Establishing Outposts in the Social Media Ecosphere

Integrating Your Content and Presence Across Channels

The social media ecosystem enables people to expand their reach and relationships with a broader group of individuals through the use of a wide variety of content distribution tools, which Chris Brogan refers to as outposts. To be effective, every outpost must be focused and contain a targeted call to action (CTA) because each connection requires time for interaction.  Since each day has only twenty-four hours each containing sixty minutes, attention remains the one core currency we all have. It’s the great equalizer.

When you think about a social media channel as an outpost, remember that customers, influencers and the general public, receive your communications because they’re interested in your information as it relates to their personal goals and needs. Therefore, you must have “How-can-I-help-you” mindset rather than distribute messages that scream ME-ME-ME. To this end, it’s best to send out only one message about yourself or your company for every twelve messages that help your followers.

3 Types of outposts in the social media ecosystem

While businesses consider their website to be the “home base” of their online activity, I agree with Chris that your blog should be the heart of that presence. My rationale is that blogs contain strong, easily findable content, provide an entryway into your organization, allow for broad interaction, and aren’t overly constrained by cumbersome technology and/or other organizational processes. Further, blogs can distribute content in a wide range of media formats and supply an assortment of ways to distribute information.

  1. Social media outposts develop relationships with your target audience. As a member of these communities, it’s important to respect others and their time. Among the different social media outposts are:
    • Facebook can’t be ignored due to its broad popularity and continued growth. Engage with your audience via wall-to-wall communications, Fanpages, and targeted ads.
    • Twitter, a microblogging platform where users must restrict messages to 140 characters. Therefore, be concise and get to the point. You can repeat messages but don’t sound like a broken record. This was the most popular vehicle mentioned on the chat.
    • LinkedIn can be good for business related information. One suggestion from the chat was to join a group with a large following and share your content.
    • Other options which weren’t mentioned but deserve consideration are niche sites targeted at your audience (such as SpiceWorks for tech folks and Ravelry for knitters and crocheters), YouTube, the second largest search engine after Google, which provides another entryway, slide sharing sites that garner lots of comments, and podcasts which can place your content on iTunes, another area where your audience may search.
  2. Owned media outposts. As your home base, think beyond your blog to entities that are part of your firm’s marketing outreach and are totally controlled by your organization.
    • Website is your firm’s online establishment and/or storefront. It’s where customers go to find out about you and transact business, and where legal and media entities go to get more information. Make sure that every entryway provides for deeper engagement.
    • Email is online marketing’s lifeblood. For many bloggers, building an email list is a challenge since it requires lots of work and additional, tailored content to create another communications flow. On the chat, many bloggers agreed that it was worth the investment in terms of followers but it can’t just be a rehash of your blog!
    • Corporate communications such as customer service and post-purchase emails should be included since these communications generally get read and most likely go to a primary address. They weren’t discussed on the chat probably because marketing often doesn’t control them!
    • Employee signature files and business cards were mentioned on the chat. Create a standard across your organization that can be changed centrally to drive readers to current content and hot offers. Companies often overlook this inexpensive channel. Add links to your blog on employees’ business cards. Again, this is often done by individuals but not by businesses.
    • Packages. Add a message to your bill enclosure or a free-standing package insert [link to column]. Select posts that provide help for customers. Put your blog’s URL on the box.
    • Retail flyers. Incorporate a brief message that publicizes your blog on your in-store messaging including shopping bags.
  3. Other distribution outposts
    • Social sharing. Among the main options discussed on the chat were Reddit, StumbleUpon and Digg. It’s important to consider where your potential readers/market spend their time. Results varied among chat participants.
    • Question & Answer sites like Yahoo Questions and AnswerWiki are useful if your content answers questions that your audience is interested in. This option wasn’t mentioned during the chat.
    • e-Books are another way to repurpose  and distribute your content.
    • Meetings are a growing way to engage with a broader audience which can be a Twitter chat like #blogchat or a Meetup.
    • Speaking including webinars can also extend your reach to a broader audience. At least one chat participant mentioned this option.

The bottom line is that, regardless of where you create your core content, you must find ways to participate in the larger conversation and distribute your message across the social media ecosphere. In the process, think about how you utilize your time and attention as well as that of your audience. Make it easy for them to engage and create a dialog with you.

Do you have any other suggestions to help expand your outposts? If so, would you please add them to the comments section below?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Note: This post contains my own concepts. They were inspired by my participation in August 15th’s  #Blogchat with @ChrisBrogan and@MackCollier. Points made during the chat are noted in the post.

A thank you to @MackCollier and @ChrisBrogan for hosting the August 15th #BlogChat and to the highly engaged participants.  For a full transcript of the chat, please click here.  Join the #blogchat discussion Sundays at 9.00 pm eastern time/8.00 pm central time.  The conversation continues during the week with the use of the #blogchat hashtag on Twitter.

Photo credit: Kouk via Flickr

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