Renee Prejean-Motanky

Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

The ROI of Social Media

In Integrated Marketing Strategy, marketing, Social Media, The Internet, Tips You Can Use on July 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm



The most-asked questions  are “Where’s the ROI in social media marketing?” and “How much should I be spending on social media marketing?”  My answer is always, remove the term social media from those questions and ask them again:  “Where’s the ROI in marketing?” and “How much should I be spending on marketing?”

Social media isn’t a tool box of silver bullets given to us by aliens.  It’s simply a new set of technologies and concepts that we need to add and integrate into our existing marketing strategy.

And, there is always an ROI to marketing.


In Business Strategies, Integrated Marketing Strategy, marketing, Social Media, The Internet on June 23, 2013 at 12:45 am

Content Beast

Web Content Development

We’ve all done it. Whipped out some copy for a website, brochure, ad, or direct marketing piece on the fly and then edited it in the layout to make it more appropriate for the vehicle. Sometimes this is necessary due to time and other resource constraints, but ultimately it can be a killer to the effectiveness of your marketing communications vehicles, a lot more expensive, and take even more time.
We’ve said it before, but it is important enough to say it again—in marketing messaging you must live by the rant “repetition, repetition, repetition.” If you say the same thing, the same way, over and over again, eventually your audience will be able to repeat your message in the exact way you want it told. And then they tell two friends, and so on. Now, among many other positive results (like efficiency), your brand not only gains awareness, but relevance.
Writing effective marketing copy for websites, brochures, and other marketing communication pieces efficiently not only takes copywriting talent, but also the ability to create a structure that can be repurposed across all vehicles consistently. Over the years, we have helped many clients refresh their marketing materials to reflect a clear, compelling, and consistent message, ending with the one tool necessary to repurpose their content into new materials consistently and efficiently—the Content Specification. The truth is, taming the content beast does take a little elbow grease at first, but it can be easier when you use the following steps:
Audit Your Materials. First look at all of your company’s marketing materials—direct mail, brochures, website, press releases, media kit, etc—and perform an audit. Make note of what content is used, the inconsistencies you find, and the gaps of content that may simply be missing or inaccurate in each piece.
Identify “Repurposeable Content.” Once you have completed your audit, you should now be able to identify or create the content that will be repurposed across all vehicles into a Content Specification. We recommend you document your specification in Word, as it is easy to copy and paste from it into all types of design applications. At a minimum, your Content Specification should include your company and product positioning (in 25, 50, and 100 word versions), brand story (your background of how you came to be), brand identity (logo, taglines, etc.), and contact information. These elements should be present in every marketing communication piece. Be sure to store the Content Specification somewhere where anyone tasked with content creation can locate and use it.
Roll In Your Content. The final step is to take the content from your Content Specification and roll it into each of your existing marketing pieces, taking great care
to make sure that any edits you make in the process get reflected in the master spec.
Now that you have a structure for your marketing content, you can quickly pull copy together for new pieces and ensure that your marketing pieces work more powerfully together as
a system.
During this process, you may discover that your company’s messaging is no longer relevant and needs to be refreshed before moving forward. If this is the case, you may want to hire an outside resource to help you develop the consistency you need. A third party brings an outside perspective and an objectivity that is essential to creating clear and compelling messaging for all types of audiences.
With a comprehensive approach to content creation and execution, you can put the power of repetition to work for your company. Creating a Content Specification allows you to cost-effectively create consistent marketing messaging and ensures your team can efficiently use it—every time.

10 Reasons Why Your Network Is Your Greatest Asset

In Business Development, Communications, marketing, Social Media on June 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm

An individual’s greatest asset is his/her network. The network that’s an asset is the one made up of real relationships.

Facebook and Twitter have no value if you don’t use them properly.  In looking at profiles on these social media for a number of large and small businesses, I’ve observed that most of them aren’t going about it in the right way. Businesses jump on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagons with the hope of generating sales. They load their news feeds with sales plugs and expect   “friends” to buy whatever they’re selling. They use Twitter to make announcements rather than to engage conversation.

