Socialmedia Catalyst

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Web Influence

What does social networking mean for business today?

As social networking sites explode in popularity, the hype and interest continue to build. But sorting the fact from the hype can be a challenge. Social networking at a high level is described as the convergence of technologies that make it possible for individuals to easily communicate, share information, and form new communities online. But the big question today is not what social networking is, but rather what it means for businesses. While social networks began as the province of individuals, businesses are now trying to capitalize on this trend as they search for specific strategies and tactics to derive value from it. Used effectively, social networking sites can enable marketing professionals, salespeople, and customer service agents to develop meaningful relationships with customers in new ways. But the true value from social networking can’t be achieved in isolation. Rather, organizations need to take stock of their core business processes and customer management initiatives and identify how social networking can further enhance and extend those initiatives.

Unlike other communication mediums, social networking sites not only provide the ability for users to communicate with each other but also enable users to find like-minded individuals. Once they discover each other, members can form ad hoc communities based on their mutual interests. Multiplied many times over, these individuals become the new power behind the old saying, “power of the masses.” Thus social networking sites help shift power from the company to the consumer as the masses are able to channel and exert their influence. As social networking sites continue to grow in popularity, firms can no longer solely rely on traditional mediums (print, radio, TV, etc.) to enforce public perception of their product. Conversely, these new communication channels also provide organizations with a way to discover and maintain a persistent connection with their most vocal constituents. By harnessing this social networking information organizations can use it to help identify their most influential consumers, drive participation in product development, and improve brand sentiment. While some organizations may still question the business relevance of social networking, un-monitored conversations that impact their business are likely occurring online right now. And as many companies have learned, it is important to be involved in those conversations. In this case, ignorance is not bliss. Ultimately, social networks should be viewed as a channel that organizations need to monitor and engage in.

Skype: the Un-Social Network:

Skype’s new owners might make it the platform it always should have been.
On the list of technology companies that inspire speculation and interest disproportionate to their size, Skype has often been near the top. The international success of its Internet-calling service was near-instant.

In ebay’s hands, however, Skype never quite achieved its promise. After spending $3.1 billion to buy it, eBay today sold off control to a group of technology investors for $1.9 billion in a deal that values Skype at about $2.75 billion. Not by any means small change but not the outlandish success that was once expected of Skype—and that it could have been.

Eighteen or 24 months ago, if you were asked to name the most important social networking platform, “Skype” would have been a very good, if unexpected, answer. Skype had passed 200 million user accounts way back in early 2007. It had 30 million or so users a day. The total time spent with Skype a year and a half ago was about 10 billion minutes a month already well behind Facebook’s 20 billion but not so far that it could never catch up.

Skype is not, of course, a “social networking” tool as the term is generally used. But it unquestionably involves social interaction. And one advantage that Skype had over social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace was that Skype had persuaded many millions of people to download its software—something very few companies have been able to do.

Today a comparison like this would be completely academic. Measured by the number of users a day or the time they spend with it, Facebook has left Skype far in the dust. And while Zuckerberg’s gutsy decision to turn down Yahoo‘s (YHOO) reported $1 billion bid for Facebook looks brilliant, eBay is happy to have wound up with a smaller loss than most analysts expected.

When eBay bought Skype, the talk was about Skype’s synergies with eBay’s marketplace, and lots of folks thought that eBay’s purchase meant that Skype would transform how eBayers did business. As social networks gained traction, Skype, with its powerful client software and enormous user base, seemed well-positioned to jump into the pool. But Skype didn’t go in this direction. Instead, Skype has chugged along, steadily building its business, but never getting to a big transformative moment.

Social Networking Meets CRM

Blogs, forums and wikis are all tools that can help companies reach out to customers and boost business.

Social-networking tools aren’t just for Facebook fanatics anymore. These days, consumers are demanding a higher degree of interactivity from customer-service departments. As a result, companies are being challenged to add online capabilities to their CRM systems.

Take, for example, today’s social-networking technologies. By building a product-centric social network that encourages visitors to swap information and connect with other like-minded individuals, a company can gather crucial customer contact information and build a virtual community.

