Free website promotion tutorial

Welcome to A Promotion Guide. If this is your first visit, you might want to take the time to read through this page. It contains a free step-by-step website promotion tutorial 
that also serves as a "User's Guide" to the site. Reading it will give you a good idea on what you need to do, when you need to do it and how the articles on this site will help you.
This tutorial is split into three phases that each have two, three or four steps. It is highly recommended that you start from the first phase and move forwards only after you have completed all of the steps in it.
We'll begin with the assumption that your site is brand new and that you haven't done any website promotion work yet. However, that doesn't mean that you can't use the tutorial if you have submitted to a few search engines or registered your site with a couple of directories. If you notice that there are some things you have already done, feel free to simply skip over them.
Promoting your site takes a lot of time and may involve waiting several weeks or even months to get into certain directories and search engines. Thus, it might be wise to bookmark this page so that you can return to it later and continue the tutorial from where you left off.

Website promotion, phase one - Directories

You should start your website promotion efforts by listing your site at the most popular Internet directories. Because they can send you substantial amounts of traffic and affect your ranking in various search engines, it is wise to make sure that your site is present in all of the major directories before doing anything else.
Step one - General information
Submitting to directories is easy and doesn't require much effort. It's ensuring that your submission will be accepted that makes this task a hard one.
  1. First, read "Boost your traffic with website directories" to get a basic idea on what directories are and how to submit to them.
  2. Examine the article about web page design to get some tips on how to improve your site and reduce the chances of it being rejected.
Step two - The Open Directory Project
Start with the Open Directory Project. While your site has to offer good, unique content to be accepted to the ODP, its editors usually review sites quickly and won't reject them without a good reason for doing so. This, along with the fact that submitting to the ODP is free of charge, makes it a perfect starting point. Completing this step successfully will also provide you with experience that will prove to be very valuable later on.
  1. Read my thoughts on how Google's ranking algorithm works and notice how an ODP listing seems to affect your ranking at Google. Keep this information in mind when you submit.
  2. Take a look at the advice on submitting your website to the ODP.
  3. Finally, submit your site to the ODP.
  4. If your submission isn't successful, consider becoming an editor at the Open Directory and listing your own site.
Step three - Yahoo
After securing a listing at ODP, your next task is to get the folks at Yahoo to notice that your site exists and is worth a place in their directory. This might cost you a fair amount of money if you are running a commercial site, but is usually worth it. Non-commercial sites can get in for free, but might require several submissions and a lot of patience before they are accepted.
  1. Check out the Yahoo-specific guidelines and hints and the article abouthow Yahoo's search feature ranks sites.
  2. Bite the bullet and submit your site to Yahoo.

Website promotion, phase two - Search engines

Now that your site has been included in ODP and Yahoo, you should already be receiving clearly more traffic than before. The next task is to get to know search engines and use them to bring even more people to your pages. Because you have completed phase one, you have established a good foundation for making your site perform well in the search engines.
Step one - Search engine optimization, basics
In order to gain good rankings, you'll need to learn the basics of search engine algorithms (ranking systems) and adjust your pages to meet their criteria as well as possible. This will take some time and effort, but doing some work now will save you from a lot of trouble in the future.
  1. First, try to make the design of your site as search engine friendly as possible. To read more about the subject, take a look at my article about website optimization.
  2. Next, you'll need to do some keyword optimization. Sounds frightening, but in plain English it simply means choosing the correct keywords for your pages. Using the wrong words is perhaps the most common reason why people don't get satisfying results from their search engine optimization work.
  3. Continue by reading these search engine optimization tips.
  4. Read the article about META tags and add them to all of your pages. The META keywords tag isn't absolutely necessary, but the META description tag is very important.
  5. Learn what link popularity is and how search engines use it to rank your pages.
  6. Unless you have already done so, read about Google's algorithm. Google is among the most popular search services of today, so it is wise to take its requirements into account.
  7. Use all of this information to optimize your pages for the search engines.
Step two - Search engine optimization, advanced
Your site is now adequately prepared to really start bringing in traffic from search engines. But if you want to widen your knowledge about them and increase your chances of success, you still have some work to do. On the other hand, if you're totally exhausted and just want to get this thing over with, you'll be delighted to know that this step isn't absolutely necessary.
  1. Study some of the more advanced things related to search engine optimization. Among them are cloaking, css tricks, doorway pages,themes and how to improve your search engine ranking with click popularity.
  2. Read about the things you should avoid doing from this article that outlines common web site promotion mistakes.
Step three - Submitting to search engines?
Now is the time to make sure that your site has a presence in the indexes of major search engines. Fortunately, they are quite good at finding your site on their own. There are things you can do to help them, though..
  1. Get to know how search engine submission works and how the search engines determine which sites to list.
  2. Read the article "Targeting your search engine marketing" to see which engines are the most popular ones.
  3. If you are running a commercial site, you might also want to consider paying for search engine placement. Take a look at how you can use PPC search engine advertising to buy your way to the top.

