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SES San Jose 2006: Leveraging Social Media

Mike Banks Valentine
Expert Author
Published: 2006-08-07

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Attending morning SES (Search Engine Strategies) sessions after a 4am wake-up, airport crowds, public transit shuffles and schlepping luggage all morning - I was a bit cranky by the time I finally arrived at the San Jose Convention Center for morning sessions.

So please forgive my mood here, but the "Leveraging Social Search" session seemed a bit lightweight and without any solid suggestions for attendees.

First speaker Gary Stein, Director of Strategy, Ammo Marketing, mentioned the famous "Jib Jab" videos as viral social content and skimmed over stats from a PEW Internet study on why people say they blog. Top reasons many people do it for "Creative Expression" most do it for documenting experience. The third most popular reason was to share knowledge and experience.

That third ranked reason seems the best reason for marketers, the easiest to exploit for commercial reasons and the most likely to lead to valuable, lasting and worthwhile (marketable) content. Stein's role is that of a "Word of Mouth" or "WOM" marketer, so one can see why Jib Jab and positive blogger endorsements are near and dear to his heart.

Reputation management and true Word of Mouth (WOM) can span a very wide chasm between start-ups and potential success for the lucky product marketer - but there are also bad boys out there badmouthing vulnerable companies and products to extort "protection money" from nervous early stage companies. Many SEO's have been approached by anxious company reps seeking a way to overcome bad (high ranking) blog and forum posts for their company name or product trademark.

But the difference between suggesting that businesses go out and gain all those positive blog comments and actually getting those endorsements from bloggers in your marketing space are two very different things. All marketers would dearly love some clear and direct methods of gaining those social kudos online short of "Astro Turfing". (Supposed grass root marketing planted by WOM marketers.)

Next up on the panel was Scott Meyer, President and CEO, About.com,who made a quick intro to his portion of this panel by offering 4 key (power) points.

1. Success in social media equals Engagement plus authenticity times Target Audience Reach

2. Look for the Riches in the niches Social media takes many forms

3. Learn but don't be intimidated.

4. Cede only as much control as you are comfortable with. (Protect your brand)

While he suggested that those points were the critical take-aways of his presentation, he did expand on them. He classified About.com content as "mundane and not sexy" and emphasized it was editorially controlled, and thus not true social content. (I'll agree to the mundane label and add somewhat shallow as my own editorial comment on About.com.) Meyer emphasized several advertiser tie-ins to About.com content and pointed out the recent NBC Torino Winter Olympics 2006 event coverage by About.com guide James Martin.

The social media label has been applied widely in this new space and more forms of that amorphous category are emerging every day. One of those emerging is the new "Plum" where entrepreneur Hans Peter Brøndmo is doing something that might be called a variation of del.icio.us or maybe Squidoo.com where people "collect" stuff and tag it. The site is not officially launched as yet, but descriptions on the "learn more" page of the site suggest it will share aspects of both of those, plus a few more.

Brøndmo outlined social content creation with a reference to the famed 80/20 rule where 80% of content is created by 20% of users. He suggests a variation on that at 90:10:1 meaning that 1% of people contribute content 10% participate in the dialogue (comment or discuss), while 90% are consumers only - suggesting what he called "Info-Voyeurism" when he said, "We like to watch." Brondmo suggests that "open Source Marketing" asks the question "Can you control a mob?" and proposed an answer of sorts by suggesting that you do that through "Trust" in a community or system.

Wrapping up presentations was Brian Monahan, VP, ITG Emerging Media Lab - Director of "user gnerated content practice" with what he referred to as the self expression of "Me" media. Monahan showed some free form video clips solicited from several video bloggers which were done in response to a questionaire provided to them.

Those video clips elicited several smart (and funny) remarks from the video bloggers in response to the questions presented to them. Monahan suggested that those respondents or content "Generators." He said study suggests that they were highly opinionated, crave recognition, were "class clowns," sarcastic & reactive rather than original. Not much input beyond that of "I like it or not".

The conclusions drawn by each of the speakers appear to be that user generated content and social media are powerful beyond belief and that it is changing marketing in ways we have yet to fully grasp. Attendees looking for ways to successfully fulfill the session title (Leveraging Social Media) probably went away hoping they can find a way to exploit social media and leverage it to advantage, but were not provided any true suggestions short of using the companies represented on the panel in one way or another to advertise or market. I'd say that they have failed to leverage this SES reporter's blog, for example. ;-)

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About the Author:
Mike Banks Valentine operates SEOptimism, Offering SEO training of in-house content managers http://seoptimism.com/SEO_Staff_Training.htm The SearchRoll on SEO bloggers and Search Engine Blogs mentioned in this article can be found at http://WebSite101.com/metatags.html and at http://website101.com/Search_Engine_Positioning/keyword-voodoo.html

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