Social Media: 5 Factors & 5 Tips for Marketers

Ian Lurie

Social media is a trendy phrase – one that I’ve never understood. Have you ever seen any anti-social media?

Most CEOs and marketers I meet are mystified. Just what the heck is social media? What does it mean for marketing?

This ‘new’ phenomenon is defined by 5 things:

User participation
Social media lets the audience join in. On a blog, that means comments and trackbacks. In a discussion forum, everyone’s a participant, as they talk to each other, answer questions, etc.. Bookmarking sites like and digg invite users to point out content they like. And, of course, video sharing sites like YouTube let users upload their own videos, and then invite the rest of the audience comment.

Tip: If you’re looking to tap these communities of potential customers, then participate, first. Contributors get a better reception than folks who lead with a sales pitch.

Re-use, Syndication and Subscription
Sites that involve social media let other sites re-use their content through embedding tools (like the ’embed video’ tool on YouTube):

Embed Tool in YouTube

Social media invites re-use. You have heard the expression ‘mashup’ – a mashup, at its simplest, is the re-use and repurposing of social media, often by combining multiple sources of information.

Tip: If you want a social media community to adopt your idea, make it easy for other sites to include you. Create a widget so that they can embed your content in their sites; create a Facebook application; or just provide an easy-to-use RSS feed.

OK, this is wishful thinking on my part. I would like to think that social media is marked by compliance with page coding standards. Compliance would help interconnection, make these sites easier to grow, and make sure they work across the widest possible array of browsers and devices.

In reality, many social media sites and technologies are not terribly standards-compliant. YouTube goes wonky, occasionally, in Safari. And any number of second- and third-tier sites go all higgledy-piggledy because of nested tables, improper use of CSS, etc..

But sites that fit the category tend to use XHTML and CSS 2.0 more often than not.

Tip: Make your site standards-compliant. When in Rome…

Lots of Content
Facebook, MySpace, YouTube,, etc. all have reams of content. I’m not saying whether it’s good or not. I’m just saying there’s a lot of it. User participation and interconnection foster a steady flow of incoming content.

Tip: Want to get some attention in social media circles? Produce great stuff, and make it easy for folks to include it on their Facebook or Myspace pages, and provide ‘Digg this’ and similar buttons.

Alas, most social media also involves politics. Power-mongering, personality conflicts and mob mentality can often take over. You might get ‘buried’ on because someone just doesn’t like what you have to say.

Tip: I’m not saying this to whine about social media politics. I love these sites. But if you’re making social media part of your marketing strategy, learn the ins and outs of each community. Don’t start asking for attention until you know what’s OK, and what’s off limits.

Apply Liberally
Social media is a concept, not a technology or a medium (in spite of the name). Don’t try to create a ‘social media plan’.

Instead, take the factors and tips above, add your own, and incorporate them into your overall internet marketing strategy. By doing so you will:

  • Gain links and relevance that helps with search marketing.
  • Strengthen your brand among the best listeners.
  • Learn directly from your audience.
  • Build a community around your organization.
  • Stay ahead of trends and changes in your industry.

Next time I’ll talk a bit about what social media is not…

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Nice one Ian.! You covered everything on social media. I’m looking forward to your comment on “not to do” as well. I personally have noticed a lot of companies using the web for promotions and advertising as well. It is constantly increasing and i find it to be more effective.

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