Tag Archives: social media

Building a Social Media Calendar

Need some topic ideas to build your social media marketing and posting calendar?  Here’s some of the things we use:

a)     Week ahead. Write a weekly piece about what members can expect in the week ahead.

b)    Events preview. Write an events preview, include predictions from members, short snippet of interviews and other material that involves a broader group.

c)     Events review. Review recent events. Let others contribute their opinion. Members can reflect on the event together.

d)    Predictions. Invite members to make predictions about the future, everyone loves to do it.

e)    Interview members. Members interviews should be cornerstone content. It creates engaged readers for life, encourages referrals and gives people means to compare themselves to others.

f)      Interview VIPs. VIPs are usually eager to talk to connected groups of people. Who is a VIP in your industry?

g)     Product reviews. What products are members likely to be using in the future? Can you review some?

h)    Member achievements. Who has achieved something fantastic this week? Ask members to submit their achievements.

i)      Gossip column. Risky, but often popular. Invite members to submit topical gossip and publish it as a weekly column. Go easy on the venom, heavy on the fun.

j)      Member of the week/month. Like the above, but a member of the week/month tends to be popular.

k)    Statement from the community. On a frequent basis I’d ask members to contribute to a statement from the community. i.e. We’re furious bank fees are going up, please input on what you would like in a statement from the community.

l)      People on the move. Who is moving? It might be people changing jobs or people moving house or any relevant ‘move’. Hard to resist this sort of content.

m)   Latest news. Overused in most communities, but often useful. What’s the latest news in your topic?

n)    Job vacancies. Any jobs available? Reach out to recruiters or compile a job tips page. Any information that would encourage people to participate in the job vacancies page.

o)    Competition. When they’re done right they’re really a lot of fun.

p)    VIP spotted. Has any member spotted a VIP at an event recently, submit it here.

q)    Opinion pieces. Give people in your community a chance to give their opinion in a rotating-authorship opinion section. Everyone gets a turn.

r)     Guest columnists. Will any relevant business in your sector write a guest column?

s)     Advice section. Summarize the latest advice, what’s the general consensus of the online community?

t)     News round-up. What is the round-up of the news this week? It’s a simple place a member can visit to see what’s new without trawling various sources of industry news.

Let me know if you find this helpful or have any to add.

Identifying Influencers. Do you know who they are in your social media channels?

Today I moderated a Twitter chat #SMCColumbus where we discussed Social Media Influencers.  Here’s some of the highlights.

What’s a social media influencer?

Short definition: Someone who is active on a social media channel who are well respected and likely to be listened to.

Successful social media marketing isn’t simply about amassing thousands of followers, but instead precisely identifying the most influential members of your audience and recognizing them for their value. By directly engaging one influencer with exclusive opportunities, special offers, and unique content, you are indirectly engaging thousands of other people who are part of this influencer’s social sphere.

Keep in mind, the type of friends, fans and followers a brand amasses on social media sites matters more than the number. On average, approximately 1% of a site’s audience generates 20% of all its traffic through sharing of the brand’s content or site links with others. And these “influencers” drive an even higher share of conversion. These very important Internet users can directly influence 30% or more of overall end actions on brand websites by recommending the brand’s site, products or promotions to friends.

How do you measure the influence?

In my opinion, it depends on the specific media source of course.

  • Blog- traffic as measured on sites like compete.com, Alexa.com.
  • Twitter-followers are a good indicator of influence as well as number of times listed. After that, re-tweets. Services to help: Klout, PostRank

The most influential are not on just a single network, but across multiple networks. Just like a luxury product goes well with another luxury product, so do different social media channels.  This way they take advantage of both Reach AND Frequency.

How do you find them?

1. Use reporting and traffic analysis tools to find out who your most influential followers are.   Radian6 is a good option.  The goal is to find which individuals are most actively sharing your brand’s links and messages.

2. Find out what motivates them.  Are they seeking exposure and fame?  Do they tend to share deals and discounts? Or do they prefer to share links to your branded entertainment content, like YouTube videos, social games and contests, or informational articles?

3. Engage your fans and followers around what they like about your brand and products, why they like it, what they’d like to see improved, and what types of opportunities and offers they’d be most interested in receiving.  Just be authentic and don’t sell.  Because if you overly “sell” to your influencers, you’ll burn a bridge and potentially turn your biggest fans into your worst enemies.  Be personalized.  Be authentic.