The right way to use social media is to focus on building relationships. Wish friends and fans “Happy Birthday”; “Like” their statuses, share information and even provide  useful content that’s OUTSIDE of your business area of expertise to help them out (for example: share an interesting news item, a great sale on computer equipment, a super auto repair shop, great business tips, etc.). Show that your thread is useful and that you are there to connect with them, not simply sell them something and you will see results.

DON’T create a business profile and start adding people as friends – users hate this. Get to know your privacy settings and use your personal profile as the “face” of your company.

Below is a list from Steve Tobak of BNET on what you stand to gain from building a great network:

  1. Introductions. Whether you’re an entrepreneur in need of venture capital or a marketing VP looking for the best PR firm, you’re more likely to find it through your network than by any other means.
  2. Opportunities. Over a 30-year career, most of my major career and business opportunities came from my network. Business associates, friends of friends, casual conversations, business meetings, social events, whatever. But you’ve got to pay attention.
  3. Sorting out thorny problems. Anyone who thinks they’ve never met a work problem they can’t resolve has never been a CEO. The problem with problems is that they keep getting escalated until there’s nowhere left to go. The buck has to stop somewhere. And getting a fellow exec to help sort out a monster problem is a big plus.
  4. Recruiting. Perhaps the most critical job of any manager is to hire talented people, and the best place to find them is through your network. And not just for direct reports, but also for recommendations on peers, key employees, board members, you name it.
  5. Ideas. I don’t know about you, but most of my best ideas come from bouncing them around with like-minded people.
  6. Competitive intelligence. It’s a big, hairy global market and smart executives dig for competitive intelligence. Much of that info comes from sales and marketing, but where do you think they get it from? That’s right, their network.
  7. Sensitive issues. Top executives often face sensitive issues they can’t discuss with others at the company. Sometimes they just need an outside perspective from another CEO. For example, some of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s friends are Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Mark Hurd (when he was CEO of H-P, as well). Makes sense, doesn’t it?
  8. Seeing the big market picture. A huge component of any manager’s success is her ability to anticipate significant market changes. While nobody has a crystal ball, if you get enough anecdotal data from enough sources, you can get a pretty good picture of what’s going on.
  9. Moral support. Business is full of tradeoffs. Rarely are critical and complex issues black and white. When top execs wrestle with gray issues, it’s nice to be able to pick up the phone for advice and support.
  10. You don’t know what you don’t know. While there are exceptions, know-it-alls don’t typically get ahead. Smart managers know what they don’t know and that means they depend very much on comparing notes with others in their network.

Is your network your biggest asset?

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Getting The Most Out of LinkedIn

In Business Strategies, marketing, Social Media, The Internet on May 11, 2011 at 8:26 am
Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

 I’ve heard a bezillion questions about LinkedIn, the most common of which is….”I signed up on LinkedIn, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it. Does it really have value?”

Think of it this way:  

  • Linked In has more than 20 million users with an average age of 41-years old and an average income of $110,000.00.  
  • Every Fortune 500 company is represented on Linked In.
  • 500,000 small and mid-sized businesses use Linked In.
  • More than 150 industries are represented.

So the answer to “does it have value” is a resounding, YES!  But it requires more than just “signing up” to have value.

You have to put the effort in up front when you set up your page  and then you have to remain active in a strategic way (that you’ve, of course, given some thought to on the front end.)  Once you’re comfortably established there are many valuable ways to use linked:

