During the Search Engine Strategies conference, I attended a panel focused on SEM in relation to online communities – with a particular focus on deli.cio.us and Wikipedia.  Members of the panel shared several great ideas about how to market in a community environment, without alienating members of the community or being perceived negatively as a marketer.  Aside from the obvious points about transparency and honesty – several other tips emerged as a good guide for marketers considering tapping into the power of these communities to get feedback and start a dialogue with consumers, as well as using them as marketing channels.

  • Give up control, people will take your original content and change it completely.
  • It is ok to put in "corporate" content, as long as it is relevant to the community.
  • Let it live and breath, only step in to correct inaccurate information
  • Make sure your own content is not getting pushed out of search results by this new content

Jeff Watts, Search & Community Manager for National Instruments shared a great example of his experience in adding the term "LabView" to Wikipedia several years ago with a 40 character marketing description.  Within 20 minutes, the post had been edited, and now has several pages of dense content on Wikipedia and appears highly on search results on Google for Labview.  It is a great example of how marketers can jump start the creation of third party content that ends up being a wonderful selling and marketing tool – assuming you are able to release control and let the greater community take over.