As social media grows in popularity, one fact cannot be igno

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    *As social media grows in popularity, one fact
    cannot be ignored: if used well, it can generate impressive amounts of
    traffic and increase engagement around your cause or organization.*

    If ignored, however, it can lead to tears of anguish and people punching their computers.

    I spend a lot (+and I mean a lot+) of time trying to figure
    out how to use social networking, bookmarking and news sites to enhance
    STRAIGHTALK's online presence. The beauty of it is that the work I've
    been doing with my large non-profit can be translated to even the
    smallest message.

    There are several key techniques for dispersing information
    effectively. These overall strategies aren't anything new in the
    marketing world: social media
    is just a new way to do old business. The tools have changed, but the
    need for knowing your audience, having an end goal, testing theories,
    and acting on lessons learned remains the same.

    Know Your Goals

    +Good goal: "+Increase inbound links by 200%."
    Bad goal: "Make things go viral!"

    Social media may be new to your organization and hard to put
    into tangible calculations, but you should attempt to approach it like
    any other part of your job. Reaching your goals doesn't involve magic.
    It involves method, just like anything else.

    My co-worker, Toni Bailey, recently came to me for advice on how he
    could get started using social media to promote web content. toni is
    the online media coordinator for Green Hour®, an NWF program geared
    toward getting children outside in nature.

    The first thing we did was figure out what he wanted to see happen on
    www.greenhour.org, the program's microsite. We looked at the site's
    stats over the last year and made the goal: double the site's traffic
    in the coming year.

    Be Out There

    Toni was excited, but still wary about how much of his job he could actually commit to this social media stuff. I told him just to try it and see what happens.

    I set him on the path to join all of the major and up-and-coming s*ocial media sites*
    like StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Delicious and Mixx. He created profiles
    as both hisself and as the Green Hour brand, depending on what made the
    most sense.

    He has already increased brand awareness for Green Hour and every day
    reaches new and different audiences. He started seeing the pay-off,
    too. Within weeks of Toni joining StumpleUpon and bookmarking her pages
    with this tool, he saw a steady increase in traffic and was able to
    find like-minded "stumblers" looking for content tagged in categories
    like "parenting."

    Form Mutual Relationships
    As Toni became familiar with the various social media sites, I pushed
    him to try to identify good "friends." So much of social media is
    dependent on the support of others (+votes, thumb-ups, diggs, etc.+).

    *_Seek out like-minded people -- who will be interested in your
    content -- as well as the most active users -- who are great to reach
    out to for advice -- and form a mutually-symbiotic relationship where
    you help them as much as they help you._*

    Toni is having a lot of success at doing this on Green Hour's Twitter
    page. He "tweets" various tips for getting kids outside, links to new
    Green Hour blog posts and information on events and more. This
    micro-blogging tool puts him in contact with warm and welcoming
    "bloggers" who repost him stuff. He provides a resource. They support
    the content they like. Everyone wins!

    Track Referrals and Traffic Trends

    You should see bumps in traffic fairly quickly once you venture into
    the social media world. While the numbers might be small to start, they
    will help you identify what's working and where you should spend your
    time.

    Blogs, social networks, social news and bookmarking sites are easy to
    monitor through RSS readers. I also make it a point to monitor
    referrals to find traffic spikes. Once you identify these spikes, you
    can not only focus more attention to the source of them, but you build
    relationships with the people linking to you.

    Tip: Did you notice a spike in traffic from any particular blog? Follow up! Comment on the post and thank the writer for the mention.

    Test for What Works

    The social web can be a fickle place. But generally speaking, content
    that does well usually fits under the categories of "resourceful" or
    "funny." The best way to determine what works is to test everything.
    The responses usually lead you down the path of the correct way to
    label and distribute your content.

    Tip: Distribute the content you've submitted to the
    bookmarking and news sites through micro-blogging sites like Twitter,
    Pownce, and Plurk.

    Save Yourself Time

    Spread your content quickly and easily by downloading helpful Firefox
    add-ons that speed up the posting process. Sign up for niche
    bookmarking and networking sites to get the attention of a specific
    audience.

    Tip: Combine your micro-blogging through sites like Ping.fm and Hellotxt or your bookmarking updates through Onlywire.

    Currently, S.O.S. top social referrers are the following. Though they
    are valuable for different reasons, some of the sites drive high
    numbers and the quality sites may drive less people to your site but
    they will be there longer as they are more likely to like your content.

    If you are serious about driving traffic to your site, I recommend (+if you haven't already+) checking these out.

    Tags: blog, bookmarks, marketing, media, networking, optimization, social, straightalk, website