What are the key mistakes when targeting influencers and how to avoid them?

First, you need to appeal to them. If you want them to do something, you need to give them an idea of what’s in it for them, without being offensively obvious about it. The fact is that you need their help more than they need yours, so you have to be political about it. Secondly, a canned message rarely works. If you truly want to get them on your side, you better let them know that you actually are a fan and know what they are about.

Here’s some additional feedback:

@MatthewRusso: A SoMe Influencer iuses their active audience to distribute timely, useful content and messages to make a difference.  Quantity breeds quality. You have to put SOMETHING out to start engaging. Without access, no opportunity for a connection.  Finding SoMe influences depends on the goals of a campaign. Targeted niches might be best, but sheer volume may also work.  You never know what will work until you try it first. Then you can refine/adjust based on feedback.  My local presence has grown due to the in-person meetups I mentioned earlier. Connecting offline has been key.

@nxtconcepts: An Influencer is someone who identifies their advocates and recognizes them for their value and contributions.  We try to keep in mind that we need Social Media Influencers help, more than they need ours.

@tonnishaenglish: I would measure their influence by the ppl they attract & the way they make a difference. I would rather ONE follower I am engaged with & making a difference for than have ONE MILLION & do nothing.  Also, if you don’t know who/what your target is, how can you aim for/at anything? That could lead to mistake #1.

Social Media Community Building

What is social media community building? It’s where people come together because of a ‘bigger’ idea. They have a common association or feeling that’s related to a person, product, organization, or event.

For me, creating a community online for a business is really the same as throwing a party offline.  You invite people to an experience and hope to keep them entertained with clear expectations and outcomes.  That way they can choose to spend time where they feel they can make a difference.  The problems arise when companies let their true goal (making money) become the main focus in social media.

The line between marketing and selling in social media is where many people and organizations get stuck.  Many people are ok to be marketed to in social media.  It’s when they are blatently sold to, they leave.  So, where’s the line?  People aren’t going to interact with you via social media so you can throw sales messages at them.   And, they aren’t going to come together and form communities so you can promote your product and grow your business.  Once you recognize that, then you can start using social media in the same way that your customers are, and for the same reasons.

There are three steps to building a community: exposure, awareness, motivation.

1. Exposure-Size matters.

Having influential people in your audience is important.  Audience size and influence does matter. You need to have both engaged followers, and a large number of followers.  Otherwise, your message will just not be heard.

2. Awareness-big and loud still works.  Personalize.

There’s almost an unlimited amount of options and noise in social media.  So, to get through, big ads, viral campaigns, videos, and exposure still work to get attention – to a point. Eventually, being the center of attention at the party gets old.   That’s where personalization becomes critical.  Once you get someone’s attention, you need to talk to them. Ever heard your name over the top of the noise in a crowded party? That’s selective attention; utilize it in your marketing.

3. Motivation-why do people share?  To make them look good of course!  So, help make your audience look cool.

Nobody likes to talk to the guy at the party who only talks about himself. Don’t be that guy on social media.  Your goal should be to motivate people to share stories and experiences.  Preferably positive one’s about your brand.  Some ways to do that: be relevant-focus on topics that your community will find interesting; use tools to increase the reach of your community such as sharing links, calls to action, and networking tools; provide something of value such as how-to/instructional information, warnings and alerts, even humor.  Be original but familiar.

One online community that has been very successful is Nike’s Nike+ running community. It meets every need of the consumer: ease of logging workouts, running accountability and connecting with others who have running in common.   It also has a coolness factor that lends to the passion the runners have for the sport.

Whether you have a social media community already or are just starting out building one.  The main thing to keep in mind is to be a good host.  Make sure to devote enough time and energy into encouraging involvement, responding to member’s comments and questions and making sure enough solid content continues to be published to give members a reason to come back.

Viral Marketing-The next strain of marketing

Originally written and published for Ski Area Management in May 2006.  It’s an oldy but goody!

There’s a secret new marketing strategy circulating through the ski industry. It’s basically free, almost always entertaining, and rarely involves a visit to the doctor.

