Most marketers would ask the wrong question here: “how can social networks make more money?”
The problem with that approach is that you tend to focus on immediate means of monetizing the value of social networks such as MySpace, Orkut, Friendster, LinkedIn,Mixx, Stumbleupon, Reddit,Twiter and Flikr, while ignoring the real reason these networks were setup and how you can use those ideas to help your business.
MySpace, Orkut and Friendster grew as means to stay in touch with friends, meet new people online and to share ideas. LinkedIn has a similar slant - it is great for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to mine their contacts for hiring / outsourcing. And Flickr is just a blindingly simple tool for sharing photos.
The success of social networks marks a dynamic shift in how people are using the Internet. We’ve evolved from just searching for information to creating and participating in social spaces with other individuals through the Internet. This model is based upon the hive mentality where people identify themselves as part of a group with similar likes and interests that draw them together. This is easy to do online because the traditional communication barriers of physical locations no longer exist.
SEO and Social NetworksSocial networks make viral marketing and word-of-mouth marketing much easier than before. The best use out of social networks is not to make money ‘directly’ off them, but to harness their marketing potential and to use them to market your own business.
The difference between traditional search engine marketing and social marketing
The main goal of any search engine marketer is to drive more traffic to their site. The best way to do that is to optimize your website (including the process of link building) for your target keywords.
Online social networks present an efficient platform for you to use in the spread of your marketing message. In addition, it is also a great tool for getting tons of visitors and thousands of page views to your site.
Standard search marketing and website design tactics will tell you that the best way to do this is by creating lots of content targeted at your niche keywords. Then, you’d do doing everything in your power to get links back to your website pages with your niche keywords as text anchor links.
Instead, what it does mean is that you need to devote more of your attention towards how you can leverage the traffic you do receive from these sources. To do that, you should allow your visitors to create their own social network centered around your niche topic.
The power of this cannot be missed since social networks allow for multiple points of connections between almost anyone on Earth, giving them the ability to find, share, enjoy, and track anything and everything that tickles their fancy.
Using social network applications like MySpace these preferences and choices can be saved, stored, shared and used to build a network of glowing endorsements for your business and products.
As these endorsements are established and cross-referenced, the profile of yourself, your company, and your products can grow exponentially as more and more people become exposed to and share your marketing message.
One of the primary focuses of traditional search engine marketing tactics is the establishment of links from other websites that point visitors back towards your site, preferably with your niche keyword anchor text.
Social network marketing works in the exact same fashion, except people choose to provide your link without being asked to do so, and places like del.ici.ous, Digg, Blogpulse, and Technorati give them the ability to do that.
In offline terms, that means turning towards your friends and family to ask for their opinions. Online, it means turning towards a group of trusted people whose opinions and recommendations you value.
In fact, in lots of cases, you’ve probably done some research on your own, using the traditional search engine marketing model and then turned to a social network that you’re a part of to validate your findings and complete your research by getting their experiences and opinions about the topic.
This is social network marketing at work in its purest form.
One person actively soliciting comments from other people within their community to assist them in making a decision and its only one example of the many ways that the power of online social networks can be leveraged.
Online social networks provide the platform needed to speak out (if they are so inclined) or to simply watch the conversations as they happen.
In fact, online social network marketing is expanding into something much more than that as the Internet becomes a living, breathing organism – the Living Web – that allows people to engage themselves in the things that matter to them and participate in a discussion about what they find important.
To understand why the future of social network marketing is important, how it is so powerful, and what you’ll need to do to integrate it into your online business, an understanding of the mechanics behind it is necessary.
Once you understand the mechanisms at work, you’ll gain a greater appreciation for how to profit from the existing social networks like the ones mentioned earlier, as well as how to use them to create your own social networks built around your niche topics.
Connectors, Mavens and SalespeopleAside from the knowledge shared, one of the key drivers behind social networks is a well-known idea – Six Degrees of Separation, which proposes that anyone can be connected with someone else through no more than five intermediary relationships.
Made popular through an Internet game based around the actor Kevin Bacon, the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”, that links his appearances in films with that of other actors, directors, actresses, writers, etc.
The degrees of separation are referenced through the number of films that separate that person from Kevin Bacon, producing a “Bacon Score” for that person.
If you played around with Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon long enough, you’ll notice some trends that mimic real social networks.
There are some people in Hollywood who are more easily connected to Kevin Bacon than others or are better equipped to connect others to him because of the types or number of films they’ve been involved with.
In terms of the real world and the social networks that exist within it, these people are called Connectors.
Connectors are people with a special gift for bringing others together. They are “people specialists” who have an extraordinary knack for making friendships with lots of people across many sub-niches and cultures. These people are the “social glue” that bring others together.
If you think of it in terms of a common cold, it’s relatively simple. In this case, Connectors are those people best positioned to spread the germ throughout the population – bus drivers, bank tellers, waiters, and anyone else who comes into contact with a large number of people everyday.
Connectors are very rare people. Luckily for us, Connectors aren’t the only type of social activists available to spread your marketing message for you.
Another type of messenger that you can relieve upon are Mavens. Mavens are information specialists who have the knowledge and social skills to start word-of-mouth epidemics. These are the people who do all of the research necessary to solve their own problems and once they figure out that they have a good thing, they want to tell you about it too.
Mavens provide the initial spark and message that Connectors filter through their large network of contacts.
A third type of messenger, Salespeople, is vitally important to the transmission of your marketing message due to their ability to persuade others who are unconvinced of what they are hearing. They have an uncanny ability to turn “fence sitters” into marketing mavens who’ll champion your cause through their own interaction with your message.
Although they are a large part of it, epidemics are not simply a function of the people who transmit them. The transmission of your marketing message is also dependent upon the infectious agent itself and the environment in which it is operating