Jan 2, 2011

Canada’s Top Social Media Companies and Consultants In review

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Canada's Top Social Media Companies and Consultants In review

Canada's Top Social Media Companies and Consultants In review

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Home Page > Internet > SEM > Canada's Top Social Media Companies and Consultants In review

Canada's Top Social Media Companies and Consultants In review

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Posted: Nov 07, 2010 |Comments: 0
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Our team was extremely encouraged by the pings and general feedback we got for our analysis of the top five telcos and their prowess (or lack of) in mastering the social media field.  Thousands are following us even though we've just begun our series.   Some of the feedback was from the telecos themselves. However, much of the feedback was from social media companies, SEO firms and consultants who are following our analysis with great gusto.  They are right to be interested.  I hope they can follow along as we have tried to make our synoposis as simple as possible.

Search Engine Placement Success or Failure

Most of the social media firms reviewed offer the sterling search engine placement promise. In simple English, the goal is to get your messages to show up on the search engine first pages.  If done correctly, your messages can quickly attain the coveted first page placement on search engines by defined categories.  This can be compared to having an ad on the front page of every newspaper in Canada.  It's the Holy Grail sought on your behalf by companies we review here.  Unfortunately, they make their clients wait and wait to catch the prize, that is, if they capture it for them at all.

By contrast, our previous article about the top five telcos' lack of success with social media showed up on the first pages of all selected search engines within a few hours of launch.   We're not telling you that to advertise our services.  We don't offer services, just free opinion.  We use social media to share our views on social media, not for profit.

There's no secret sauce to accomplish first page placement.  Knowledge and experience of how search engines work are important. But other fundamentals must also be in place.  We looked at a variety of social media firms to see how they did on the fundamentals.  Here's what we found.

Search Engine Verification

None of the so-called experts' sites we reviewed were set up for verification by the big three search engines.  These firms are claiming on their web sites that that they are the best of the best in the social media arena.  Their sites are supposed to advertise their skills and experience.  However, these sites are not even competently sprung to allow search engines to index their sites. This is a clear case of leaving the cheese out of your mousetrap.  How are search engines finding these firms' sites?  The answer is, slowly and maybe eventually.  So, if they can't get it straight for themselves, what kind of advice are they giving their paying clients? Taking social media guidance from these kinds of "experts" is like taking health advice from a fat doctor who smokes.  Consultant, heal thyself.

Bots and Crawlers

Establishing verification for your site also enables search engine bots and crawlers in finding your site.  Which brings me to another mistake on the part of these firms. Bots and crawlers need instruction when they hit your web site's front door code. Why haven't these experts used the proper code?  That's what you should ask yourself before hiring them. In order to get your pages searchable the bots and crawlers need to be invited in. Simply put, they can't ring a doorbell that isn't there.

Web Sites

Most of the sites we reviewed closely resembled each other in appearance, layout and format. These firms almost all look like they are captives of cookie-cutter thinking. If that is their best presentation, what kind of sites do they advise their clients to establish?  With surprising consistency, they relied on presenting the same series of terms, offers and site references. In fact, many use the same social media articles and reports that are easily found on the Web. You would think an expert would have an original opinion to share, based on social media expertise and creative outlook. I do not promote sites, however, there were some that stood out as interesting ones with fresh site presentation and original opinions.  If you are looking at sites in search of potential social media expertise, I recommend looking for those with unique offerings and plain-English descriptions of how they solved problems and achieved success for their paying customers.  Stay away from the ones that express themselves in high tech bamboozle lingo.

All the reviewed sites shout that their owners are the best in Canada or the world.  Typically, there is a photo of the company principle(s) accompanied with promos for his or her next seminar, book they are reading and the like.  Maybe their family and friends care, but why should you?  And why would you pay to go to a seminar presented by someone who doesn't understand social media basics and hasn't applied them to their own web site.  I found one site, a two-person shop, claiming to be the largest in Canada.  Who are they subcontracting their massive amount of work to?  No indication on their site.  So, who are you really dealing with if you if you have a contract with this company?  No indication on the site.  If, as they claim, they are the best Canada has to offer, what does it say about the state of the industry in this country?

Why would I attend their seminar when it isn't clear what they have accomplished for their clients?  Do they, for example, tell you how long it took their clients to get social media traction or how much?  No, they don't.  Showing a client list may demonstrate you have customers, but that's about it. Flaunting a client list is bad business practice.  In the first place, you are revealing your customer base to your competitors.  Second, it shows you have so little content of interest to convey that you rely on filling space with these lists.  Finally, you may have a niche of customers, which means other potential clients may assume you only handle specific silos of interest.

A Bird a Book a Link and a Blog

Recently, I read Canada is a few years behind comparable countries when it comes to social media implementation.  I can see why.  For example, the overwhelming applications chosen by these companies are a bird, (Twitter) a book (Facebook), a link and a blog.  That means they lean heavily on a few shopworn applications to define their social media architecture.   This is a very skimpy tool kit to say the least.  These applications are powerful, but if used improperly or in a limited way, they can actually net social media marketing failure.  The use of these applications to reach the intended goal, getting top-of-page status on search engines, can actually backfire.