  • Prospecting. You can locate and introduce yourself to contacts in the accounts you are targeting. Communicating through Linked In significantly increases the liklihood to get a response over a direct email or phone call. You can learn a lot about your prospect by reading their profile (what they’re currently working on, their employment history, who they recommend and who recommends them, where they went to school, their personal interests, etc.)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Having a COMPLETE profile on Linked In will drastically improve your SEO results. You can include up to three URLs in your profile that are indexed by Google and other search engines, as well as create your own Linked In URL that is searchable. 
  •  Job Search/Recruiting and Reference Checks. If you are searching for a job or looking to hire someone, Linked In can help. Not only can you search for positions and candidates on Linked In, if you’re a recruiter you can verify job experience and contact other contacts within Linked In who were at a company during the same time for references. Or, as the job seeker, you can  pre-screen prospective bosses and co-workers.
  • Thought Leadership. LinkedIn has a Q&A section where members can ask and answer questions about pertinent topics. This is a great place to get some of your most pressing questions answered. OR, if you are trying to establish yourself or your company as a thought leader in a given field, this is the place for you to post brilliant answers to those who’ve posted questions. When doing so, you can include URLs and links to support your answer, or to drive traffic to your Website which will improve its SEO.

Linked In is a powerful business networking tool–one that no sales or marketing person should be without.

The site offers several membership levels, ranging from FREE  to $500 per/year.  It’s best to evaluate what makes the most sense for you and then Just Do It!

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Engaging Fans on Facebook

In Business Strategies, marketing, Social Media, The Internet on May 5, 2011 at 5:16 am
Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase


Engaging the “social” customer is a topic that is getting a lot of air time these days and  for good reason. The more customers migrate to the social web the more engagement becomes a priority for successful brands and is tied to the overall customer experience.  Moving from a strictly transactional relationship to one of trust and engagement is fundamentally about customer experience and a positive or negative experience overtakes everything else.

Simply setting up a page is not enough.  It requires vigilance and energy with a mix of content.  A key point to be stressed is that social media efforts need to be tailored to what your target audience is interested in and it should be done in a way that stimulates discussion and interaction.  So you have to have a handle on what your audience is interested in.  Coming across like you’re broadcasting (the “old school” marketing monologue) is the kiss of death.

Marketing on Facebook is lots of fun and lots of work.  Here are a few “best practices”:

  • Post frequently  to keep content fresh. Generally the best times to post are mornings, around lunch time and early evenings. Posting too frequently is not advisable. Facebook is an engagement platform, so don’t broadcast.
  • “Like” and “Share” are powerful tools that can be used together to increase engagement. On your company web site and blog you can encourage the use of  “Like” for products and services, and the use of “Share” for asking questions and letting others showcase items that peak their interest.
  • Make your page interactive. Solicit interactions by asking questions.
  • Personal connections are powerful, personalize your posts… use names and other personalization often.
  • Respond to comments and do it in a timely manner. Conversation is engaging.
  • If you have company blogs syndicate the content on your Facebook page by using Notes.
  • Add value to the conversation and bring in outside content that is relevant to show folks that you want to provide value, not just sell them something.
  • People like free stuff, so offer coupons, discounts, specials if you can, but don’t over do it.
  • Mix in the use of other media like video. This helps engage customers.
  • Deal with negativity and misinformation openly and clearly. Don’t overreact or attack.
  • Share the love. promote and recognize other members of your community.
  • Make it easy to connect to your other social and online efforts by posting links to your other accounts like Twitter, YouTube,  your BLOGs, Websites, etc.
  • Include Facebook and Twitter tags on all of your traditional media.
  • Analyze and use the data to improve your Facebook presence.
  • If you make a mistake (and everyone makes mistakes), apologize!

What do you think?

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Writing is a Critical Marketing Skill

In Business Development, Integrated Marketing Strategy, Social Media, The Internet on April 29, 2011 at 1:01 am

Denny Hatch (an expert copywriter) wrote an article discussing why professional copywriting is critical for marketing. He shared a story in that article that has remained with me:

“What do you do?” a guy at a cocktail party was asked. “I’m a brain surgeon,” was the reply. “What do you do?” “I’m a write,” the guy replied. “Ah,” said the brain surgeon. “I’ve often thought that when I retire I’d like to try some writing.” “And when I retire,” said the writer, “I plan try a little brain surgery.”

I loved that story! It resonated with me for several reasons, but most markedly because I have continually run into businessmen and other individuals who believe that writing only requires stringing words together on paper. Good writing requires both talent and skill. And if your goal is to market a product, idea or service, create content that interests someone other than yourself or simply to share information with others, developing the skill and having a strategy for your content is essential.