Website promotion, phase three - More techniques

After being accepted into the largest directories and having pages of your site come up in answer to searches done at the major search engines, the long hours that you've spent on website promotion have begun to pay off and your daily visitor count is starting to look good. But there is still plenty you can do to help your site attract even more traffic.
In phase three, we'll examine different promotion methods that you might want to try. However, in order to prevent you from wasting your time on things that don't work, we'll also go over a few techniques that have proven to be less than spectacular when I experimented with them.
Step one - Keep these in mind
First, let's take a look at the good stuff. The articles introduced in this step are about the website promotion methods that are at least partially effective. Some of them work better than others, but if used correctly, all of them can produce results that will be worth your while. Of course, most of the articles include advice on what you need to do to obtain the best possible results with the method discussed.
  1. If you sell something on your site, you might want to try banner ads. Usually banner campaigns are seen as expensive and ineffective, but it is partially because advertisers don't know how to design good banners.
  2. Read the article on how to increase traffic with return visitors. Getting people to come back is the secret to why some sites get amazingly many hits per day.
  3. Learn what reciprocal links are and how to get them, then put that knowledge into use. In addition to sending you visitors, reciprocal links will also increase your link popularity and help your site rank higher in the search engines.
  4. Start using E-mail signatures. They might not produce thousands of visitors, but are a great way to promote your site a bit without having to actually do anything.
  5. Evaluate whether your site could benefit from joining a topsite list. These lists have their good and bad sides, but might be at least worth a try.
  6. Consider trying to build traffic with Usenet advertising. It can give you a nice traffic boost and help spread the word about your site, but only if done properly. Read the article to learn why Usenet promotion should only be done with great care.
  7. Writing newsletter articles often works well and can send you large amounts of targeted traffic in a short period of time, for free.
Step two - Forget these
As said, everything just doesn't always work the way it should in the world of promotion. In step two, our attention is focused on website promotion methods that are more trouble than they are worth. They might not be entirely useless, but your time would be better spent on improving your site or spreading the word about your site in other ways.
  1. Click exchange programs are easy, fast, free and will get you a lot of visitors. That's why it might be a surprise to hear that they really aren't good website promotion tools.
  2. A lot has been written about FFA pages and for the past few years, most of it has been negative. The only thing they are good for is increasing the flow of spam to your E-mail address.
  3. Winning website awards can occasionally be useful, especially if the awards are well-known. However, sometimes the winner of the award is not the real winner.
Final words
Congratulate yourself for being persistent, bright and hard-working. Most get frustrated and quit before this point, which is why most sites never become anything. After all, the secret to having a successful site is working hard in both promoting 
and creating it. You just might have what it takes.
After going through those three phases, you've read just about everything this site has to offer. While there is more to website promotion than what we have discussed here, you now know quite a lot about the subject. If you still desire more information, don't forget to come back to this site every now and then. This tutorial is always incomplete, because I continuously notice things that I want to write about.
I hope that A Promotion Guide has been able to help you to make your site more popular and thus given you the chance to spread your ideas and thoughts to a larger audience. And remember, if you have achieved good results, it's not because I showed you how to do it - it's because you did it.


Definition of Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is term that describes marketing a Web site using various techniques to make it more visible on search engines. Search Engine Marketing techniques include search engine optimization (SEO), buying Pay Per Click (PPC) ads, Paid Inclusion or using a combination of these options.
Pay Per Click is a pricing model that most search ads and many contextual ad programs are sold through. PPC ads only charge advertisers if a potential customer click on an ad.