In the old days, marketing was considered a function of your organization, and managing your message was an art. You used “visible” methods, such as printed materials, press releases and ads, TV, and radio spots to build brand awareness and generate sales leads. It worked, but the majority of these tools were expensive and inefficient. As the old adage went, “50 percent of marketing dollars are wasted, we just don’t know which half.”

That’s so last century. Today, marketing has become more personalized. It’s become more of an interactive experience. Instead of being an “art” and a function of your business it’s now an “act” of an organization, one that relies on “invisible” science and technology. We still use technology to generate leads, but also to talk directly with consumers. This is why “viral marketing” is rapidly replacing traditional marketing methods and has become the latest strain of marketing.

Traditional Visible Marketing

“What’s Out”

Invisible Viral Marketing

“What’s In”

Print Collateral Website
Print Ads Banner Ads
Direct Mail Email Marketing
Mail in Sweepstakes Online Contest/games
Professional photography Individual Camera phones
TV ads Video-on-demand
Press release Gossip & rumor mill creation
Emails Instant Message/RSS Feeds
Mailed letter Mobile text message marketing
In-house sales manager Affiliate marketing
Customer comment cards Blogs
Broadcast ski reporting (Snocountry.com) Desktop ski reporting software (Snowmate)

Driven by consumers, viral marketing is rapidly gaining momentum and acceptance in the mainstream business world. A handful of early adopter ski areas are realizing the power the Web has to target the right consumers with the right message and to deliver the message inexpensively. These resorts have come to understand that their guests want three things: segmentation (talk to my group), personalization (in a way that I understand), and conversation (let me have a say). And they are shifting some marketing dollars into online efforts, including viral marketing.

What is viral marketing?

Have you ever visited a website and found an article, a coupon, a special offer, or something else that impressed you so much that you immediately sent an email to a friend about it? If you have, you’ve experienced “viral marketing.”

Viral marketing is a highly effective way to “bug your customers” by marketing your products or services using web-based technology. It is enticing because of the ease of execution, relative low-cost (compared to direct mail), good targeting, and the high and rapid response rate.

The term viral marketing was originally coined by venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson in 1997 to describe Hotmail’s email practice of adding advertising for themselves to outgoing mail from their users. The strategy was simple. On the bottom of each and every Hotmail email was the phrase, “Get your free private email at www.hotmail.com.” According to Jurvetson, this simple sentence helped to make Hotmail the largest email provider in India without spending a dime.

Viral marketing campaigns are used to generate awareness or to stimulate specific action. By harnessing the network effect of the Internet, viral marketing can reach large numbers of people rapidly, like a bug or flu virus in humans. Instead of propagating itself by human contact, it does so by computer contact (in a good way). One minute no one’s heard of a product or service like Hotmail; next minute, it’s everywhere.

Viral marketing is effective because it capitalizes on referrals from an unbiased and trusted third party—your consumer. Let just one of your customers catch your “marketing bug,” and they will happily “sneeze it” to everyone they know. Viral marketing campaigns can have a long life expectancy and are usually much more cost effective than other marketing methods, since your “sneezers” take it upon themselves to spread your message for free—more precisely, as the by-product of your customers’ normal online activity.

Building the Bug

A viral marketing campaign should focus on something you do, NOT on who you are. A viral campaign is something that is so cool, so exciting, or so creative that it gets people very excited; they can’t wait to share it with others. Often the ultimate goal of viral marketing campaigns (and the proof of their success) is to generate media coverage worth many times more than your entire advertising budget.

“Bob,” an animated character created by Elk Mountain Ski Resort in Pennsylvania, is a great example of a concept that “went viral” due to its broad appeal and loyal following.  “Bob” is everybody’s Elk insider-buddy who gives them the scoop on what’s happening. He came to life on the web in January 2006. According to general manager Gregg Confer, “Bob is just an ordinary guy doing an extraordinary job… especially for an animated character.” Customers can’t get enough of Bob, so he will soon be appearing in the resort’s coloring books, new clothing line, and on employee uniforms.

The “Bob” concept was developed to appeal to consumers in a fresh and entertaining way that differentiated Elk from its competition. For about $3,000 in development and implementation costs, “Bob” helped drive the resort website visits up 92 percent over a three-month time span during the 2005-06 season. To see how cool Bob is, go to www.elkskier.com.

