How To Protect Your Social Media Footprint
A lot of us in the interactive marketing world are familiar with the term ‘cybersquatting,’ where an individual or company sits on (or squats on) hundreds of domain names in the hopes that another organization will have no choice but to pay an inflated price for the URL.
This practice reached its peak several years ago, as the original ‘dot com’ bubble was bursting. However, there are still hundreds of thousands of domain names still being held or developed, primarily as link farms, by people and organizations who are still looking for that payday.
See arizona.com as one example. (Not linked on purpose, they are not getting SEO love from us.)
Now, with the undeniable popularity of social websites, such as Facebook and YouTube, many marketers are finding that there ideal social URL or username has been already claimed.
A little background. Most social sites allow users to select a username or nickname for the account. In addition, many of these sites also allow you to create a unique page, channel or profile.
Such as www.youtube.com/arizonatourism
The challenge is that anyone can essentially claim any ‘social URL’ that they want, regardless if they have any connection with Arizona, travel, Nike, Starbucks, your name, my name, etc.
And as more and more marketers launch campaigns with a social site component, many are finding that there brand name is already gone.
Here is what you need to do. Go out and begin registering on these social sites, whether or not you are ready to launch a campaign. Many of them will allow you to set your profile to private, meaning you can simply register your brand-specific ‘social URL’ without having to maintain a social presence. And while that seems so anti-social, at least your social URL will be there when you are ready.
Social Sites (travel and non-travel) You Need To Protect:
- Who: The major travel review and social travel site online. Millions of visitors, hundreds of reviews.
- Why: See above, with hundreds of reviews and members, this should be your first step in communicating with the social travel consumer. While there is not a risk of losing an URL such as tripadvisor.com/traveltexas, there could already be a consumer using ‘TravelTexas’ as there Member Name.
- How: TripAdvisor offers DMOs, hotels and other travel organizations the option to contribute content, with links to your website, for FREE! Insider Pages, GoLists, Videos, Forums and Reviews all offer a chance to spread your message to the TripAdvisor audience.
- Who: Owned by Fox Interactive, MySpace, along with Facebook, dominate the social networking space.
- Why: Even if you don’t have plans to launch a MySpace campaign in the near future, you need to own your MySpace URL. Several major companies have already experienced losing there brand name to regular consumers. For example: http://www.myspace.com/cocacola
- How: Like many social sites, launching a campaign on MySpace is more complex than simply throwing up some product images and brochure copy (see our post Why Facebook Will and Will Not Work For the Travel Industry – Part 1), users expect a connection via MySpace or Facebook and so far, very few ‘brands’ have been successful using the site. So, until you are ready to take on the work load, just set that MySpace page to private.
- Who: Independent, along with MySpace, one of the largest social networking sites.
- Why: See MySpace above.
- How: Again, see above.
- Who: Owned by Google, YouTube is the largest video sharing site online. Famous for being the source of thousands of viral videos, YouTube is increasingly being used as a marketing platform.
- Why: YouTube allows members to create ‘channels’ with specific URLs, such as www.youtube.com/ArizonaTourism. Like we have said earlier in the post, even if you are not planning on running your content or videos via YouTube at this time, you should own the URL. Additionally, YouTube has already become the primary location for online video, so if you want your commercials / custom content to be watched online, you will probably have to add it on YouTube.
- How: Like MySpace, TripAdvisor or any other ‘social’ site, members and viewers of YouTube are looking for valuable content. You can and should upload your standard commercials, but unless you are Bud Light, don’t expect them to be the next viral sensation. Use YouTube to highlight original content, participate in the conversations or to connect with travelers (many of which probably have travel videos of your state).
The Rest…Other Sites You Should Consider:
Social URL / Marketing Tips:
- Make sure you set your profile to private if you don’t plan on contributing regular content. Do not register for a social site, leave your profile public and neglect to post anything. If you do, watch your social rep decline quickly.
- Try and use the same Member Name, URL, etc for each site. Even thought it is not your site, you still need to present a consistent brand to the end user. For example, whenever possible, we use ‘ArizonaTourism.’ And while this point is contrary to the one below, because your staff may change over time, it is better to use a consistent ‘brand name’ for the Member Name and then provide a complete description, including
your real name, in the bio or about section.
- Be authentic. Cannot stress that enough.
- Consider using a generic email address such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Rather than trying to hide yourself, this point is designed to make transitions (i.e. new employees) easier.
- Keep track. There are a lot of social sites out there, make sure you keep track of the sites you have joined.
- Contribute value content. Again, unless you are ready to begin contributing to the community which you have joined, simply stay quiet. Wait until you are ready to commit the time and resources to the project and then proceed with your social strategy.
- Be aware of the time required. Any of these social sites will take a significant amount of time to maintain, nurture and grow. You must be prepared to interact with these communities on a daily basis.
- Users will talk to you. Unless your intern is an expert on your organization, you may want to rethink having him or her manage your social marketing just because they are ‘young.’ Users within the communities you join will want to talk and communicate with you. They will probably yell, praise, question, dismiss and love you. All at the same time.
- Look around. See what other companies and organizations are doing on the social site you want to join. How often are the posting? How are they using the site? What is the response?
Remember, if you are ready to enter the social scene, enjoy it. After all, the travel industry is all about communicating with travelers…but instead of across a desk, it is across a social site.
Have any additional thoughts on the subject? Did we miss a website for the list? Let us know in the comments section.