Common Ways for SEM:

Use PPC Platforms: Purchasing keyword triggered advertising on major search engines or content sites can be a great way to drive targeted traffic to your web site. Some common paid per click ad providers are given below.
  • Google AdWords - Google's pay per click ad program, which allows you to buy search and contextual ads.
  • Google AdSense - Google's contextual ad program.
  • Microsoft AdCenter - Microsoft's PPC ad platform
  • Yahoo! Search Marketing Yahoo!'s PPC ad platform
Digg is rolling out a beta program of a new PPC ad platform. The ads will appear along with submitted content, except they will clearly be marked as sponsored advertising. The more an ad is voted up, the lower cost-per-click (CPC) the ad will enjoy. The more the ad is buried, the higher CPC.
Paid Inclusion: A method of allowing websites, which pass editorial quality guidelines to buy relevant exposure. You may give these a try.
  • Directories such as the Yahoo! Directory or Business.com allow websites to be listed for a flat yearly cost.
  • Yahoo! Search allows webmasters to pay for inclusion for a flat review fee and a category based cost per click.
  • Advertisements that are formatted as text links.
Other Ways: Below are some examples of getting more exposure and to attract more traffic to your site.
  • Submit Press Releases
  • Write relevant articles and submit to popular article submitting websites.
  • Write Blogs
  • Provide RSS/XML Feeds
  • Submit to Social Networking Sites
  • Word of mouth also works. Try to tell your friends and their other friends.
  • You may also try advertising through banners.
  • Exchange links with other good relevant sites.

How Keyword Density, Frequency, Prominence And Proximity Affects Search Engine Rankings

In this article, I explain the difference between keyword density, frequency, prominence and proximity, and how they affect search engine rankings.
Keyword Density
Keyword density refers to the ratio (percentage) of keywords contained within the total number of indexable words within a web page.
The preferred keyword density ratio varies from search engine to search engine. In general, I recommend using a keyword density ratio in the range of 2-8%.
You may like to use this real-time keyword analysis tool to help you optimize a web page's keyword density ratio.
Keyword Frequency
Keyword frequency refers to the number of times a keyword or keyword phrase appears within a web page.
The theory is that the more times a keyword or keyword phrase appears within a web page, the more relevance a search engine is likely to give the page for a search with those keywords.
In general, I recommend that you ensure that the most important keyword or keyword phrase is the most frequently use keywords in a web page.
But be careful not to abuse the system by repeating the same keyword or keyword phrases over and over again.
Keyword Prominence
Keyword prominence refers to how prominent keywords are within a web page.
The general recommendation is to place important keywords at, or near, the start of a web page, sentence, TITLE or META tag.
Keyword Proximity
Keyword proximity refers to the closeness between two or more keywords. In general, the closer the keywords are, the better.
For example:
How Keyword Density Affects Search Engine Rankings

How Keyword Density Affects Rankings In Search Engine
Using the example above, if someone searched for "search engine rankings," a web page containing the first sentence is more likely to rank higher than the second.
The reason is because the keywords are placed closer together. This is assuming that everything else is equal, of course.
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How To Find Link Exchange Partner Sites To Improve Your Link Popularity

