of people have learned how to use forums, and website owners run them on topics from personal fitness to parenthood, to the environment to finance, from cooking to online marketing.

Joining is generally as simple as picking a username and password, and while most have rules about who can link to what and where, you can usually make your blog or website known in your profile information and signature.

Forums are similar to blog commenting in that if you leave many useful, insightful comments, the owners of the space, as well as your fellow contributors, will start to get to know you, respect your opinions and invite you to engage with them in new ways. That could mean joining them on personal blogs, contributing to websites and publications associated with the forum, or even coming to you for consulting or advice.

Have you ever spent any time on a forum? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like about it?

Re-Purposing Space in the Big Guy’s Back Yard

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ are big, open playing fields when it comes to entering and staking out your own territory.

This is important because sometimes there isn’t a small social networking site for you, or the forums in your space aren’t that active or valuable. If your options are slimmer, then you have to go where the people are – but that doesn’t mean that you need to jump into the main arena and hope for the best.

Now, creating your own space on someone else’s platform isn’t ideal. They own the space and can change the rules at any time, which could potentially mean that changes affecting your business are going to be made by people who don’t know you or have any interest in what you’re doing.

But that is a risk business-owning users have to take sometimes; you shouldn’t let it stop you from building relationships where your audience or customers like to hang out. Just try not to put all of your social networking eggs in one big-name basket.

Here is a brief rundown of some of the different ways you can make the big pool of people smaller on some of the main social networking sites. (And if you’ve got any other suggestions, please let us know in the comments!)

  • Facebook Pages are basically profiles of you or your business that your audience can elect to join. These can be amazingly powerful for networking and sharing information, even though they are far from perfect for this purpose.
  • Twitter Chats are live events where people from all over the world collect around a hashtag to discuss a certain issue. They can be really illuminating once you get the hang of them!
  • Google+ Hangouts are the next best thing to an in-person meeting. You can sign on with video, see who you’re talking to, and share documents and other information.
  • LinkedIn Groups are gatherings on LinkedIn around a certain theme where information, links, comments and advice can be shared between members.

For all of these social media strategies, always keep in mind how your audience likes to engage. At the end of the day, the person you are trying to reach and make a connection with gets to make the decisions about where you hang out and spend time.

Hey Scavenger Hunters:

I’ve got a very exciting Bonus Challenge for you today! Tea Silvestre of Prosperity’s Kitchen is running an episode featuring our own Danny Iny and talking all about email marketing (something I know you care about!) on Monday, March 11th from 10 to noon PST – and I’d like you to see it! Show up here at the appointed time, and grab a screenshot of the live stream! (+5 points for Tweeting or Sharing about the event on Facebook. +15 points for showing up live and asking a question in the Google Hangout!) Please take a screenshot of your tweet and/or live question, and email it with the subject heading: EMAIL MARKETING FROM PROSPERITY’S KITCHEN. (The Scavenger Hunt is over – but you can check out the results right here!)

Who Made the Hunt Possible?

Tea Silvestre from the ever popular Prosperity’s Kitchen and Nicole Fende, otherwise known as the Numbers Whisperer, are Gold Sponsors for this event, and Lindsey Rainwater is our greatly appreciated Silver Sponsor.

And let me not forget the GamesMasters. These are the folks who are going to be keeping track of all you players!

Megan
Megan
Megan Dougherty has been with Firepole Marketing since 2010, first as Danny's Assistant and more recently as Education Lead. When she's not working with wonderful students and readers here, she's building her own audience based business helping the young and underemployed handle their money at Paying For Life. You can drop her a line on Twitter or Google+.

28 Comments

  1. Tom Treanor says:

    Megan – great post! This is a really valuable strategy and these are great resources for finding pockets where your target audience may be spending their time. This has given me some ideas for my own business (and for my clients as well). Thanks!