Then there is the blogging phenomenon. For marketing, blogs work great to build brand equity and familiarity. Whether introduced as part of an existing product site or as a dedicated minisite for a particular product, a blog can serve as a casual and conversational approach to addressing consumer concerns and building product loyalty.

Companies can also use wikis to enhance customer relations. A wiki is a Web site that allows users to freely create and edit content using any Web browser — without requiring HTML or other technical skills. “Wikis can be a cheap way to maintain a product Web site for both marketing and for service,” said Hickernell. Not to mention the value-add capabilities of wiki technology. For example, a food manufacturer can easily create a wiki-based Web site that allows customers to contribute to a recipe database.

DISCUSS AMONGST YOURSELVES
Discussion forums“are good for building customer communities around products and brands. More than simply a destination for consumers to swap product information and tips, a discussion forum can be used to generate buzz around a product or service without a multimillion-dollar advertising budget. The right discussion forum can even increase sales revenue. Consumers are willing to pay 20 percent more for a service that received an “excellent” rating from fellow consumers than they are for the same service that received a “good” rating. And respondents said that reviews generated by consumers had a greater influence than those written by professionals.

But while online tools can engender a sense of community and brand loyalty among consumers, there is also a downside. For starters, you do need to have strong moderation when you offer user-support forums to make sure bad discussion threads are removed immediately. After all, foul language, racist comments and unflattering product reviews can “be very detrimental” to a company’s customer relations, sales and image.

Devils advocate: Networking Sites be banned?

When asked this question, many people cite identity theft, social isolation, pornography and infidelity. In order to determine if these are valid points, each of these issues must be considered.
Why Parents Think Social Networking Sites should be banned

Many parents dislike social networking because they believe that sites such as MySpace and Facebook attract child predators. Others believe that cyber-bullying takes place on these sites. Still others feel that social networks distract a child from his or her school work. Will a child not be distracted in the playground? Are there no predators on the streets? These do not seem to be good reasons to ban social networking for everyone. It’s best to talk with your child about the dangers of online social networking.

The book titled Snow Crash was published in 1992 describes a futuristic society where most social interaction takes place on something known as the Metaverse. They make use of avatars, which are essentially the equivalent of today’s Internet “user names.” The avatars interact with each other in a space that is a three-dimensional representation of the real world.

Many people see Snow Crash as a book that accurately predicted the modern Internet or social network. While some see this as a good thing, others do not. In Snow Crash, the characters only had minimal face to face interaction. Most of their communication occurred in the Metaverse.

Social Networking and Social Isolation

Pros and cons of social networking involve the lack of integration with society was one of the major causes of suicide. Spending too much time on the Internet can create a dangerous sense of isolation.

Some psychologists believe that the damage goes beyond mere isolation. Apparently, some people become very addicted to online gambling, and still others to Internet pornography. However, might that same person become addicted to gambling or pornography in the so called “real world” anyway?

The more hours a person spent in cyberspace, the less time he spends in phone conversations, spending time with family and enjoying other essential social events.

Can you trust a cyber friend?

Perhaps it’s the sense of isolation that causes people to believe that social networking sites should be banned. On the other hand, people may be objecting to the false sense of being connected, which characterizes memberships to some social network sites. After all, do you really have friends if they are only in cyberspace? On the other hand, who is to judge whether or not a cyber-friend is a “real friend.
On the Internet, nobody knows who you are unless you have met them atleast once. It is one of the most common reasons why some people started believing that social networking sites should be banned. True, it’s quite easy to impersonate someone else on the web. Nonetheless, one need not be online in order to have an identity stolen, and there have been plenty of incidents involving people giving false or exaggerated identities in meetings at bars and clubs.

So what is the final conclusion? To be banned or not?

Banning social network sites would be the equivalent of burning books. Social networks may have their problems, but none are so bad that they warrant banning.

SEO Friendly Web Design: Need for boosting your business:

If you want to boost your online business then you must have a good website. You must have a website that looks superb and attracts visitors and customers. Frankly speaking, most of the visitors prefer the websites having easy layout and access of all things at one look. That is why; website design makes one of the significant elements for internet marketing and business.