In this article I show you how to find link exchange partners to improve your link popularity rating, which in turn will improve your search engine rankings.
Search engine optimization experts agree that link popularity is now considered by most search engines to be one of, if not, the most important factors that determines a site's ranking in the search engines.
If you're not sure what your site's link popularity rating is, then use this link popularity check tool to check your link popularity rating in the top search engines.
Let's say we have two identical sites. One has thousands of targeted sites linking to it. The other only has a few incoming links. It's virtually guaranteed that the site with thousands of incoming links will rank higher than the other site.
So how do you find reciprocal link partners?
First, you need to work out what type of web sites would link to your site. Here are some examples of sites and the types of sites that would link to them.
Your Site:Links From:
Pet storePet lovers' sites
Site design serviceWebmaster sites
Travel siteLocal guides
PC storeSoftware/hardware review sites
Music storeMusic fan sites
As you can see, you're looking for sites that are on the same subject matter, but not necessarily similar.
So now you know what sites to look for, how do you find these sites?
There are basically two methods:
In the following examples, we'll use "pet lovers'" sites as the type of sites we're looking for.
1. Find targeted sites in the web directories, such as the Open Directory Project.
Go to a directory's home page and search with the keywords, "pet lover." Then click on the category the top listings belong to. The sites listed in these and related categories are the types of sites you need to contact.
If the category has a resources or directories sub-category, then try the sites in those categories first. Resources typically offer links to sites on the same subject.
2. Use the search engines to find sites that link to your competitors' web sites.
Using the search engines is probably a more efficient method of find reciprocal link partners, than searching the directories.
Go to your favorite search engine, such as Google, and search for any of the following keyword phrases:
"pet directory" - Searches for pet directories.
"pet search engine" - Searches for pet search engines.
"pet lover" links.html - Searches for link pages in pet lover's web sites.
"pet lover" resources.html - Searches for the resource page in a pet lover's Web site.
Don't forget to include the quotation marks to narrow your search.
Also try replacing the ".html" with other file extensions, such as ".htm," ".shtm," ".shtml," ".cfm," and ".php."
Now make a list of the sites. Then create a links or resources page and add links to the sites on that page.
After you've done that, link to that page from your home page. If you have hundreds of links, split the pages into different sub-categories. When you're done, upload the pages to your server.
Now contact each site by informing them that you have linked to their site and request a link in return. Don't forget to be polite and inform them of the benefits of exchanging links.
Some sites, such as web directories, will not require a reciprocal link. So simply submit your link.
The most important tip I can give you with regards to reciprocal linking is to only exchange links with targeted sites. I highly recommend that you don't exchange links with sites that bear no relation with your site. If you link to poor-quality or spam sites, it could affect your search engine rankings.
WARNING
Under no circumstances should you link to, or add links from, link farms. Link farms are considered as spam sites in the eyes of the search engines. Good luck with improving your link popularity.
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Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Internet Marketing is a new term. It's all about optimizating the content in your website in such a way that search engines find it, rank it, and place it high on a list of results. We consult with you on writing your web pages so they provide just what your customers want and simultaneoulsy enable search engines to find the pages.
However, search engines don't automatically crawl through your website. To begin, your website must be submitted to these search engines. Each search engine has software routines that look at pages in certain structured ways and ranks them according to what it finds. If the structure and content isn't what it's optimally looking for, than your website will rank low or won't be found.
Everyday there seems to more information about what it takes to improve a web page rankings. We keep on top of this. As our client, we will be on top of this for you. We will monitor your site's visibility in the internet and grow your presence. This is accomplished through site statistic reports and other analytical tools. It is work. We'll be there for you.

Five Steps that Grows Your Web Presence

The following will help you understand how we work the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) approach with you.

1.  Pick a Target Phrase

We help you pick a target phrase by using tools that assess popularity and aids in brainstorming ideas for target phrases, including how the competitiors use the target phrase you're after.
Determine one phrase that describes what your page is about and should:
  • Be an important part of the page information
  • Accurately describe the page's contents
  • Use common, popular descriptions

2.  Analyze Your Competition

We test drive your phrase in popular search engines. The next step in search engine optimization is to determine who your competition is at the page level.

3.  Write Your Page

We keep on top of the latest techniques search engines are using to see web pages, We can help you write the content for your web pages. There are techniques that go beyond placing words and phrases in the meta tags of web documents.

4.  Promote Your Page

We review your page content carefully and advise on any necessary editorial improvements. Your chosen target phrase is important. Promoting refers how you write the links on pages and the number of times the phrase is used on a page.

5.  Check Your Results and Tweak

Major search engines, such as Google and Yahoo crawls web sites on a regular basis . Our goal is to help your web site get to the first or second page of search results. Optimizing web pages should be a continual process of refinement. Submitting your website to search engines should be a regular process.
  

Creating A SME Web Presence That Delivers



In the today’s business environment the Internet has become an extremely powerful business tool. At a minimum it can be used to generate plenty of juicy new sales leads or at its full potential delivering a full e-commerce sales vehicle and revenue stream.

Unfortunately this been said it still tends to be the very large business groups or industry specific groups such as the hospitality sector that use the internet to anywhere near its full potential.

