Doodle

Doodling has always been one of my best friends. Whenever i am feeling low, or facing a creative block, I doodle. But I never really compile them, as I came to actually realize their worth pretty late. While rereading my first post today, I realized what I have lost in past so many years… my compilation of ideas. The original works that my mind comes up with, every now and then. And hence, the search for all that lost work started. Out of hundreds and thousands of such doodles, I could only find a handful. So keeping up my long made promise of sharing ideas, here I am posting them.

Social Media Optimization

Social Media Optimization (SMO)

The term Social Media Optimization (SMO) was coined by Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy Public Relations in the year 2006. What is SMO? SMO is nothing but a way of popularizing your site through Social Media Networks. SMO can be easily compared to SEO, a tactics which is being deployed to increase the site’s visibility across several search engines, by all. While SEO(Search Engine Optimization) aims at making your site more visible on the search engines, SMO does the same on Social Media sites.

According to Bhargava, the concept behind SMO is to implement changes to optimize a site so that it is more easily linked to, more highly visible in social media searches on custom search engines.

He then goes on to define 5 rules, for conducting SMO.

  1. Increase you linkability
  2. Make tagging and bookmarking easy
  3. Reward inbound links
  4. Help your content travel
  5. Encourage the mashup

To these five rules, Jeremiah Owyang went on to add a couple more rules:

  1. Be a user resource, even if it doesn’t help you
  2. Reward helpful and valuable users

Cameron Olthius, further added four more rules, followed by Loren Baker adding rules 12 and 13, while Lee Odden chipped in the rules 14, 15 and 16.

  1. Participate
  2. Know how to target your audience
  3. Create Content
  4. Be Real
  5. Don’t forget your roots, Be humble
  6. Don’t be afraid to try new things
  7. Develop an SMO strategy
  8. Choose your SMO tactics wisely
  9. Make SMO part of your process and best practices

With the increasing impact of social media in our lives, SMO is fast becoming an indispensible strategy to increase traffic to your site. Though it hasn’t yet caught up with SEO, but it no doubt has the potential.

Few years back, the companies hardly cared, who is bookmarking what on del.icio.us, who diggs which story, who mashed what. Nobody ever tried to venture in the casual world of Facebook, or mySpace. But things are changing. By introducing the term, Bhargava actually revolutionized the online marketing strategy. It opened up new windows towards tapping a large volume of audience on web, which was otherwise unnoticed and uncared for.

SMO is all about making your content easy to find, share and distribute. This can be done in several ways. Adding a Digg it button, creating link magnets or link baits, which are nothing but an interesting piece of content.

Like traditional marketing strategy putting the right content to the right audience at the right time, is what makes it click.

SMO can provide instant exposure and influx of inbound links to your site. However, you need to get the content right to increase the conversion rate of this traffic. The strategy for each site depends on the product/service you offer. The content should always be relevant and compliment the specifics of your company. Another thing that needs to be kept in mind while preparing the content is to be honest to your audience. No matter what you do, it never helps to glorify yourself beyond your capability. Just putting up your article on Digg can only help you get a large volume of traffic, which is of no use if the conversion rate is poor. Ultimately, the traffic will slow down too.

Never get carried away by the exposure your site gets, the content should always be designed keeping your target audience in mind. Because they are the ones who will keep your business up and running; others are just additional benefit you may derive.

Few SMO Strategies:

  1. Digg your content
  2. Bookmark it on Del.icio.us
  3. Put up your site on StumbleUpon
  4. You can also utilize sites like youTube, MySpace, Flickr and many such social media sites

Social Media Optimization helps build a bridge between the company and the constomer, helps direct conversation, and helps garner greater visibility on the internet.

Catch the Virus (Part II)

Its been a while since I last blogged. Here is the continuation of the discussion on Viral loop and Marketing i started in my last blog.

What is Viral Marketing?

As we had discussed the self replicating nature of the Viral Loop in the Part1 of this article, we can easily say that Viral Marketing is a form of marketing that depends on the Viral loop.

What does that mean? This means that this form of marketing depends on pre-existing Social Networks to create awareness about their Brand or Products.  If only we could imagine the Tupperware marketing strategy of “Tupperware Parties” that helped the company earn millions, in today’s scenario, imagine the impact it would have had.

The term viral marketing was popularized by Jeffery Rayport, through his article “The Virus of Marketing”, and how very appropriate the term is. The term was definitely inspired by the process of infecting one person through other.

The Virus of marketing doesn’t spread by chance. It has a proper thought out process behind it. The math of viral marketing is simple.  If the Number of people an infected person can infect is greater than 1, the loop will grow exponentially.  If it’s less than 1, it will never flourish. Hence the message that you are trying to send out to your target audience should be precise and clear. It should also be relevant. As mentioned in last article, here we, the end users decide what sells. If the product is not relevant, or doesn’t have the right elements to appeal, it won’t sell. No matter how you try to promote it.

What works best in a Viral marketing campaign is to let the loop do its work, and not try too hard to control it. If the content/product is good, it will sell. If you sit and start masterminding it, it will do more harm than good.