Over recent years marketing strategy has changed in one very important way. To be successful, it’s necessary to become an active participant. Instead of coordinating external sources for short-term campaign execution such as in advertising, marketers need to take real-time action That means writing of all kinds…which can mean creating a Blog and making regular posts, contributing relevant comments to discussions taking place on the Web, adding value by sharing tools and ideas on various social media, writing articles for e-zines and even the simple act of communicating directly with customers and prospects via e-mail.

While it’s still preferable to hire professionals for major writing projects, some types of writing require an authenticity that can only come from “the horse’s mouth.” The purpose of content development is not to spout the virtues of your own products or services, but to inform target customers and prospects about key industry issues, sometimes involving your products.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a client or prospect that you’ve been communicating with online and they have a need for immediate information. They request it from you –> If your response is; “Sure, I can have that for you in a couple of days,” you’ve just missed an opportunity or possibly lost a client!

The motivation behind content marketing is the belief that educating the customer results in the brand’s recognition as a thought leader and industry expert.

If you can’t step up to the plate and write engaging content that can be published now you’re not likely to survive in today’s highly competitive business environment. This is ever-so-clearly illustrated in David Meerman Scott’s book, Real-Time Marketing. Content Rules by Handley and Chapman also convincingly make the case for content marketing.

There are certain networks that require direct participation (without the help of a professional writer.) Linked In offers an example. Although it isn’t a formal network, the way you write is an important reflection on you and your business.


• Everything you write doesn’t have to be a masterpiece of formatting and graphic design.
• Short article formats work well if the content provides meaty, useful insights. An 800 word, tightly-focused article is more than ample for engagement and asks for less time than a bigger piece.
• Know your customers/clients well enough to write for them — being unsure how to flip focus from your company and products/services to address their needs is a huge obstacle.
• If you aren’t sure where to start, it’s the direct result of a lack of content strategy.
• Being crazy-busy is not an excuse to avoid developing content.

Writing is no longer optional. Marketing today is driven by content. Tools like the social media and other Internet publishing technology only demand more fuel (content) to feed the beast!

So, tune up your keyboard and allow the writer in you to escape!

Once Again, Seth Godin Says It Perfectly!

In Communications, marketing, Social Media, The Internet on December 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm


by: Seth Godin

Digital media expands. It’s not like paper, it can get bigger.

As digital marketers seek to increase profits, they almost always make the same mistake. They continue to add more clutter, messaging and offers, because, hey, it’s free.

One more link, one more banner, one more side deal on the Groupon page.

Economics tells us that the right thing to do is run the factory until the last item produced is being sold at marginal cost. In other words, keep adding until it doesn’t work any more.

In fact, human behavior tells us that this is a more permanent effect than we realize. Once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention. More clutter isn’t free. In fact, more clutter is a permanent shift, a desensitization to all the information, not just the last bit.

And it’s hard to go backward.

More is not always better. In fact, more is almost never better.

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How to Get Others to Market For You

In Business Development, Business Strategies, marketing, Social Media, The Internet on August 12, 2010 at 9:43 pm

It’s a well-known fact that word-of-mouth referrals are a powerful form of marketing. When people speak positively about your products and services, they often influence others to work with you.These days, with so many people communicating via social media networks, there are many more communications channels open to entrepreneurs…many ways to help build new relationships.

Word Gets Around

Here are some suggestions for getting others to spread the word about your business:

1.      Twitter.  Twitter is a world filled with sound bites.  It’s a great way to create a following, direct Web traffic, build brand recognition, and get feedback from all over the place. Not only can you, your employees and customers Tweet about your business, so can other businesses.  It’s important to remember that the conversations must be authentic or Twitterers will know.  It’s also important that you or someone in your company monitors what’s being said in order to respond or jump into the conversation when necessary.  Just as positive messages can be Tweeted, so can negative.  The ability for an idea or thought or message to generate a huge following is fascinating on Twitter. Since the emphasis on Twitter is brevity (A post can’t be longer than 140 characters) it’s important to learn the lingo—lots of abbreviations to become familiar with.