Thus what is it that makes a good and profitable web design? Well, the answer for this can be that an effective website design is user-friendly and SEO friendly. These both points must be adequately impregnated into the making and processing of a website.

Features of SEO friendly web design:

Content Management: Content should be unique, attractive and very much relevant. Content makes a great impact on the minds of visitors hence it should be written in the interest of customers and upon the focuses of your website.

User-Friendly: Website must have user-friendly features that makes browsing and navigation easy along with less time consuming.

Presentation: In the times of Web 2.0, presentations and looks have been the key for internet marketing. Presentation involves everything that is graphics, textures, colors, tones and so on.

Technical Aspects: HTML coding, graphic designs, flash, multimedia, alignments and other things combine together to create a unique web design.

Importance of SEO Friendly Web designs:
Better Visibility at the Search Engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN etc.
Popularity and help in building a unique brand image
Direct interaction with visitors and potential customers
Good and Entertaining presentation attracts visitors’ attention

According to the modern Internet trends, SEO friendly web design is must to enhance one’s online business. Get it as soon as possible.

SEO – Most Feasible for Video Marketing:

A matrix-like character which does bombastic dance moves in a viral video is actually an advertisement for a car company. A laugh-out-loud funny clip of a baby making funny noises is a marketing technique for a new infant foods manufacturing company.

These are just a couple of examples of how search engine optimization or SEO marketing techniques work through video marketing.

With the popularity of Youtube and social networking sites, it is no wonder why both old and new companies are switching tactics when it comes to how they perform search engine optimization and SEO marketing. Both of these SEO marketing techniques are done with the help of video website promotion, video marketing, SEO video marketing and video optimization.

SEO Video Marketing: The Basics
To have a deeper understanding of how SEO video marketing can be your primary means of search engine optimization, here are a few points that you need to keep in mind:

Instead of link building, traditional bookmarking and other techniques offered by companies offering SEO services, video marketing is slowly taking over the Internet. Online users have a much more positive response towards videos, so video website promotion is the best way to reach out to your core audience.

If you want to apply video website promotion for your website/ blog, you need to learn about the techniques of video optimization. You can perform the video optimization yourself or you can hire a company offering SEO services to do it for you. To have a head start in your SEO video marketing, what you can do is upload videos in popular sites like YouTube, and repost the links on blogs, forums and your website.

Bookmarking a video and having a press release are the other techniques that you can use when using videos to optimize your site for the search engines. In this way you can start promotion work for your website and can derive more & more traffics towards the site.

SEO Measurable parameters part 2:

Let us have a look at the keyword research and analysis phase, the performance parameters of the keyword w.r.t the website traffic.

Once you have finalized your SEO service provider, you need to understand your requirement including the target audience for your website, objective etc. Based on this there will be an in-depth audit that will take place in your website for which the measurable parameters is discussed in the earlier part but implementing the suggestions put-forth by the provider depends on the package/agreement that you have with the service provider. The next phase in the process is the keyword research and analysis and their measurable parameters:

Keyword Research and Analysis: The success of a SEO process depends on the keywords targeted for the website which is the single most important process in driving the right audience to the website through SEO. During this process the provider will first finalize on the pages to be targeted after which they would work on the possible combination of the keyword phrases that can be targeted for the pages. Once it has been finalized, it will be sent for your review and make sure you analyze the keywords suggested using the below tools,

Google Keyword Tool – Make sure you insert the list of keywords provided to find its,
• Local Search Volume
• Global Monthly Search Volume
• Search Volume Trends
• Highest Volume Occurred (month)

These details will give you an idea about the keyword and its effectiveness. In addition to the above details, the tool would suggest various other alternate keywords which might also be considered.

Google Insights: With this tool you can find the search volume patter across specific regions, categories, time frame and properties. You have options to filter based on the search engine, year, location and category.

The above tools will give you some info about the list of keywords targeted in the process however in addition to the above the SEO provider will be using various other tools and would do an in-depth analysis on the keywords used by your competitors. It is always a good practice to coordinate with the SEO provider and do a complete round of review on the keywords until you are satisfied but make sure that you don’t command them instead listen to what they say and decide.

