Blogs Are the Hubs of the Social Network Ecosystem

Many businesses don’t have a blog yet. Too bad since blogs are really social media hubs and more. But there is hope. Since blogs are almost a must for all businesses that want to do “something” with social media.

A little more than a decade ago many companies had no websites. And if they had one, it was often no more than some online brochure. Now, for most businesses their website is a critical part of their daily basis and a hub where various online and offline activities start and come together. In little over ten years the corporate site has become a crucial component of the marketing and communication strategy. Today companies face a new challenge: social media.

Actually, the challenge is not that new but the success of social media and the fact that people continuously want more control over the communication process and tap into their social networks force companies to use social media as well.

Social media, including blogs, are so frequently used by people – and thus also by prospects, clients, suppliers, potential employees, competitors, journalists etc. – that you HAVE to follow what is happening in the social sphere and participate in it.

The Role And Advantages of Blogs

Blogs play a crucial part in this. A blog, as I have been saying for a long time, is a social media hub. In some cases social networks can also be social media hubs and even the corporate website offers various – underused – possibilities regarding social media marketing. But blogs are definitely the main social media hubs. They are the source of social interactions and facilitate dialogues.

Blogs are the online properties to which companies can link their social media presences and where dialogues with clients and prospects also effectively take place. Furthermore, blogs play a crucial role in search engine optimization and a brand’s reputation, amongst many others.

Businesses can blog in various ways. They can setup a separate blog which is more or less separate from the company (website) itself, they can leave the initiative for blogging to persons within the company who have something to say and create their own blog, etc.

But it is also absolutely advisable to have a blog that is setup within the website or connected to it and where different persons within the company can blog.

The benefits are tremendous: a simple integration with web analytics, a more ‘open’ and transparent image, search engine optimization and a rapid real-time interaction with people whereby relevant content is crucial.

Company blogs also open up new doors to strengthen other channels and client aimed actions, even in more outbound activities such as e-mail marketing. And of course they are essential in inbound marketing: people are in need of relevant information they can interact with; using blogs you can provide this much faster and in a conversational way than on a website.

The Social Content Management System

Just as today the website has become a marketing hub, blogs will for a long time be the hubs of social media marketing.

Content plays a crucial role in this and are often the start of your social media activities that aim to engage people and have touch points and connections that might lead to business relationships of any nature whatsoever.

If you don’t have a blog yet, it’s really time to get started or to come with another social media hub.

The next step is to build, what I call a social content management system. It’s not content management as we know it. It’s social, cross-channel, integrated and two-ways. I will develop the concept in a later post.

Identify The People And Connections Behind Your Email Subscribers And Social Connections

The success of the activities of email marketers depends from the actions of one group of people: subscribers.

For community managers and social media marketers the same applies, although here we don’t call them subscribers but members, friends (Facebook), followers (Twitter), fans (Digg, Facebook,…) and much more.

Whatever they are called: ultimately, they are just real people like you and me. 80% water, some flesh and bones, a brain and plenty of desires, issues, problems, challenges and dreams.

Treating Email Subscribers As People Instead of Email Addresses

It’s the loyalty of people that will determine success in your business. Not email addresses or followers: people.

In email marketing, subscribers are still often seen as email addresses in a list instead of human beings, that need to be thanked, involved, etc. and have needs.

Email marketers should begin interacting with their “subscribers”: ask them what they think about the emails they receive or about the company.

Ask them what communication channels they prefer, what frequencies etc. Invite them to comment on your marketing efforts, occasionally reward them and put them in the spotlight.

Treat your subscribers as friends. And what applies to email marketing, also applies to social media like Twitter or Facebook.

Once you are ‘connected’ with someone, that doesn’t mean there is a relation. There is a connection and nothing more.

Social CRM, Relationships And Communities

Connections become relationships when they become personal. When you get closer. As a business you can only get closer if you offer value and relevance by listening. If you are reliable, trustworthy and open. And then the rules of any human contact apply.

These rules are introduced in marketing: people need to be recognized, valued, praised and heard, they need to be able to share, communicate, participate and belong to social groups.

And I’m not talking social media here, I’m talking social groups in a sociological sense: family, friends, communities, clubs, companies, whatever.

Looking at connections, target groups and segments as real people, is what relationship marketing and social CRM are really about.

There is a strong link between social CRM, people and communities just as there is a strong relationship between social CRM, participation and interaction.

Communities exist of people. And they exist without you even knowing it. Even around your brand and businesses. You cannot build them, you can only make them visible, nurture them and involve them in your business, the way you shape your future, your communication and your brand.

Social CRM based on personal dialogue, community involvement, feedback and ongoing, increasingly personalized, people-centric efforts, while closely following all digital, behavioural, lifecycle-based and social interaction signals.

Improving Customer Loyalty And Increasing Sales Is Relational

Marketers need to be human and treat their subscribers, followers, communities, target groups, etc. as human beings too.

That requires an ongoing dialogue, commitment and a personal relationship: dialogues instead of monologues. And the need to treat people this way is a necessity for companies to succeed.

People are bombarded with tweets, emails, Facebook updates, LinkedIn requests, etc.

An opt-in, regardless of the medium (email, Facebook, Twitter, whatever), is a miracle (nowadays).

The path to greater customer loyalty and increased sales is about stepping from behind the technological curtain and getting to know subscribers, followers, fans, etc. in person. And about nurturing your community, even if you don’t know it exists yet.