2.      LinkedIn.   LinkedIn is a great place to go to network for business. It’s also a great way to see who knows who within a business network so that you can leverage existing business relationships. A couple of good ways to use LinkedIn as a tool are:
                   1.   Answer Questions. The more substantive your answer is the more likely folks will want to connect with  you, refer you and/or work with you.
                  2.   Ask Questions.  By asking questions that generate a lot of responses, you can identify “qualified  prospects” in many arenas.  It takes thought and creativity on the part of the asker.

3.      Offer customer incentives. Some of the most valuable references can come from current customers since they are speaking from experience and their words will be more readily accepted than the words in an advertisement or marketing pitch. You might even share the wealth you receive as a result of customer referrals by offering discounts on future purchases or by offering cash back if a customer referral leads to a piece of new business for you. Not can this encourage customers to be vocal about your products and services but, by giving back, you’ll be strengthening your relationship with them.

4.      Pay for links. Your business’ website is only a click away on the Internet. Take advantage of that by offering incentives to other website owners who refer business by linking to your site. You should, of course, reciprocate and always say thank you.  You can also offer a percentage — such as 5 percent — to the site for any referral that results in new business for your company. There are companies that will automate much of the process for you and act as an intermediary between your company and those with websites who are interested in doing this type of promotion.

5.      Make cross promotion work.  Every business need to do some kind of marketing. Look for other businesses whose products and/or services complement yours and strike up a strategic alliance where you’ll market for each other. You can promote each others’ businesses with your respective clients. The agreement can be as simple as linking to each other’s Web sites, or you can each share the other’s collateral materials with customers.

6.      Facebook.  Facebook is an extremely useful to keep in touch with and reconnect with people. Creating an online profile to inform your personal network of what it is that you’re doing and/or creating “Groups” that you solicit your network to participate in can be a useful means of driving traffic and it can be a great publicity tool. Facebook traffic has been increasing steadily, currently taking the position as the ninth most popular domain in the U.S., accounting for 1% of all Internet visits

Executing plans like these can be a highly effective way of building brand awareness which, in turn, motivates new people to try your products or services when they are in need of them.

If you want to utilize social media successfully as a marketing tool to grow your business, remember that you have to use social media sites and tools in the same ways that your customers do, and for the same reasons. You also have to accept each community’s rules, you can’t make your own. Social media isn’t a one-way promotional channel; it’s a many-way interaction/communication channel. The key is Audience. You’ve got to know who you’re talking to.

Anyone else have any tried and true methods to share?

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10 Tips For Social Media Marketers

In Integrated Marketing Strategy, marketing, Social Media, The Internet on July 11, 2009 at 12:56 am
Social Media Very Basic Overview
Image by litbel via Flickr

Businesses these days are engaging with consumers in new ways through social media like YouTube, Twitter, FaceBook, Myspace, LinkedIn and others.  Many set up their own social site or designate an area on their existing Website. 

Whatever vehicle you choose for your business, these are ten key lessons about social media that every marketer using these vehicles would be well-advised to take to heart:

  1. Every Brand can and should be “Social.”  – Conversations about your brand and products are happening everywhere.  You need to be a part of the conversation (not to control it, but to add your voice!)
  2. Just Get Started!  It doesn’t require a large budget to get started in social media marketing.  Start by listening.  Set up Google Alerts to monitor conversations about your brand or product.  Use TweetDeck and set up a search to monitor what is going on about your brand or product on Twitter.  Then participate in the conversation.  Just remember to be authentic, honest and transparent.  If you take those first steps and engage in the conversation , you’ll l learn more about how your brand fits into the social media space.  This will guide future programs that you may launch.
  3. Integrated marketing VS Social Media.  There is a difference between an integrated marketing campaign that includes viral components or onllne/offline coordination and a social media program.  Marketing campaigns have a short life. They, generally have a particular focus and are designed to capture the attention of your target audience.  A social media program is a commitment to engage and communicate with consumers when and where (online) the consumer wants to communicate and at no other time. If you start a marketing campaign with social components versus implementing a social media program, it’s important to start with the end in mind.  The worst thing you can do is build a group of fans, friends or followers around an initiative without a clear strategy once the marketing campaign is completed.
  4. Find Your Own Unique Path.  What works for one brand in social media doesn’t necessarily work for another.  A movie franchise communicates very differently with its customer than, say, a video arcade.  Your unique traits should be reflected in the content you create, the tone that you use and the online programs that you develop.
  5. Expenditures for Publicity.  Companies can spend a lot of money trying to launch a social media program.  Most of those efforts can be classified as part of an integrated marketing campaign.  Your approach and funding of an integrated marketing campaign should  be in line with the size and scope of your overall marketing budget.  Social media programs are much more cost-effective when viewed strictly from within your “media” budget but they need people to manage them.  So, in many cases you exchange media dollars for staff time and its relative cost.  If you are at step one: listening to and engaging in conversations about your brand, for example, while there’s no media buy someone must be dedicated to scanning and responding to the network.  That person needs to be an employee of the company.
  6. PR Agencies can play a great role, but the “VOICE” needs to be your company’s.  Remember that the consumer wants to connect with you, not your PR agency!  Your agency’s role, if involved, should be to monitor and identify opportunities. But it is the company who must respond – Authenticity is key.
  7. Get legal professionals involved from the beginning, if you have legal considerations to comply with.  Your legal department or consultant can be an ally or a roadblock.  It’s important to understand that there is not a lot of legal precedent to reference in the social networking arena.  This makes your legal experts nervous.  You want them on your team, so involve them early and help them understand your goals. This should help solidify a partnership.  When risks are identified, ask them to help you find solutions rather than put the kibosh on a program.  There are usually solutions to mitigate risk.  Together you can find these.
  8. Have a Crisis Management Plan.  In a world of 24/7 communication, the brands that can respond quickly to a crisis will be the brands that weather the storm.  A good crisis management plan must begin with active monitoring.  Good judgment must be exercised to distinguish a customer service issue from a crisis needing management.  Once a crisis has been identified, it must be responded to quickly (with a couple of hours is reasonable.)  Taking no action will certainly escalate the issue.  Immediate response helps nip a crisis in the bud.  You may find that, if your company has been active in the social media community for a while and has amassed followers who trust you, they may lend to your credibility by defending you!
  9. Convincing the C-Suite.  One of the most popular questions  asked by corporate public relations staff about social media programs is; “How do we garner the support of the “C-Suite for a social media program?”  Having a clearly defined objective is critically important to gain support of any initiative.  Since the C-Suite is most focused on ROI (Return On Investment), it’s important to demonstrate to them, why social media have become so important to the bottom line.
  10. More about Return On Investment.  Discussions regarding the return on investment of social media are prevalent these days, and with good reason.  In a tightening economy, businesses are scrutinizing their spending, anxious to ensure, that resources are being allocated wisely.  In the emerging social media space, ROI has been redefined  by some as “Risk of Ignoring”.  So when  the decision maker in your company asks you the ROI question, your answer should be, “Yes. If we create a plan, and set goals, then we can measure the returns …”
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The 7 Best Tools Used by Top Social Networking Sites

In Business Development, Communications, Social Media on July 7, 2009 at 6:02 am
LOGO2.0 part I
Image by Stabilo Boss via Flickr

Following are some great features that the top Social Networking (SN) sites currently use to stay on top:


1.) Ajax based tag suggestions –

This is where when you start typing something into an input box, a little drop down window immediately appears which basically shows some suggested tags which it pulls from its database of existing tags as you type each letter. The more you type, the more accurate the suggested tags get. uses this feature. The reason the feature is so useful is that most SN sites use tagging but very few offer tag suggestions. example, if I’m posting an article about “Web design”, I might add the following tags: webdesign, Web design, website, websites, web-design, Web development….Anyway, you get the point!