Making the bug cool

Since viral marketing is relatively new, most organizations are confused about what viral campaigns are and how they work. The method is still evolving. However, there are three basic types of viral marketing: word-of-mouth, pass-it-on, and virtual tools.

1. Word of mouth involves integrated web technology that encourages you to  “Tell a Friend,” “Send this coupon to a friend,” or “Recommend this website to a friend.”

Killington has done a great job of word of mouth viral marketing with their weekly email newsletter “The Drift.” Unlike traditional (and boring) newsletters, this one is off-beat, with a personal writing style that caters to Killington insiders. Besides entertaining content, there’s a contest in every issue. Named “Gimme, Gimme,” the questions keep readers coming back for more. One “Gimme, Gimme” question asked, “If you weren’t planning to go skiing or riding on a given weekend, what could a resort do for you to get you motivated (hint, hint, wink, wink, and a nudge)? Free tickets and a foot of snow are not acceptable answers only because I can control neither.” Respondents could win two 2-Day lift tickets valid for the rest of the season.

Nick Polumbus, Killington’s marketing brand manager (and the personality behind “Drift”), was not able to share the area’s in-house subscribers numbers, but admitted that “our email subscriber list has stayed pretty consistent for the past 3-4 years. We’ve worked hard to deliver content, giveaways, and cool new things such as podcasting to keep our subscribers reading and hopefully coming to Killington.” He admitted that The Drift receives an average of 600-900 email responses to every “Gimme, Gimme” contest. Considering the only cost involved is a bit of creativity, that’s viral! To get the drift of The Drift, go to http://www.killington.com.

2. Pass-It-On is the ultimate viral technique. Ever pass on a joke or political cartoon? Sure, you and everyone else. A January 2006 study by Sharpe Partners revealed that 9 out of 10 adult Internet users in America share content with others via email.

Pass-it-on viral marketing relies on social networking, where the receiver feels compelled to “pass on” and share an article, cool tool, funny video, etc through email to a friend, family member, or associate. Echo Mountain, Colorado, has exploited this in a most unique way. To spread word of the all-park area’s impending opening last March, the resort tapped into the social networking power of snowboarders and freestyle skiers through Myspace.com. For those who have somehow escaped news of this infamous and wildly popular social networking website, it offers a plethora of instant communication (i.e., viral marketing) tools, including music & photo sharing, blog creation, anonymous matchmaking (match people of similar interests), community group space, and an internal email system to send messages to other MySpace.com friends. MySpace.com has recently been criticized for allowing members to post indecent pictures and use high levels of profanity, and for some advertising that violates good taste, none of which deters its fans. According to Alexa’s web report in March 2006, MySpace is the world’s fifth-most popular English-language website.

According to Eric Pettit, marketing director for Echo Mountain, “we chose to build a page on Myspace.com after listening to recommendations from our interns, who are closest in age to our target market. It made sense for us to go where there’s already a [freestyle skier and snowboard] community interacting online. The fact that it’s free didn’t hurt, either.” As for the controversy that surrounds Myspace, Eric said, “People are going to talk to their buds online. We can either join in and help lead the conversation or let it go on without us. We just try to watch what WE say.”

Their viral thinking has paid off. Just a few weeks after creating their page on Myspace.com they had already gathered hundreds of “friends,” comments and pictures. The best part? Their network of sneezers continues to grow, all without spending one single penny. You can see it online at www.myspace.com/echomtnpark.

3. Virtual tools are usually product- or service-based. A viral tool is used online and embedded with a marketing message, like Hotmail’s free emails.

In January of 2004, Vail launched “Snowmate,” a downloadable computer program that website visitors and resort guests could leave on their desktop to get up-to-the-minute information on weather, snow conditions, video clips, and travel offers. Snowmate lets users seek information in a fun, unique, and playful way. It includes “Trevvor,” an animated cartoon character, and animations such as piles of snow on the computer screen when it was snowing at Vail. Vail included “tell-a-friend” tools in the program that made it easy for users to email others favorite images or deals.