Using the Internet for your companies’ business advantage need not be either a complicated or costly measure. I believe armed with a little knowledge you can start to develop your company’s web presence so that it will quickly become an important part of your business strategy and ultimately deliver plenty of new sales and customers.

 

Your Website


Your website is your both your company’s shop front and product showroom on the web. Therefore it’s critical that you put in some work beforehand and plan for its design, wording and creation so that it delivers your company, people and products in their best light. Start by asking yourself questions. What do you want to achieve from this process? Can your on line presence add to your bottom line?

Goal


Once someone visits your site they become a potential customer so the primary goal of a business website needs to be to guide and encourage the visitor to make a positive next step such as giving contact details (leads), picking up the phone to call (leads) or making a decision to purchase on line (sales). Don’t forget a web designer’s business is the look and feel of the site not what your customers will want so you are the one that is best placed to manage the process.

About

 

Keeping your primary goal in mind your site is also a source of information to your potential customers. In other words, it’s like a sophisticated on-line brochure providing potential buyers with relevant information about the company, its people, products and existing customers. What is a potential customer likely to want to know about your business to help them to buy your product?

 

Text


The text needs to contain a decent sprinkling of the key words (search terms) that your potential customer is going to type into the search bar when searching for your product. In this way it’s very different to a standard hard copy brochure and that why it’s never a good idea to just replicate existing hard copy text on line. This bit requires some research beforehand from you. You may feel you have a good idea of what people are lightly to be searching for but you also need to consider and research less obvious keywords and search terms. Not doing this is lightly to be cutting off large numbers of potential visitors and ultimately customers. Include all these keywords in the text of the site and where possible in the text of your home page. It is also worth considering that search engines love new information so where you can stay away from coping or replicating existing on line content. 

 

Pictures and Bios


It’s a good idea to include pictures and bios of the main people within the company. This allows you to demonstrate to the potential buyer the levels of experience within the organisation and show off any relevant qualifications and achievements.

 

Graphics


Buck the latest trends and keep graphics to a minimum. While they can look good they sometimes create more trouble than they are worth. Heavy graphic dependent type-sites are extremely difficult to get a good ranking on Google or the other search engines due to the nature of how websites are indexed. Remember Information rich sites rather than flashy sites usually win the ranking battle within the search engines.

E-content

Newsletters, blogs and free advice are a great way of keeping your potential customers on the site while also giving you an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise in your chosen field. The process of having a visitor sign up for a newsletter also provides you with sales leads.

Links Page

You also need to create a links page in your site. This is to allow you to add relevant links to other sites within your site. You include this page so that you can start to exchange links with other sites and build up the back links to your site.

SEO

Now that you have created your website you first need to get it listed in Google, Yahoo and DMOZ. You can wait for the search engines to discover your site or alternatively you apply to have your site listed. Yahoo charge for the privilege but if you wait they will pick it up. Once this is done your next task is to ensure that your site appears high enough up the search engine listings so that people actually click through and visit your home page. This is called search engine optimisation or SEO for short

One way to do this is to pay an SEO specialist company to do this for you or alternatively you can do it for your self. In simple terms search engine ranking is decided by three factors

1.    The number of links backs to your site
2.    The quality of these links
3.    The relevance to your site of the sites linking in

Online Directories

Your first port of call should be on line directories. There are literally hundreds of directories out there that will list your site. Some charge for the privilege but many don’t. Be warned this can be a time consuming process because you have to enter the details about your site with each application and many take months to list your site. Remember try to target directories that are in some way relevant to your site i.e. Irish, Industry, business or product related.

Link Exchange

Exchanging links with other sites is another extremely effective way of building up the number of quality back links. Again target sites that are relevant to your business. Contact their web or IT person by e-mail or phone and propose to list their site provided the return the favour. Ideally you want to target sites that have a better or at least similar page rank than yours. To see what page rank a site has download the Google toolbar.

Online Articles

You can also write articles within your area of expertise and get them published online including a link to your site. One way to do this is to set up a free account with a site such as www.ezinearticles.com.  These types of sites provide a service that allows their visitors to publish your articles on their website or blog therefore creating additional links back to your site. Alternatively you can target relevant sites and directly request to have your article published. Well-placed articles also deliver quality additional visitors and potential customers.    

