|Harnessing Social Media — Web 2.0 Grows Up — Free Internet Traffic|
|Thursday, 14 June 2007|
Topic: Harnessing Social Media—Web 2.0 Grows Up: Is there such a thing as “Free” Traffic on the internet?
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can listen to a recording of the clinic by using the link below.
Web 1.0 was the Web in its infancy, its first developmental stage.
“Web 2.0” was coined by O’Reilly Media in 2004. You can think of it as the Web in its adolescence, full of energy and ambition with real meaning and purpose to its life.
Web 3.0 is the Web grown up. It is what the Web was meant for. “A Web guided by common sense,” as the New York Times put it, where there is real value content integrated with video, text, images, and personal interaction on a level that may lead to a kind of artificial intelligence. Of course, this is certainly not the final stage, maturation, evolution of the Web. But for the moment it is an exciting development that with broadband proffers unlimited possibilities.
Online sharing communities, for instance, have replaced the old concept of personal websites with blogging. Another dramatic development was the wiki, “a website that allows visitors to add, remove, and edit content” (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition).
A radical departure from standard search engine use has been the evolution of folksonomies, the use of open-ended labels called “tags” that make “sense to users and often results in an immediate and rewarding gain in the user’s capacity to find related content” (Wikipedia).
Is it possible to use this nascent web, and the emerging social media trends to reach our target market more effectively and inexpensively than paid search? This was the question we sought to answer with this 12 month research study. What we found was that, by understanding and applying a set of new principles and steps, we were able to generate over 1400% better ROI using SMO to drive over 90,000 targeted clicks to our websites. Here is how:
Graphically the maturation and evolution of the Web can be seen at a glance below.
What is social media?
The term started with Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy Public Relations in 2006.
Social media is a collective term for online interactive “technologies and practices that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives” (Wikipedia).
Social media includes social media applications like Wikipedia (reference), MySpace (social networking), Gather.com (social networking), YouTube (video sharing), Second Life (virtual reality), Digg (news sharing), Flickr (photo sharing) and Miniclip (game sharing).
Social media provides the kind of interaction among online users that the Web was made for.
Start with Metcalf’s Law.
Metcalfe’s Law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of users of the system (n2). In other words, a network increases exponentially with the number of nodes.
As you can see from the above the value of the network is a function of how many nodes there are. The more users, the more valuable the network and the faster information and opinion, as well as the network’s use, can spread.
Social Media Optimization is essentially quality (How good is my content?), quantity (How much do I have?) and channel (How broadly is what I have distributed?). It is the new word-of-mouth. It is a question of how many people originally see what I have to offer and go on to tell someone else. To put it another way, Can we drive traffic for free?
Social media ties everything together. Social media optimization encompasses
Is there such a thing as “Free” Traffic on the internet?
A 12 month study in Social Media Optimization (SMO) generates a 1,427% (and counting) better ROI than Paid Search
In an attempt to answer this question, we embarked on a research project designed to determine whether or not there is potential to drive a significant amount of web visitors to your site without paying for those visitors.
We built a total of 4 sites over a period of 12 months. Here is a brief summary of the sites we created:
We then began an experiment to determine which would be a better marketing tactic for these sites:
1. Hiring an employee at $10 per hour to blog, create content, and in general work to drive traffic to the sites?
2. Using Google Adwords to drive targeted traffic?
Over a period of 12 months, we identified all of the active online blogs and discussion boards that might be interested in our site topics.
We posted 255 relevant blog excerpts and attempted to engage in real and meaningful conversation with the community. In all cases, we included a link back to our own site.
In all, over the 12 month test this approach yielded more than 93,000 visits to our site.
We then conducted a 30-day test of Google Adwords, bidding up to 75¢ per click on a variety of keywords related to the test websites.
Over the course of the month, we were able to drive 2,047 total users, spending $1,250 with Google.
In total, our “word-of-mouth” efforts yielded us 93,207 unique visitors and we incurred a total salary cost of $3,600.
What you need to understand: Social Media Optimization yielded 1,427% greater return on our investment.
The initial test of social media, proved to be very successful from a traffic generation standpoint.
Pay-per-click advertising was a much easier and quicker form of advertising. Within minutes, and with the click of a button, we found we could drive traffic, while our SMO campaign spanned a period of 12 months.
Furthermore, our SMO efforts required constant trial and error and at times disrupted the community in which we were trying to become a part of, possibly negatively impacting our brands. In some cases we were accused of spam and worked to avoid posting unrelated comments or discussion.
A large part of our SMO activities also included the creation of 44 amateur videos, which were posted on YouTube, and viewed 1.3 million times.
Based on our initial research, it appears that while actually generating free viral traffic online requires creativity and patience, creating an SMO strategy can be a very worthwhile investment.
Each campaign will require a specific strategy and set of tactics and much more is still to be learned about SMO.
In general, here are 6 basic steps for developing an SMO Campaign:
You may also listen to the original Web clinic "Harnessing Social Media".
RELATED MEC REPORTS:
As part of our research, we have prepared a review of the best Internet resources on this topic.
These sites were rated for usefulness and clarity, but alas, the rating is purely subjective.
* = Decent | ** = Good | *** = Excellent | **** = Indispensable
Editor(s) — Bob Kemper
Writer(s) — Jalali Hartman
Contributor(s) — Flint McGlaughlin
HTML Designer — Cliff Rainer