Although this type of viral tool is more expensive than most, it is still relatively cheap by traditional standards, and it produced significant returns. According to Kam Rope, director of online marketing and sales for Vail Resorts, there were 55,000 downloads in the first five months, and more than $200,000 in measurable revenue from click-throughs (users who used their mouse to click on a link in the program to visit a website or get additional information). The 2006-07 season will see the third generation of the application, with new elements to make the viral tool more compelling for the user and more rewarding for Vail Resorts.

Spreading the Bug

Coming up with a cool concept that people will embrace and share with others is not easy. But if you can get your “sneezers” involved in building the concepts, they will be more likely to spread your bug. That’s just what Snow Trails Winter Resort in Ohio did this past season.

The Snow Trails “Wanted Video Contest” focused on creating a place where terrain park enthusiasts could show off their best video tricks to all their friends. Snow Trails created a micro-site on their website that allowed registered contestants to upload personal video for “fame and prizes”. Here’s the viral part: to win fame and prizes, the contestants had to engage their network of friends to visit snowtrails.com and vote for their videos. By integrating “tell a friend” and “voting system” software into the micro-site, it was fun and easy for contestants to “spread the word” about their video—and the Snow Trails brand as well.

Snow Trails marketing manager Nate Wolleson says, “For less than $1,000 we were able to excite a target market that is normally very hard to reach, and to generate ten times our investment in sponsor money and prizes. The Wanted Video Contest not only generated a 12 percent increase in visitors on snowtrails.com during the campaign but also spiked an 18 percent jump in people that spent two or more minutes on the site. And, as you know, the longer they hang around, the longer they think about Snow Trails.”

How to Keep from Getting Sick

One of the most exciting things about viral marketing is the fact that anyone can do it. No matter if you are a 25,000 skier-visit area or a 250,000 skier-visit resort, the only thing you need (besides an open mind) is to create something that people WANT to share with others.

Remember that. Many marketers will be tempted to quickly throw together a campaign while viral marketing is still relatively new. Unfortunately, most will fail for one simple reason: lameness. To become viral, the email, website, application, or video being shared must be unique, informative and/or entertaining, or create a definite value by solving a problem. If it doesn’t appear to originate from a credible entity (i.e., a relevant organization or individual to the sneezer), it can be seen as blatant advertising and immediately discredited. Finally, if the leave-behind message doesn’t resonate with the target/intended audience, or provide a meaningful call to action, it’s a waste of time and money.

Spreading your own Bug

So don’t be lame! Inoculate yourself against failure—follow the top 10 best practices of the six areas mentioned above.

Ski Resort Viral Marketing Best Practices:

1. Know your audience

Start with something relevant to your sneezers to get their attention and encourage them to act. Understanding and delivering what your sneezers want is the key to “going viral.” This includes going to where they are (Echo Mountain and Myspace.com) and speaking their language (Killington’s The Drift).

2. Remember who you are

The tone and personality of your viral campaign will either build long-term relationships or destroy them. A fun and friendly viral campaign (Elk Mountain’s “Bob”) will reinforce how your customers see your resort. A borrowed campaign that is not aligned with your overall marketing objectives or your personality will almost always backfire.

3. Keep it short and sweet (K.I.S.S.)

Always keep your content brief and relevant. You have 7 seconds to make an impression that captures the reader’s attention. Use bullet points or short paragraphs to make information and sentences easy to absorb.

4. Layout and design

Appearance and style can play a major role in making your viral campaign a success. Build your viral tool around the niche group you are trying to attract. Keep in mind that not everyone has broadband. Readability and quick on-screen reading should be number-one priorities. For those that do have broadband and are web savvy, exploit it (think Snow Trails, Wanted Video Contest).

5. Covertly embed promotional concepts into your viral tools.

Encourage people to visit your website more often by offering the things that appeal to them the most, such as coupons, e-specials, contests, and fresh content (Vail’s SnowMate).

6. Be unique.

Do things that are unique and grab attention. Be subtle, not forceful.

7. Provide a call to action.

Tell people what you want them to do. Make it simple. Make it intuitive. Make it easy. Vail encourages visitors to download the application and start having fun.

8. Offer an incentive.

Greed is the most common motivator. Use it to encourage your sneezers to act on your behalf: “Tell a friend and be included in a drawing for …” Then, leverage, leverage, leverage! “Tell five friends and get a free …” Snow Trails’ video contest compelled contestants to get their friends to visit the snowtrails.com website to vote.