Google Adwords

Adwords is an online advertising service provided by Google. You pay to have your site listed for specific keywords and search terms. In effect you bid for relevant keywords and your site appears somewhere in the sponsored listing section. Where it appears depends on the popularity of the specific search term and the amount that you are prepared to pay. Adwords is a good way to get visitors to your site while you are building up your search rankings.

Google Page Rank

Page rank goes from 0-10 (10 being the highest) and is how Google views the importance of your website. Building up the number of quality back links is the easiest way to achieve a higher ranking. Results take time but it is worth the effort over the long term. Download the Google toolbar and you can watch your rank increase over time.

Summary   

Your website should be an effective on line marketing and selling vehicle for your company. It can be used to generate good quality leads or be full e-commerce revenue stream for your business. Creating a professional business website is only the first step, it also needs to appear high enough up the search engine listings so as to attract sufficient visitor numbers. Lastly it will then need to hold these potential buyers attention and guide and encourage them to make a positive next step. This process doesn’t have to be costly provided you are prepared to invest some of your time and energies. What you will get back depends largely on what you are prepared to put in. 

 
Author's Bio
Niall Devitt is a sales training consultant with Real World Sales Training web:www.realworld.ie. He has worked as a Sales Manager and Sales Trainer in the Insurance, Finance, Telecommunications and IT industries. He has trained salespeople to sell into the residential, B2B and the Irish Public Sector markets .He has trained people to sell products ranging from finance to search engine technology software and pocesses a broad experience of developing training in sales techniques, account management, presentation skills and new business development.




How To Get One Way Back Links From Other Webmasters

To be able to achieve success in the World Wide Web, you need traffic. Traffic, as has been said many times, is the lifeblood of any website. Without traffic, you can never achieve any profit in cyberspace.

The best way to generate the traffic that you need is by placing highly in the search engine results. And to do this, your website needs to have a high page rank. One of the more vital determinative factors of increasing your website’s page rank is the number of relevant back links pointing to your URL.

Now here’s the catch. It’s not as easy as exchanging back links with another webmaster. What you need is to gain one way back links from different sources. This is what search engines want. And this is what you should aim for.

How can you convince other webmasters to include a link of yours in their web pages? Here are some tactics you can employ.

- The best way to get some unilateral links is to ask other webmasters. You don’t have to employ subterfuge, as some of these webmasters will be kind enough to assent to your request. There’s no need to bribe them with all varieties of kindness even. You’ll be surprised with the sheer number of webmaster who will actually agree to your request. The important thing is that you try this route.

- Often however, it’s a “what’s in it for me” business. Offering a link back to his website usually does the trick, but then again, we’re after one way links here, not reciprocal ones. One of the better ways to win his assent is to offer him something that he needs for his website. We’re talking about content, of course, as every webmaster needs content. Write an article for him, and exclusively for him, with a subject that is relevant to his website. Then ask if you can include your link within the article. 90% of the time, such a webmaster will agree. How can he say no to free content?

- Another offer you can use as lure for webmasters for that vital virtual real estate that can host your website’s URL is an incentive program. If your website is selling some products, for example, you can tell the webmaster that you’d give the visitors that will come from his website a substantial discount. Such visitors will develop a sense of loyalty for the webmaster, and your proposition will be something that he’ll find difficult to dismiss.

- By far the best way to encourage webmasters from all over the World Wide Web to include your link in their web pages is by establishing an affiliate program. Such an affiliate program will reward these webmasters a specified commission for every sale they will manage to refer. John Reese, in one of his amazing Traffic Secrets conventions, said that if you’re not using affiliate programs, there’s something seriously wrong with you. Indeed, affiliate programs are the most efficient and the most expedient way of building your back links.

- Viral marketing is the next most effective way of gaining some back links, and this time, you won’t even have to actively invite people to include your URL in their web pages. Viral marketing comes in many forms. Just take a look at www.blogthings.com which provides a slew of cool additions for blog users. Because of the very interesting nature of what it provides, the website garners thousands of visitors per day without even having to advertise them. It’s all word of mouth. MySpace grew the same way. It’s system is viral in nature, and it expanded by nature as well.

