The Social Graph in Business Contraction

So I’ve had some great discussions lately about the macro economic environment.  In the last week I’ve been meeting with fund managers overseeing hundreds of millions of $$$ in cash.  The pretty unanimous response is that we’re looking at economic instability until about Q2 of 2010.  Depending on the specific conversation, the average response is that we’ll see a sharp uptick in economic activity thereafter, with a major spike in inflation.  The reality we’re all facing right now are layoffs, generally less demand for products & services, tougher times accessing capital, and all the other stuff that comes with a prolonged recessionary period.

On Feburary 2nd Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer put it best when he said, “The truth is, you only get economic growth from the following things. Population growth, inflation, productivity increases…and financial leverage.”  So with that I’ll get into what I really wanted to talk about.

BusinessCard2 has been experience tremendous user growth in new sign-ups, but the traffic level of searchers has not (yet) grown at the same rate.  Nevertheless, we offer the service freely to those looking to market themselves.  The benefits are: 1) Improve SEO/rank performance, 2) no competing with ads since YOU are the ONLY advertisement, 3) you can store files and other data in our cloud to inform/educate prospects who visit your page, 4) It’s FREE.

My experience in building out this offering has provided me unique perspective in tactics for climbing the social graph.  Now this is good experience and knowledge when you’re running a company, but as of late it has also meant that lots of people are crawling out of the woodwork asking me for my infinate wisdom on social strategy and how to climb the social graph.  It seems that as the economy worsens, more people are taking this stuff seriously.

To maximize your time, and my efficiency, I’m putting this post out.  It’s more of a place to direct people to so I can keep focusing on the work in front of me.  It’s not perfect, but it’s my top-level recommendation to get you started…

1. Set-up a “blog” link on the website, and start to build up a readership of  interested readers.  This can also be done by attaching a wordpress or blogger account.  In testing, I have found it performs pretty well to create BOTH a wordpress AND blogger account and simply post the same content to both sites.  I call this mirroring.  Both have good SEO performance and weighting, and will probably entertain readers that wouldn’t otherwise be discovered simply through a site-specific blog (although I recommend he consider mirroring this same content to your site-specific blog as well).

2. Post lots of good photos to Flickr and good videos to YouTube.  Imagery is a good part of a social marketing strategy.  Simply create an account, update images/video, tag the heck out of your content, and embed links on other sites and ask your friends/colleagues to do the same.  Also embed these links in your social sites (like facebook).

3. Create both a “group” AND “product fan page” on Facebook.com, and do an initial invite of friends into each.  When this is done and people either join the group or become a fan of those pages, it shows on the wall of all those people’s friends.  This is the viral effect.

4. Create an RSS feed of your updates.  There is a good population of people out there that would like your RSS feed for their feed reader.  To create an RSS feed, this is good guidance:  http://www.rss-specifications.com/create-rss-feed.htm From the feedreader or google reader, users simply capture the RSS url and load it into their reader.  You want to make it as easy as possible for visitors to grab your content rss and put it in their reader, so slap those orange rss buttons all over the place.  To create and convert to rss, I recommend www.feedburner.com.

5. Create a Twitter account for your message/brand/website/you/etc.  Twitter is probably the most convenient way for you to quickly/easily update people with content. Although somewhat limited for narrative (the have a character limitation for each message), a social strategy is to create a summary and TinyURL in twitter linked back to your longer blog posts and pictures, or other content.

6. The social graph does extend to email!!!  Create an email newsletter subscriber list.  Send out a weekly or bi-weekly email newsletter with top-level summary of activities, and also post links to all the other ways people can follow you on a daily basis (facebook, flickr, your website, wordpress/blogger, rss feeds, twitter, etc.).

7. Be aware that effective social is very hands on.  It means altering your lifestyle by accommodating these updates to keep constituents informed. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of letting a couple of days slide without updates.  Social is a snowball effect and takes time to build up the audience.

[This advice was recently passed along to a dude that’s been on the Oprah Show, but it now just starting to get going on a real social strategy.]
So now that other part of all this effort…the EXPECTATIONS.  In other words, what in the hell is going to come of all these efforts!?!  Well, speaking honestly, for many of you it will be an exercise in learning social, but it won’t result in much benefit.  For the few of you who take it deadly serious, these are some of the things you might expect…

1. Exposure and buzz
2. Personal, profession, or business branding and awareness building
3. More effective management of your personal, profession, or business reputation
4. Sales and new lines of business
5. You will get hired for a new job
6. External links will be created by other people to your content
7. People will become viral carriers of your messages
8. Your sites will rank higher in search engines
9. All this will grow on inertial and will manifest into a well-oiled machine positioning you as a though-leader in your space.  You will have unforeseen traffic volume increase and people will be clamoring to know you, buy from you, or have your baby.

A word of advice…
It’s a lot easier putting this stuff up than taking it down, so always take a very professional and respectful tact to any content you put up, because it might be there for many years to come.  Make sure your content is appropriate to the audience you want to serve.

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