9.  Trust no one…

…because no one trusts you or what you will do. Post your privacy policy. Highlight opt-out options. Most people won’t consider giving out an email unless they know what you plan to do with it and can remove themselves if they so choose. Killington includes contact and subscription information at the bottom of every email.

10. Be prepared for a big response.

Viral tactics are designed to grow exponentially and are uncontrollable. You tell two friends, then they tell two friends, then they tell two friends, and so on. Often, these hordes will jam your web site, registering, downloading a large file, requesting a freebie, or buying something. If the campaign is strong enough, you might see a 10- or 100-fold increase in traffic within a day. Make sure whatever technology you use can handle the spike. There’s nothing worse than offering something you can’t deliver on.

Social Media Measurement. Let’s Talk Tangibles.

Social Media Measurement.  We hear a lot about it.  I constantly see people touting that it should be, and can be done.  But, when you get right down to it, I have a hard time finding people that provide concrete examples of how they are doing it.

Sure, I’ve seen quite a few articles and presentations where people say measurement is about:
“Focusing on listening”
“Facilitating conversions”
“Leveraging relationships”

Let’s be honest, that tells me absolutely nothing.  And instead conjures pictures in my mind of trapping people in a room and telling them the only way out is to say “the magic words”.  Even then, I bet there still would be people that wouldn’t listen.

Social media measurement is a tricky subject, there are quite a few intangibles.  Not everything can or should be measured.  And, getting data is a bit more challenging since the focus is on relationships and value exchange.  Not to mention the limitations within the networks themselves.  In any case, no matter how large or small your business, the first thing you need to do as a social marketer is answer the question, “why are we doing social media”.  The answers you get, will help you determine what to measure.

For example.  At nxtConcepts, we tackled  “why are we doing social media” with a few of the following answers:
1. To learn.
2. To demonstrate in a live scenario the work we can do for clients.
3. Affordable national brand awareness.

Once we wrote that down, it started to make the intangible, tangible and measurement possible.  (Without locking anyone in a room.)

Answer 1. To learn.
Measurement-Engagement (# of comments, retweets, Likes, Photo or video uploads, event participation, poll usage, bookmarks, downloads and discussions)

Answer 2. To demonstrate in a live scenario the work we can do for clients.
Measurement--Application usage (games, landing pages, media players, sign-ups, Foursquare type interactions, plug-in’s that extend social media to an organization’s website)

Answer 3. Affordable national brand awareness.
Measurement--Awareness (# of Fans and followers over time and how it compares to others in the industry, social media sharing)
Measurement--Analytics (profile data, conversions, demographics, page/media views, churn)

What are some ways your organization answers the question, “why are we doing social media”?

Social Media Networks an Inside Look

A few months ago, a question was asked in one of the social media groups I belong to on LinkedIn:

“How many social media profiles do you actively manage?”

To date there have been over 830 comments from at least 500 people.  It’s a pretty active discussion.  It made me start to think…what a great informal research project.  So, that’s what we did.  We went ahead and tabulated how many social media networks this group uses regularly and what the most important/popular networks that are being used.

Here’s what we found:

Social Media Accounts LinkedIn users Manage Regularly

Social Networks Usage from Study

I found it interesting that most people that contributed to this called LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook “The Big Three”.  From the results you can see that a good portion of the respondents used these three social networks as their primary focus.

One other thing we found from this Discussion Group was the preferred tools.  Here’s a listing of the “best” tools to help make social media more manageable:

Let me know your thoughts.  Do you agree with the results?  How often do you update your online profiles for work or personal thoughts?

Has Your Business Lost Brand Control?

With the prevalence of social media and the internet, businesses no longer have complete control of their marketing messages. Consumers who are willing to talk about their experiences – also have the power to change perception.

What are some of the steps you are using to manage your reputation?

Here’s three we do:

1. Monitor. We use a variety of search tools to keep track of what is being said about our company, the people that work here, our services, clients, and other relevant keywords that appear online.

2. Evaluate. We read through everything. Then, we need to decide “if”, “how”, “when”. and “what” approach to use.

3. Act. Before we comment, we try to take into account the source, outlet, timing, and level of risk what we might say will have in the social sphere. We also try to decide if it is better to respond publicly or privately.

