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How to (Actually) Earn Money (Now) with Social Media (Really): Part 2

Marty Weintraub
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Short term financial success in social media can be a multi-layered enigma, ranging somewhere between daunting and infuriating. As the socialized Internet explodes it has become increasingly difficult for companies to ignore the ramifications of not tuning in to deal with SMO vernacular & channels.

We all hear buzz words like "reputation management," "social news," "blogs," and "Wikis" but exactly WHAT the heck does all this mean to a business? How do I convince my boss or client that forays into the social media universe will actually pay cash-money any time soon? How DO we engage visitors? Where's the revenue?

In Part One we discussed ideas for Facebook social PPC, the PR tactic of pinging sales prospects with outbound links, increasing landing page conversion by mashing in "evidence of human life" and touched on the Tao of one-on-one conversational marketing.

In this installment, we'll talk about using blog comment threads to create uber-targeted micro-topical email lists, a tactic which can easily result in short term sales and cash. ("Thread" simply means the ongoing exchange of comments in a blog type CMS structure.)

At base, a blog is an open source (free) content management system (CMS) with built in goodies like RSS feeds, automatic content archives, easy WYSIWYG publishing and many other friendly features designed to engage visitors. A staggering percentage of websites incorporate blog-type software for some purpose. What's important to understand is that blogs are much more than the stereotypical perception thereof.

Everyone knows email marketing works. I'm not talking about the junk-spammy kind, rather nice clean opt-in lists that companies build over time. Responsible and compliant email marketing is a component of many a corporations' array of marketing tactics and proving ROI is not difficult. Email just works. Benefits include great "open" and conversion rates, customer loyalty, predictable results, low costs and repeat sales.

It's true that payday loan email blasts are not going to convert at the same level as $1.50 bagged cereal coupons but it's all good. Email is a timeless and undeniable SEM tactic. That said, building great targeted lists takes time and ingenuity. Conversations that take place using blogging software like WordPress are an excellent source for harvesting incredibly focused segmented lists quickly by inviting user interaction, mining the data, and using the thread's mini-list to send email blasts now and later.

Blogs and Email: Anatomy of a Comments Thread
When a site visitor comments in a blog, they automatically subscribe by email to the conversation if you've set it up properly. Then with each new comment, including yours, every previous visitor magically receives the new comment by email. Think about it. The pot of gold at the end of successfully engaging users in blog-type comments-dialog is the ability to email all of the conversation's participants simply by commenting yourself. As with all of social media, there is profitable power in marketing to micro-targeted highly specific demographics.

Perhaps you'll return comments by answering users' questions, refuting incorrect assertions, clarifying a situation, explaining a product, or just indulging in a little ol' fashioned meet & greet. Bottom line: get users to converse with each other in a blog and you'll have the entire group at your fingertips to exploit just by commenting again yourself and pressing submit. Everyone who has participated in the thread to-date gets an email! It's so easy.

Now that you understand the theory, the obvious question is "how DO we engage users in comments-thread conversations?" The answer is only limited by your team's creativity. Since every product is different somehow, there is no "one size fits all." However here's a couple of examples from clients aimClear works with to provide insight into the "market think" required to start conversations like a pro. These are all real examples of opportunity turned into creative comments-thread solutions for engaging users for micro-email list building purposes.

  1. Opportunity: Your company publishes service manuals for devices you sell. In the existing website hosts about 4000 daily visitors search for and access .pdf product manuals spread across 57 previous and current products.

    Solution: Install the ability for customers to comment or ask specific questions in a publicly posted thread prominently featured just to the left (and outlined in red) of the .pdf download. New visitors see prior questions and have the ability to directly engage previous commentors.

    Seed the interaction by encouraging visitors to post questions for the product's design team with a promised response time of 24 hours. Respond by...you guessed it...commenting. Over time hundreds or thousands of users will engage as they likely own or are considering purchasing the device. Just about anyone looking for a product manual has some kind of question they need answers for. NOW you have a very targeted micro-list of those interested in specific devices. The list is worth it's weight in gold. The next time you announce an add-on, upgrade, or other news about the device, all you have to do is comment. Everyone who has previously participated gets an email until they opt-out of the thread.


  2. Opportunity: Say the regional niche' music production school you market has a staff of experts in their respective fields. Organic traffic brings tons of unique visitors for searches directly related to the academic offerings. The success metric is information-requests from qualified prospective students. The site harvests organic leads each day at a nice conversion rate from which any sale could be worth tens of thousands of dollars. Out of the organic visitors who do not convert, over half come back within 90 days. That's a lot of potential customers just waiting to be engaged. There are millions of dollars on the table.

    Solution: Set a cookie for every organic visitor based on the incoming query and only delete the cookie if they convert. The next time the visitor shows up, read the cookie and direct them to a landing page which has headlines from thread featuring teacher-experts discussing topics specifically related to the user's original search query. Invite the return visitor to ask a question themselves, in public, and promise a response. You guessed it! Everyone who has previously engaged gets an email with the visitor's question and your response.

    The next time the college announces a new program, wants to highlight a student's success, or announces a famous instructor, all you have to do is comment and everyone gets an email. (BTW, this tactic is called SMO post-search retargeting.)
When discussing possible social media plays with bosses and/or clients, the first question is often "how can we make money with this effort." Setting short and mid-term financial goals for social media efforts straight away can help smooth the pitch and bring in much needed cash to justify the investment.

Blog comment threads are a great way to harvest highly targeted micro-email lists which can earn money in a relatively short amount of time. Developing strategy and tactics to exploit the turnkey capabilities of free blogging software is only limited by the creativity of the SEM team. An excellent approach is to analyze site traffic that already exists, engage users, track behavior over time, and continually serve up opportunities to interact until they just can't resist. Such is the power of social media.


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