 

 

Social Media Marketing Tools - Putting Your Finger on the Pulse of the Web

Copyright (c) 2011 Enzo F. Cesario

Time makes a mockery of most predictions. Once derided as the tools and hobbies of hopeless shut-ins and intellectual ivory tower sorts, social media sites such as PayPal, Facebook and LinkedIn have become the home of an entirely new, powerhouse economy. Where hundreds of years of war and diplomacy have failed, social media marketing has succeeded in bringing people around the globe together in the pursuit of common interests and open markets. Social media marketing is the home of successful brand promotion, and finding the right mix of tools to take advantage of it has become the defining issue of the modern brand.

When people refer to SMM tools, they are discussing a host of applications and programs that allow real-time and long-term feedback on the performance of their social networks. This kind of information goes beyond the purely mechanistic approach of SEO and website performance, moving into the realm of genuine social engineering. Social media tools can track the number of times a brand is being mentioned across each network, compare traffic between networks, determine where the buzz is starting and which path it took to get from, say, Digg to Facebook. Knowing the focus of each of these tools and the best way to use them is the key to bringing all this power under control and using it to help promote a brand to its full potential.

TweetDeck


TweetDeck is an excellent platform for brands to manage social networks. A simple, efficient, all-in-one approach makes TweetDeck very useful for getting updates out quickly to a number of locations. TweetDeck supports Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, GoogleBuzz, LinkedIn and Foursquare, giving a user easy access to all of the major networks. Users can send out status updates to any or all of these at once, allowing unified messages to be spread in a single step, without the potential to forget one. However, it does have its limitations. Very heavy traffic to multiple accounts can slow down its efficiency, making it more of a startup and middleweight tool than a long-term solution.


HootSuite


Similar to TweetDeck in that it is targeted toward smaller businesses, HootSuite is an alternative tool that allows for several levels of customization. For starters, the basic package is completely free, and will support five networks of the user's choosing. Currently available platforms include Twitter, WordPress, LinkedIn, MySpace, FourSquare, Facebook and PingFm. Upgrading to paid subscriptions allows additional networks to be included.

HootSuite really shines because it offers steady "streams" of information about each of the user's networks, allowing the aforementioned real-time monitoring of web traffic. If a particular network is flagging or performing particularly well, it will be brought to the manager's attention. Further, HootSuite provides user bios and links to various users' social networking profiles, allowing a brand to tailor its content to the needs of the market more efficiently. The information is a bit limited in the default package, but even upgrading to the $5.99 a month subscription brings a great deal more detail to hand.

Engage121


For larger businesses looking to make their mark in the social networking world, Engage121 offers a number of more powerful options. This is a program for professional social networking managers, because it is entirely customizable to the exact needs of a business. One of its touted features, for example, is the ability of a local office to examine, modify and approve messages from the central branch. In this vein, a generic message can be sent out about company directives, while allowing each branch to add or delete content based on the relevance it has to their own particular mission. Thus a large clothing chain won't waste time sending out messages about their new swimwear line to their regional users in Alaska.

However, it has to be stressed once again that Engage 121 is not a tool for beginners. The sheer number of options can be daunting to put in the hands of an inexperienced manager. It's best to offer it to someone with a great deal of skill under his or her hat who can offer a specific plan of attack for using this tool.

General Thoughts


As a more broad consideration, there's no reason to limit oneself to any one of these applications, or indeed any of their competitors. A sound SMM strategy might, in fact, use several programs at once, either to get multiple sources of information or to test out which works best for a given company's needs. Then as the brand grows and needs increase, the manager can move up to more robust software and applications that better service the needs of the company.

Above all, remember the axiom that these tools are based on the need to promote communication between brand and audience. They are not meant to reduce the users of the network to data that can be analyzed and directed — these are people with their own minds and agendas, who will respond in kind if they feel slighted or taken advantage of. Instead, they should be used as a way to get information about what people want to talk about and to build a brand's reputation.

________________________________
Enzo F. Cesario is an online branding specialist
and co-founder of Brandsplat, a digital content
agency. Brandsplat creates blogs, articles, videos
and social media in the "voice" of our client's
brand. It makes sites more findable and brands more
recognizable. For the free Brandcasting Report go to
http://www.BrandSplat.com/ or visit our blog at
http://www.iBrandCasting.com/

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