What else would you add?

10 Most Popular Tweets of 2009

2009 has been an interesting year for marketing.  Social media seems to have quickly created a place for itself, even while marketers are still trying to figure it out.  That’s why I thought it would be interesting to track just what topics received the most attention from my Twitter postings at http://www.twitter.com/srufo . Personally, I still love the “Martini Marketing” article.

Top 10 news stories clicked by Twitter readers in the past year.

1. Social media emerging as key to ski-industry marketing according to Mountain Travel Symposium. http://ow.ly/25Vs
2. MUST READ. MySpace becomes social-media “ghetto” http://ow.ly/uSJ5
3. Social media challenges social rules. Old social rules don’t seem to work online http://ow.ly/BTle
4. Can your loyalty be bought? Microsoft wants to pay publishers to leave Google. http://ow.ly/FeeX
5. Vail Resorts’ Top Exec Acknowledges Huge Decline in Ski Season. Retail & Ski School hardest hit. http://ow.ly/21mh
6. Martini Marketing. Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of this? http://ow.ly/4i0b
7. What do spa guests want in these uncertain economic times? Over 1,300 active spa-goers responded to this poll. http://ow.ly/FdHr
8. Good reminder. How to Not Go Out of Business – from BusinessWeek http://ow.ly/EjL1
9. VIDEO: Tapping marketing potential of your site’s press page http://ow.ly/4Deu
10. Did social networks kill Second Life? Anyone still using SL? http://ow.ly/HtQE

What is a social media expert?

I’ve seen quite a few things recently written about “social media experts”.  It’s my turn to chime in.  Since social media itself is pretty new, the way it is being used is even newer and constantly changing.

In the traditional world, to become an expert you would go to school, earn a degree and have defined proof that you were able to master many of the nuances of a topic or field.  With the lightening-speed arrival of the Internet and web 2.0, most people didn’t wait for a degree or for the curriculum to be built, they became experts by doing.  This same concept applies to social media.

Since there are few standard to gage by, the rules are being made up as we go along.  That has caused a few “self described” experts to take it upon themselves to create their own definitions.  I find this a somewhat narrow point of view.  Kind of like creating a club and then only inviting the people you want to it.

I was talking recently to a client.  He said that he was approached by a social media company to help them manage their social media brand.  He asked them what their company page was on Facebook.  They replied that they had individual pages and client pages but not a company page.  He dismissed them as “not experienced enough”.

Ok, so I understand that there are some different nuances to managing a corporate page on Facebook than a personal one.  Some of the options do work differently.  But why penalize a company for how they market themselves?  Shouldn’t it be about what they do for their clients?

I guess it did hit a nerve with me.  Does nxtConcepts have a Facebook page?  Yup.  Do we do much with it?  Nope.  I think because we frankly run out of steam when we get done updating all the other networks we are on such as: Twitter, Plaxo, Friendfeed, mySpace, Technorati, SecondLife, TripIt, TalkBizNow, Digg, Kiva, LinkedIn, Yahoo, YouTube, Zazzle,  eBay, Reddit, Blogger, Twitpic, Flickr, Squidoo and others.  Not to mention the work we do for clients in these and other spaces.  The other point is that Facebook may be critical to many of the ski resorts and other clients we work with in a business to consumer relationship but frankly in a business to business situation it sucks.  So, why devote considerable time there, when other social networks are more in-line with our corporate marketing strategy?  Just to say we can?

I digress.

Another writer says there are styles of social media experts including:
the “Power User” (someone that has built an established following over a long period of time),
the “Content Creator” (create and launch content tailored to the social world’s desires),
the “Salesman” (tout ways to make money or blatantly try to sell you something) and
the “Famous” (comfortable with the brand, the person or know of their accomplishments).

So that’s it?  Is social media just a popularity contest?  Is this why businesses have a hard time justifying a portion of their marketing budget to it?  I believe it can be so much more.  The goal for business is to engage with the people that are interested in what you do.  Not to spend extraordinary amounts of time to interact with a world of uninterested people.  That to me is what defines a social media expert — the person or team that can pinpoint who you need to engage, on what networks, and with what content.  And, it is our job to keep expanding the definition and finding ways to make it work for our us and our clients.