In Viral marketing, you need to keep in mind that, despite being the spreading virus, you need to appear like a host. Look at Facebook for example. We set up our accounts there, post pictures and updates, thinking of it as the host, helping us connect to our connections. What we fail to notice is that it is actually a virus spreading on our need/desire to connect to our near and remote acquaintances.

We can also take in account a few amazing catch phrases that act as perfect marketing tools. Nike’s “Just do it” campaign is a great example.  No matter what they have spent in celebrity endorsements or TV campaigns, one thing that has always worked best was their catch phrase “Just Do It”. It had become a part of normal conversation. Every time we used the phrase, we were definitely reminded of Nike, and in a way we were spreading the word. Same goes for Adidas’ “Impossible is Nothing”.  The phrase “nothing is impossible” was rephrased to “Impossible is Nothing” and the youth took it up readily. We were using the phrase everywhere to show off our attitude, while in reality we were endorsing a product.

Another noticeable trend is that the virus thrives on the people with bigger social communities with weaker links rather than people with fewer, stronger social connections. Just like the normal virus which attacks the weakest points of the immune system. Have we ever notice that on Face book we all have average of 135 people in our connections, but people we are more frequently in touch with probably do not exceed the count of 8. 80% of all the skype calls are made to only 2 people in our long contact lists. But we still send request to all the people we have ever known in our life, and would like to keep in touch with. If we only sent friend requests to those 8 people, or added only those 2 people on skype, the virus will never spread.  Hence it’s always people with weaker but vaster social network who are the major contributors in the Viral marketing trend.

Viral Network & Social Media

A Viral Network, as should be clear by now, is a network spreading through the viral loop. The Tupperware ladies, the Amway and Avon buyer seller networks, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and numerous such sites and groups survive on this network. Any networks that can self replicate are Viral Network. Viral networks are highly scalable in nature. These networks also need to be decentralized. Any central control authority can affect the network effect to a great extent. The most recent example would be the decision taken by Wikipedia to control the contents, which led to the exit of numerous loyal contributors.

The Viral network follows the same Rule of 1. A viral network grows in spiral fashion, with many more spirals forking out of the existing ones. Though, not all spirals expand infinitesimally. There always is a saturation point, beyond which it cannot grow.

The Social Media networks are a result of these viral networks, and they follow all the rules of the viral. Once a viral is triggered, it keeps on doubling itself year after year. But ultimately a time comes when the viral reaches saturation point. Then how do these sites survive? It s an accepted fact, that 80% of the visitors to these sites, are only 20% percent people registered on these sites. These are the Loyalists or the Addicted visitors. Any social media follows this “80:20” rule.

But the expansive reach of social media is undeniable. Its huge audience has inspired many marketers to search new ways of promoting their products over these sites. Many credible brands have formed pages on these sites and encourage people to follow them. They also try to tap in this huge customer base by putting up ads and banners at several pages. These companies integrate a promotional mix of Direct marketing, advertising, personal selling, sales promotions and public relationship to capture the mass audience.

But how very effective is social media marketing in reality is still a topic for debate. It is a fact that the longer time we spend on a page the less likely we are to click on ads/banners. Moreover How many people actually follow a particular brand or company on these site? How many of them who once become participate in discussions or post comments? These sites have become “too popular”. People hardly go on an exploration spree now. They know exactly what they are up on the site for and do not look any further. Hence these promotional pages tend to lose their relevance as people move on to a newer, more interesting idea.

We have a mix of examples for the success rate of the sites on these social media networking sites. While Dell, Target and Starbucks actually managed to make it big, the likes of Volkswagon, Walmart and Nestle failed to make any impact.

The social media is also considered only as a Value Addition to traditional marketing schemes by many. But anything that has such a huge network following should be able to generate awesome revenue. The marketers are yet to find the best way to engage this vast audience base in a constructive way. But till then the debate continues.

Catch the virus…

PART1

(This is a three part series of blogs, where I’ll discuss whatever I gather about Viral loop, Viral Marketing, Social Media etc. I would like to share your observations and ideas about the same. The part1 follows here. Next week, Part2 will follow and then Part3)

Have you ever forwarded a mail to all in your address book?  Have you ever shared a link you like with your friend? Are you on Facebook? Or Orkut? Or MySpace?  Have you ever bid on eBay? Posted a video, viewed or downloaded it from YouTube?

If yes, you are spreading a viral my friend! Yes, and without even knowing it you have become a part of a loop that keeps on expanding exponentially.

What exactly is a viral loop? A viral loop is nothing but a self replicating loop of objects or phenomenon. A process, that has touched new heights with the invasion of internet in our lives. But by no means is the concept of a viral new to the marketing world.  Avon, a US based cosmetics, perfume and toy selling company, has long deployed the process of direct marketing.

I still remember, visiting a common friend’s place with my cousin. Her mom used to sell AVON products. Being a house wife this was a source of additional income and also some fun. How she flaunted the products and its advantages, and not just that. She also told us about the commission she gets from selling the products and how easily anyone can become a subscriber. Soon after, I found my cousin selling off AVON products in her friend circle. Many of her friends followed suit. She had become a part of a viral and was now starting a loop of her own.