These companies have set up these overused and abused applications aiming to drive traffic to their clients' sites and gain followers.  But their clients' content was promotional and ad-like.  This is a fatal combination.

Here's why.  If your content is all about product or service promotion and then set on the on the bird, book, link and blog track, your messages just swirl around in the Web ether, not gaining traffic or traction on the social media train.  Why is that?  Many enabling sites in the social media space, pure content sites in particular, do not like commercial promotion articles or other ad material. These are the sites that you really want on your side.  These are the ones that have a mighty thrust when it comes to sending traffic from their site to others. The really useful ones won't do that if your content is blatant advertising.  They reject brand names in articles or links to commercial content sites.  Simple as that.

Effectively, the social marketing companies are placing their clients' content in the same crowded field as their customers' direct and indirect competitors. What's the result?  Their clients' messages sink like a stone in the social media marketing pond.

Social media and SEO good practice is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Building an effective social media network requires deployment of applications and sites that get Web users to share your content.  The idea is to create a network of existing and potential consumers to absorb and pass on your content to others.

Limiting yourself to bird, book, link and blog with immediately rejectable content should obviously be avoided.  You are marketing so think like a marketer.

For example, there are hundreds of social network sites that function like Facebook, but targeted to specific demographic segments and/or niched interests, everything from travel and sports to parenting and dating.  The advantage of using these sites in a marketing strategy is clear.  The social media consultants we reviewed, locked as they are to a four-item list of applications, do not seem to know about these sites.  Otherwise, they wouldn't keep hitting the Facebook gong and sending their clients' messages into a general rather than niched stream.  Go to this link to see a good list of sites that are much better marketing vehicles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites. You will find very interesting information about social media sites listed by interest and category.  All of them are FREE of charge.

Again, think like a marketer. If you are selling tea cozies, seek the attention of tea drinkers and teapot connoisseurs.  Don't throw yourself into a giant space where people are hawking everything from salami to suds.  If, for example, you are selling to a younger market, join a social media site that has a defined base of young adults. Many exist and are of surprising size.  Interests tied to an age group can also be targeted through the proper social media applications. You can find lists of them by simply using a search engine.  Maybe there are young people, age 15 to 24, who are mad about tea cozies.  Find out before you launch your content or hand over your marketing dollars to the social media industry cabal.

Web 2.0

We all celebrate Web 2.0. This application refers to the second generation of the Web. It lets people with no specialized technical knowledge create their own web sites, self-publish, make and upload audio and video files, share photos and information and so on.  They are meant to be accessible to non-technical users.  That is their beauty. It's also how social media pirates take advantage of their clients.  They exploit these applications, which anyone can learn how to use, and present them as a their skills and know-how package.  Worse, they apply them without first creating a social media marketing strategy.  That's how your tea cozy content winds up in the Web equivalent of Dry Gulch Nowhere.

Social Media Marketing Strategy Informs Content

Before setting out, you need a social media strategy, which is essentially an old fashion marketing strategy, set to exploit social media as a vehicle.  Remember social media is ONLY the vehicle, not what dictates the message.   At the core of your strategy is how to treat your messages, i.e., how to prepare content of compelling interest to your target audience.  None of the sites reviewed talked about a marketing strategy as a starting point.  I guess they don't know about it.

So before seeking assistance from a social media company, I would head to a PR firm or traditional media strategy group.  If I had a smaller company with a limited budget, I'd head to the nearest post-secondary journalism or public relations school.  Here you will find talented and interested students, all wired to the Web and social media.  They are social media savvy, creative and will work for a lot less than the high priced guys downtown.

Your strategy will inform your content, as well as how it's written and where it's placed. Remember when you enter the social media sphere you need to keep feeding interesting writing in a non-sales format to your audience.  For example, consider writing a blog on the art of crocheting the perfect tea cozy like the one granny used to make.  Don't write a sales pitch on the merits of Acme Tea Cozies Inc. and pound away at the company brand.   If only sales messages are delivered you will annoy and, in the worst case, repel your potential reader/customer. Like telemarketing or e-mail blasts, it will make your customer hate your brand.  And, worst of all, you won't develop the golden following who will pass on your content and drive traffic to your web site, blogs etc.

Conclusion

Overall, Canada's prominent social media and SEO companies and consulting firms bombed out on social media basics.  Their own web sites are startling examples of how they don't understand their own craft.  They are not upfront about what they accomplish for their clients.  In fact, they really are simply selling vaporware.  For those readers who did not come out of the Dot-com era, it's "A term used to describe a piece of software that doesn't exist, is suspected not to exist, or is incapable of performing as promised".  To put it another way, buyer beware.

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The entry into Social Media Marketing is like all other forms of Web Technology that is new. What are they talking about, speak English, it costs how much?

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