Walk like an Egyptian, talk like your customer.

Big companies can sometimes forget about “the little guy” – their customer – and instead try and do marketing the way they see fit. After all, if they didn’t know better than Joe Six Pack what sold in the marketplace how did they manage to get so big in the first place?

But knowing the little guy and particularly how he thinks and talks is critical. This can be particularly true in internet marketing where the customer does not have the advantage of touching the product, feeling its heft and having a positive user experience. In web marketing, particularly in SEO and SEM marketing, you need to think and talk like your potential customer if you want to convert them to being a paying customer.

I once worked for a large electronics manufacturer. This manufacturer had a heavily trafficked corporate web site with 1000 major products and thousands of related accessories. These products were of course categorized and the product pages put into bread crumb navigation structures. The amount of traffic, the related links to the corporate site from bloggers and tech geeks should have meant that this company would totally dominate the natural search results for certain terms. But they didn’t dominate. You know why?

They didn’t talk like the customer.

This company was huge in mobile phone handsets. But nobody says “mobile phone handsets”. In the United States we almost universally say “cell phone”. But, on this company’s site the term “mobile phones” was used in the copy, in the categorization and in the navigation. The result: even though this company was the number 2 manufacturer of cell phones in the world at the time they rarely showed up on the first page of Google search results for “cell phones”.

When you walk into a bar to watch the big game and you’re wowed by the picture of that 2 inch thick piece of glass and plastic on the wall do you say “great picture on the LCD TV over there”. No, you say “flat screen TV”. Because only the guys on the floor at Best Buy know the difference between a LCD TV, a plasma TV and an LED TV. But again, this company didn’t optimize their site for the term “flat screen TV” but a competitor did. This forced the company purchase the term for SEM purposes – which they probably would have done anyway – but being in the top 3 paid results AND being in the top natural results would have been sweet.

Most people call a portable computer a “laptop”. This company’s breadcrumb structure was “mobile computing >> notebook computers”. “Hon, I’m off to the Starbucks to get a latte and do some mobile computing, see ya later.”

When is the last time you spoke the words “I’m running out of underwear, I better throw a load in the laundry center”? Yep. They went there.

I understand the desire to sound professional. It adds a quality and elan to your product or service. But if you want to get ranked well by Google you’re going to have to get pedestrian and proletarian. And let us all collectively pray that people do not start searching Google in SMS message speak.

Is social media worth it?

Those of us in online marketing have been wondering for years whether social media is worth it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that social media is a fad. No, my friends, the era of sharing is certainly here to stay. But for businesses is it worth it? Is there a return on spending X amount of man hours on keeping a twitter account lively or a Facebook page engaging?

I’ve read studies that put the value of a Facebook fan at $12 dollars and others at $0.12 cents. We’ve all heard about using Twitter as an alternative customer support tool and keeping customers happy. But I can tell you from personal experience that Twitter can also be used as a megaphone for an unhappy customer. And bad or scandalous content is going to be shared far more than good content. Which of the following do you think would be more likely to be retweeted?

A: The new Purina Oatmeal flavor Mango Madness tastes great!
B: The new Purina Oatmeal flavor Mango Madness tastes like flakes of card board  floating in dumpster juice!

Sharing can be daring.

But, there’s one reason why a social media presence must be actively maintained: they give good SERP.

Google me. Do it. Google “Chris Hedick” right now. Where is Twitter and Facebook in the results? Right at the top. Because of Google’s smothering love of social media sites a good social media strategy is essential.

But Chris? What’s a ‘good’ social media strategy? Don’t I just put up a Facebook fan page and let people rave about my company or product? No.

A good social media strategy has structure. A good social media strategy has a content strategy. Here’s one that I recommend:

1- Do your keyword research. An earlier post on end user vernacular got into this a little bit, but it’s worth repeating. Find out how your users are searching. This is more art than science but by combining Google Adwords, internal search analytics and even Twitter itself you can quickly find out how people talk about your product. I consulted for a friend who was helping to clean up some of this housing crisis debacle. Two terms were being used all the time in the media to explain the situation of the people he was trying to help: “underwater mortgage” and “upside down mortgage”. Which to concentrate upon? Plug ‘em into Twitter and see how frequently there was a tweet on each. The more frequently used term is the winner.
2- Now that you know how your users speak, talk to them in that language via social media. Use those terms in posts, YouTube videos and tweets in a subtle and natural way.
3- Have a blog or landing site specifically devoted to receiving people interested in those terms. Then make sure that the social media content links to that blog or other content that is relevant to the terms. And make sure that the blog has a content strategy that emphasizes those terms.
4- Link out as well. Let’s say you make marsh mellows. Doing some research revealed that the number one reason people buy marsh mellows is to make Rice Krispie treats. Linking your blog post about Rice Krispie treats to a Rice Krispie recipe site isn’t going to hurt you, it’s only going to up your SERP rank for the term “rice Krispie treats”.

So to answer the question “is social media worth it?” I’d have to give a qualified and yet emphatic yes.

Social Media is a powerful weapon that can carefully and powerfully target like a sniper rifle. But just throwing stuff up on Twitter without a well thought out strategy is like trying to hit your customer at 500 paces with a Nerf gun.