Fluther suggestions help eliminate the guess work over whether you’re using the best tags, over-tagging or  under-tagging to ensure search engine optimization.

2.) Get users to promote for you –
StumbleUpon is an Internet community that allows its users to discover and rate Web pages, photos, and videos. It is a personalized recommendation engine which uses peer and social-networking principles. Web pages are presented when the user clicks the “Stumble!” button on the browser toolbar.

 StumbleUpon chooses which Web page to display based on the user’s ratings of previous pages, ratings by his/her friends, and by the ratings of users with similar interests. Users can rate or choose not to rate any Web page with a thumbs up or thumbs down, and clicking the Stumble button resembles “channel-surfing” the Web.

Install the Stumbleupon toolbar and start stumbling!”

3.) Sell limited positions as category sponsors to marketers –
This is a way that sites can monetize traffic. It’s a tactic that it provides a service to site users by providing ‘validated’ listings as well as makes the continuation of site services more viable.  

It is a derivative of the user-generated/rated content movement that’s relevant enough and provides enough of a service to keep it as a resource. Think of it in the same vein as Ebay’s sponsored listings or any other form of marketing – Successful Ebay vendoers (meaning those who are doing the right thing to remain successful) can afford to pay for advertising so, theoretically, this moderately ‘validates’ them.  It does, however, also provide an avenue for spammers.

4.) Force “legitimate” friendships –
Let’s face it – none of us have 500+ real friends!  MySpace is notorious for “friend” abuse. My niece has a bazillion “friends” on MySpace!  In principle, I suppose one can understand the ideal, but the reality is that it waters down the value of the community  

Stumbleupon allows 200 friends, max. In order to become friends with someone, you first must find another user and add them as your friend.  But before you actually become their friend, you’re added as a “fan” of theirs….basically you become a groupie… until they confirm you as their friend. At that point you become “mutual friends.” Stumbleupon allows you to have unlimited fans but, as an individual, you cannot have more than a combined total of 200 “mutual friends” and you are a fan of. This forces you to be selective.  In the Stumbleupon community, it’s considered better to have more “mutual friends” than people you are a fan of.

LinkedIn guards against “friend” abusers to an even greater extent. Their friend system is very tight. You can’t send a message to someone or request they become friends with you unless you actually know them & have their e-mail address or someone can facilitate an introduction.  But it’s still up to the individual to respond and accept/deny the “friend” request.

5.) True integration with other web services –
Facebook’s new application platform has raised the bar – way up. Facebook’s popularity is growing at an increasingly greater rate than MySpace. 

There is a library of, literally, hundreds of unique applications available that integrate with Facebook.  My Facebook page is set up to automatically post my blogs and tweets to my profile.  They show up in my newsfeed as well as in all of my friend’s news feed pages. It’s quite effective.

6.) Allow filtering content through friends –
Digg is, technically, a “Social News” site, there are, however, some features that are important. Digg actually has a reputation for being run by a handful of people who all dig each other’s stuff exclusively! This doesn’t mean that Digg’s ‘friend’ system isn’t useful. What seems to be the best approach on Digg in order to get fresh content that’s filtered more specifically for an individual’s interests is this:

  1. find an article that appeals to you;
  2. look at the profile of the person who submitted it
  3. then look at the articles they have submitted in the past.
  4. If they appeal to you, ‘friend’ them. 

What will happen next is that when you’re looged in and on any category page on Digg, you’ll see a link to view that “Friend’s activity in the last 48 hrs.”  If you’ve “friended” the right folks, you’ll discover a pretty specialized list of information and posts.

7.) Have a visually appealing website
I’m talking professional grade and geared for socializing. Pay attention to detail, but keep the design simple & fresh. Concentrate on usability if your goal is to out survive the competition.  

Allowing users control over their profile’s appearance is a great idea as long as it’s done properly. I’d advocate for less control than MySpace but more than Facebook. If you use embedded videos & music on your site, remember not to set the audio player default to auto play.

Have you discovered more tools that you like?  Please share by adding your comments.

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