  2. Peter Wright says:

    Good ideas Megan. For specialised social network sites as an example, I belong to one for horse owners and riders, interestingly it has groups specifically for over 40 and 50 year old riders.

    You are correct about commenting on the big blogs. I have been a commenter on Huffington Post for a couple of years, I get at least 2 new fans or followers every week, some from comments I submitted months ago. Not all of them visit my blog, but some do.

    A warning though, if you comment regularly on blogs like that and express a differing opinion to the majority you need a very thick skin, the replies can be vicious, personal and completely irrational.

    I love controversy, enjoy promoting a contrarian view and find the experience rewarding, many don’t, so it’s worth treading carefully at first to find out if you can take the heat.

  3. From what I’ve seen, many small business owners are just too caught up in “the price of admission” aspect of social media, that the actual benefits of these platforms are either unknown or are getting pushed to the side, and it’s turning them off to these smaller social networking experiences. It’s a shame!

    And I love forums- more than social media- because you can also see what’s been asked in the past in a more orderly way (I don’t have to search through hashtags, etc) It’s much easier (for me anyway) to find what I’m looking for and offer help where needed- partly because the whole pace of the discussion is a bit slower. I never even knew people looked down on them.

  4. Hugues B says:

    Thanks Megan,

    Just this morning I felt a bit overwhelmed by the amount of social networks out there and trying to create the best strategy for utilizing them. But this has kick-started my efforts and I will be using this post as a blueprint for my “social marketing” efforts.

    We’re going to take engagement to the next level :)

  5. Kathy Donchak says:

    As always I get wonderful information from each and every post. Thank you for the great content!

  6. Finding your niche market is the hardest part of becoming successful. I am so happy to read this post. I’ll let you know when I get results from my search for my niche market and find customer’s.

  7. Jevon says:

    What brilliant research. I had no idea that there were niche social networking sites. And as a fantasy fiction writer, elftown is a goldmine for me.

    I also like sites where you can post your writing for others to read and comment like goodreads and other fan fiction sites.

    Thanks very much for this Megan. I’ll be sure to check out that list.

  8. I’m bookmarking this so I can go back and re-read all these great ideas. I had not thought of looking for specialized social networking sites geared for my topic. But I’m most excited about Ning! Yes I would love to create a social networking site for natural food cooks and enthusiasts! Thanks for the great tips.

  9. Love the reference to the list of social media sites. Have been a ning user off and on but one problem I have with Ning is that if you belong to more than one groups it kept giving me problems when I wanted to recover my password. I have found that many of the Ning groups I belonged to are now groups on LinkedIn as it is easier to maintain.
    Hopefully I can make the hangout if I can find out how to get there and am free at the time. Tough when too early in my morning.

  10. I would like to say two things: 1. thanks for “fixing” the links to the pages introducing the gamesmasters…a previous post had only two of four. working links! and 2. thanks for broadening my horizons about social media!

  11. I forgot to add something: The only experience I have had so far with forums was when I inadvertently installed the VisualBee/Babylon toolbar onto my browser. I immediately knew this was something “not good for my computer” (malware of some kind) and so ended up in the bleepingcomputer forum. I did not join; I merely read all the testimonials from others who had the same problem as me, and used the suggestion that several members had posted, which was to use adwcleaner.exe to remove it. I did, and it worked! This forum saved me TONS of grief!

  12. RMG says:

    Call me Chicken Little, a conspiracy theorist, Orwellian, or what-have-you, but after reading Facebook Terms of Usage again yesterday and their “rights” to your personal information and Internet usage, I am more than ever steering clear of that venue. I’m saddened that several important professional lists I would like to participate in have migrated to FB, because I refuse to migrate with them and open my privacy to Big Brother. Not that the Internet as a whole is in any way private, but FB lays it right out there for you to sign away.

    I love the smaller venues. Ravelry, InTatters, GoatBeat, PackGoat…so much fun! So confidential (well, user take responsibility for what you disclose, but at least they aren’t monitoring your Internet use), so personal, and so much less stressful.