Avon’s strategy of direct marketing is not unique. Tupperware deployed this method to earn millions, way back in 1940’s. Amway, another cosmetics and domestic products company, today has a long chain of buyers and sellers, which continues to expand.

The best form of marketing still remains the “word of mouth” process. If you hear a friend of yours praising a product, if nothing, you’ll definitely want to check out on it. And what if you like it? You might end up buying it. You may even refer it to another friend of yours.  Personally, before buying a product I do like to consult a few of my acquaintances, and I am sure many of you also do the same. Why would I trust a company’s words? It’s their product; they are bound to praise it. But, if my friend tells me something good about a product, I will definitely give it more thought.

What if the company decides to pay a sum to this friend of mine? He would refer this product more often, and not just to a handful of people. He has bought the product, he knows it’s good, and he can make money out of that knowledge. This will trigger up the sales more. The more people join the loop, the more successful a product will be.

With internet, all this has become far easier, and faster. Not just because it’s faster to communicate, but also because it has a global impact. Greater the number of audience you can cater to, vaster the possibilities are.

The internet boom, was itself a result of viral. And today, the web is the stage for various businesses, based on theviral loop. From Mosaic to Hotmail to ebay to Facebook; web businesses have fed and flourished on this loop.

Social Media and the Viral Loop:

We humans are social lots. Ever since the human evolution began, he craved for a group. We always tend to develop a group around us, wherever we are.

The viral feeds on this very nature of ours. Ever wonder, if you were the only member of Facebook, Twitter or Flickr. How long will you last? Why would you put up status updates, if nobody knows about it? Why would you share photos if no one sees them or comments on them? What would be the point of your tweets? Why would you put up a product for sale on eBay, if there are no bidders?

The Viral is designed keeping these very things in mind. Any such site that can capture the right pulse is bound to grow. Here, what is good is decided by us.

I had not heard about Facebook, until one day a friend of mine sent me a request to join up. She had some good words to say about it. Once registered, I was hooked on it. I spent hours searching for my old friends on the network. If I could not find them, I would in turn send then the join up request. Back then, my purpose was to connect with my long lost friends. Also, to connect easily to my distant friends. Soon, emails were a thing of past, I knew what my friends’ mood was, what were they doing, just by reading a few lines of their status updates.  I had by now developed a big network of friends, ex colleagues, relatives etc, and had helped spread the viral to a lot greater number, who in turn had also done the same.

But this was not all. It had a great potential for other businesses too. A company could easily set up their pages on any such social networking sites, and allow people to follow them. This was a great way to make people feel some sort of connection with the product, as they could have their say on any updates on the product. There are many other ways too to utilize these social networks. Putting up an ad link is another way to utilize the tremendous traffic on these sites.

Recent example would be the success of Zynga. Farmville, had become quite a rage amongst my Facebook buddies. Each day, I would receive at least 6-7 neighbour request. They utilized a simple tactics, of inviting your friends to create their own farm, to expand yours. People already addicted to the game would send request to almost anyone, who in turn would invite many others. Hence the game spread like a fire. Later however, too many bugs and ultimate saturation, put a brake to the growth rate.

The social networking sites are stackable. Each can be layered on top of another. If I come across a good article, I can Digg it and it can automatically share this with my twitter pals or Facebook buddies. If I stumble upon a great site I can bookmark it on De:licious for future reference. All my followers on de:licious can share this bookmarked page, they can dig it, mash it, tweet it, whatever they like. I can upload my pictures on Flickr, videos on YouTube, and share the link through any of my social networks.

(Part2: Viral Marketing, Viral Network and Social Media)

tea, blogging etc.

So here I am… blogging. Finally. After 3 years in graphics and web designing, it was increasingly becoming impossible to avoid the inevitable.

Sharing is the keyword that smoothly binds internet and knowledge, and what better way of sharing knowledge than blogging. Everyday we come across so many old and new things in life, both real and virtual, and each day is a day of new inspirations. Sometimes we loose these inspirational moments in the heebees and jeebies of work. There is a better way. Share these moments, and they will remain. In fact sharing can also help find new possibilities for these unaddressed ideas.

I am basically a graphic designer, that’s my bread and butter. But apart from designing there are a lot of different aspects of my life. And boy, do they affect my work…and how!

I believe very tiny little thing in our life affects our work. But whether they affect it positively or negatively is completely in our hands. When I am feeling low, I design. When I face a creative block, I doodle, when i am feeling happy… I Party!   :)

But these little things, I bury them away under a pile of papers, or in some remote file on my computer. But there is a lot that I can gain or derive from them. How? By brooding over it? By staring at it? HOW?

Simplest answer to that question that comes to my mind is: by Sharing it. By asking people fro their opinion, their ideas. So yes, here I am…blogging. Blogging to share not only my work, but also what i found somewhere on the web.

Looking forward to an amazing journey of sharing information and Ideas.

-Ritika

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