The most important factor here is prior to the process ensuring that you provide your complete requirement with all detailed information.

How can you provide value and make Facebook work better for others?

1. Engage the reader. Ask him questions about his business. Show interest in them, and they will show interest in you.

2. be gracious. Thank them for being a follower. Thank them for friend-requesting you. Always say thank you.

3. Reciprocate. Return the tweet by commenting on one of their tweets or blog posts. Tell them you like their site, their profile picture, etc. Say it and mean it.

4. Create Passion. Write and link to content that not only will interest the readers, but will also interest you. Readers can tell when you’re writing about something that you’re mildly interested in and something that you have a passion for.

Being a part of a social site needn’t be about who ate lunch where or an outline of your daily habits because that is what is happening with twitter. Add value to your pages and keep the readers coming back for more by giving them that value. Write about interesting topics. Write about unusual practices. Blog about changes in your company’s industry. Blog about blogging and how it has helped you online.

Whatever you find that adds value to your online presence, use it to its maximum and your readers will fill in the rest of the puzzle. Build it and they will come

Creating Value on Your Facebook and Twitter Social Networks:

Nowadays it is a fashion statement to be on Facebook or twitter or any other social networking website. So if you’re a Twitterer or a Facebooker, do you have something of value to say or we are just following the herd? Are we doing any value addition so as to help broaden the mindset of your followers with your information?
For me the social networking scene is good for my business, but am I contributing enough for others in my circle?
When the Facebook platform first became popular, it was primarily with college students who socialized about things that interested them: parties test scores, campus events, etc. After a while (like these days), you can find a lot more diversified audience of moms, freelancers and a host of businesses who connect to their own websites and product lines. According to Facebook’s statistics page, there are now over 200 million users on Facebook and that is a lot of people who have something to say!
With Twitter, it’s quite flattering to get a “ding” in your inbox announcing that someone is “now following you on Twitter.” We never tire or get bored with reading who’s following you because we want to learn more about them. I think that’s one component of Twitter that’s pretty good. And since Twitter responses are more succinct than Facebook’s (generally speaking), when you Tweet, you better be sure to have something to say, say it quickly (or succinctly), and move on. But what if you are of the ‘know-it-all types and like to explain things in detail?
These are only two social networks that I’ve mentioned, but there are countless more with new ones popping up all of the time. They certainly are here to stay, but are you as an individual, a business person or a corporate representative getting any value from those sites? Are you finding that they enhance your business knowledge, or do you find that you’re trudging through a lot of unnecessary information to get to the pearls? The answers to these questions will decide whether you add value to others or not.

Social Media Strategies for corporates: (Part 2):

6) Risk of the unknown. Human conversations are great; you never know where they will turn. For companies that are very logical, planned and methodical there are some elements of the unknown. One thing is for sure, the more you get involved with a conversation in the start, the less risk you’ll have over time.

7) Social Media goes deep in the organization. This tool will change how executives communicate to employees and the public. Support teams will start to engage customers using social media, Middle Management will integrate these tools into program plans, and the rank and file will often be first generation adopters, it’s often bottom up and distributed. Social media is already beginning to be a line item in the 2007 budget.

8. Social Media goes wide in the organization. It’s not just about marketing or PR, the Internet, Extranet and the Intranet will be impacted. You can reduce support costs; build better products with engineering in near-real time. Decrease the sales cycle through education, and even reduce recruiting costs and attract the top talent. This web by nature is global, there are more Chinese internet users than all of North America, and for some time, Japanese is a more common language in blogs than English.

9) Social Media spans time. Savvy companies are learning how to use these tools across all phases of the customer life cycle. Awareness, engagement, education, pitches, negotiation, deployment, support, product research, customer feedback, market and competitive intelligence, and then repeats. This public conversation will be archived through as long as the internet is accessible. Google is the memory.

10) Social Media is neither magic nor voodoo. Use these tools to open and reach out, use these great web tools to reach and connect to customers, everyone can contribute. Learn the tools, experiment internally.