  13. Peter DeHaan says:

    Thanks for the links; they’re much appreciated.

  14. Shannon Lagasse says:

    Great post!

    Loved all the different ideas. I just browsed through the list of social networking sites – I’m actually a member of a few of them already! Also, great reminder to get on Forums and LinkedIn groups.

    My question is: How do you keep track of it all? How do you make sure that you’re posting, interacting, and connecting on each of the forums consistently? While also still making time for other forms of marketing, content creation, and clientele.

  15. Shannon makes a great point.

    Forums are amazing for engagement, but they are incredible time-suckers. Remember that highly-successful virtual world, Second Life? Forums can be like that: you “live” in them. That’s probably why they are often called Communities, huh?

    Two years ago, I was heavily involved (to “moderator” level and beyond) in the main forums at a content website and formed dozens of great relationships with other writers. In fact, I’m still in touch with quite a few of those authors.

    Looking back, I’m still stunned at how much time I invested to achieve that. I certainly would not have had time to run a web-based business at the same time, since I was already working full-time in “real life” as well.

    My takeaway is that forums provide incredible opportunities for engagement with a targeted audience — IF you can spare the time. You can’t just jump in and out at will and expect to get much out of that. And therein lies the rub.

  16. Kemya Scott says:

    Great list Megan! I hadn’t heard of several of these niche sites, but they look to be great alternatives and I can’t wait to lose a few hours browsing them. And you’re going to make me look so cool and -in-the-know with my clients, so double thank you!

  17. Cindy Brown says:

    I love social media! I spread myself too thin, but it’s where I made every important friend and contact in the business and have gained the majority of my blog following. Joining a group on LinkedIn got me included in an anthology. It was just a comment made in a thread about a post I had done and the editor asked to see it, liked it, shared it with the other editor, and I was ultimately included and published in the anthology, making me a published author! Social media and groups are worth the investment of time.

  18. What you said about the big three is totally true. In some ways it’s more important to join them so that you don’t look behind the times by being one of the few NOT on them. I am a member of a few smaller sites but haven’t been active in them or found them worth it much. But one of those smaller ones might just end up being the next big thing, you never know. Plus there’s the added benefit of those made for a certain niche as you mentioned. I will be taking a look at that list, thanks.

  19. Hello Megan,

    What a great article!

    I had completely forgotten about forums. I mean, I know they exist and everything, but we talk so much about social networks that other social media sites tend to be frowned upon now.

    Thank you for reminding me of the basics!

  20. I’m starting to warm up to forums. I’ve had a forum on one of my sites for years, but it gets very little love. But I’m finding that a lot of the questions I have about other topics are often answered in other forums. So I’m planning on setting up a forum on my site.

    The scary part is hoping it’s not a ghost town forever. :-)

  21. Great to get the links for all the social media sites that I never even knew existed! I like that you have them as hyperlinks because it prompted me to click on a few of them. There is so much out there that it can get overwhelming. Working on the Firepole Marketing Scavenger Hunt has definitely opened up my eyes to the world of social media.

  22. social signals optimization says:

    This page really has all the information I needed about this subject and
    didn’t know who to ask.

  23. Laptop ieftin says:

    Hi friends, how is all, and what you want to
    say concerning this piece of writing, in my view its in fact
    awesome designed for me.

  24. […] social media strategies, what matters isn’t that the platform changes but that the value changes. I sign on Twitter to […]

  25. […] matters most when you’re planning your social media strategies is a commitment to doing more of the right things on a regular basis. Rather than getting […]

  26. […] STRATEGY: Tara’s networking and social media strategies are pretty spectacular. She takes “small talk” connections from Twitter, Facebook and even blog […]

  27. […] already using it, it’s growing at a huge pace and you’d be taking advantage of new and growing social media strategies. And for more great tips and information, I strongly recommend you check out the book The Power of […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *